I’ve received some e-mail over the past couple of days regarding my column on Bud Selig and his refusal to commit one way or another regarding his plans to commemorate Barry Bonds’ elevation to the top of the home-run throne. What’s been interesting about these e-mails is that they really haven’t addressed the theme of the column (namely, that Selig doesn’t get a lot of credit for the good he’s done in the game, because he never shows a willingness to reveal his spine), but rather that they can’t understand how anyone can possibly think baseball has become a better sport with Selig in office.
Gotta be honest, that kind of logic blows my mind. I look at the wild-card as one of the best moves baseball has ever made, primarily because so many teams play meaningful games late in the season. Last year, 14 of 30 teams were either in a playoff spot or within five games (the figure I use to gauge whether a team is “in the race.”) one on Sept. 1 . Four others were 5 1/2 back. So that’s two-thirds of the league entertaining playoff hopes, no matter how faint, entering the final month. This is not something that would happen without the wild-card, and it sure beats the days when all but four or five clubs were making their offseason plans.
Folks also seem to complain quite a bit that Selig should’ve taken steps to prevent the Steroid Era from happening. I agree that a man in his position, should not have been as in the dark regarding the topic as Selig has professed to be. That said, Selig is just one of thousands who should’ve known more and taken a more active role. Chief among those thousands were the players themselves, who more than anyone wielded the power to stem the steroid tide through peer and union pressure. But given that it was ground never before covered by player or owner (or media), I’m not sure any one person could’ve prevented the Steroid Era from evolving. Thus, to heap all the criticism on Selig is wrong.
Third, the consensus seems to be that the rich clubs still get rich and the poor clubs still lose all their players. True, but not to the extent of a decade ago. Look if a business grows, it’s up to its franchises to grow with it. Thus, the reason it’s so vital for teams such as the A’s and the Twins to get new stadiums. But in the interim, those teams have been able to stay competitive, because revenue sharing has created enough available revenue that prudent management can succeed. Ten years ago, it didn’t matter how well a club was managed by its front-office, because the absence of revenue-sharing made the gap between the have’s and have-not’s even wider.
Finally, why Selig gets no credit for 12 straight years of of labor peace is beyond me. Not to make light of the conflict in the Middle East, but owners and players were about as diametrically opposed in their viewpoint when Selig came aboard in 1992. To think he has found a way to bring players and owners together to the point that revenue sharing now exists and baseball hasn’t had a work interruption in a decade has to rank as one of the great accomplishments in professional sports.
So, keep complaining about him. But just answer this question first: Is the game, as a whole, better off than it was before the canceled 1994 World Series. I don’t know how you can argue it isn’t.