Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Worst Commissioner Ever!

Bud Selig's legacy was probably sealed on the day he canceled the 1994 World Series.

I (and millions of other fans) would probably never have forgiven him.

But instead of the bitterness gradually declining over the years, it's grown.

With each succeeding moment of crisis, Bud Selig has shown himself to be utterly contemptible.

I won't trace the entirety of Selig's sorry legacy here. Instead, I'll just mention the lowlights.

1. 1994 World Series Cancellation
Bud Selig accomplished what even Hitler couldn't. We had a year without a Series.

2. Steroids
Amid mounting evidence so incontrovertible a 10-year-old could tell there was a problem, Selig did nothing until the stench of chemically enhanced players reached even Capitol Hill. Facing Congressional action, Selig finally admitted there might be a problem, but the damage remains with an entire generation of players tainted.

3. 2002 All-Star Game
In what Selig clearly thought would be a welcome homecoming in Milwaukee, he was faced with two managers who had adopted the now-common practice of ensuring every player got in the game, instead of making sure they had enough pitchers to finish the game. Selig made the decision personally to end the game in a tie. And then he adopted the silly gimmick of determining home field advantage in the World Series based on the results of the All-Star Game, further insulting the game's history and degrading 70 years of entertainment with the offensive slogan, "Now, it counts."

4. Last Night

There can be no doubt that Bud Selig represented a sea change in the role of the Commissioner. Bart Giamatti ruled with an iron fist and upheld the finest tradition of the office when he prevented Pete Rose from entering the Hall of Fame. Fay Vincent was forced out for having the audacity to not be Bart Giamatti but trying to exercise the same authority.

When the owners decided to elevate one of their own to be the Commissioner, they stripped away whatever autonomy the office ever held; and instead they asked a bookkeeper to mind the till and make sure the cash register kept ringing.

By that standard, Selig has been an enormous success. Financially, baseball is in its best condition ever. New ballparks have sprouted up across the country with taxpayers everywhere footing the bill to ensure that multi-millionaire owners didn't take the team to another community willing to empty more of their coffers.

But for the fans, the Commissioner isn't about bottom lines; hasn't ever been about the economics of the game (except in the sense that they want the game to be fair and their own team not to be economically disadvantaged). For the fans, the Commissioner was officially established to restore and has always been about maintaining the integrity of the game.

And by that measure, Selig's tenure has been a complete failure.

Every time and issue has arisen that has threatened the integrity of the game, Selig has taken the weasely option, clearly putting anything else (in reverse order, it's been television ratings, the desire of two managers to not look bad at an All-Star game, a smooth collective bargaining agreement, and the desire of ownership to "stand up" to the union) in front of the integrity of the game.

So, even when he claims (as last evening), to be making his decisions solely for the good of the game, no fan believes him.

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