Congratulations Commissioner Selig!
I was watching PTI yesterday afternoon, suffering through the obnoxious Dan Lebetard, when the news came down that the union had caved. It was a great moment in TV, as the two men (Wilbon and Lebetard) had no clue how to react. They don’t want to be too overjoyed because they don’t want to celebrate the veritable collapse of a union (something I will do every time, I love living in the age of the death of unions) and didn’t want to congratulate or really acknowledge the total and complete victory of the greatest baseball commissioner of all time.
I say that with total and complete sincerity. I can’t believe the criticism the guy got/gets in Milwaukee. While he might have tightened the budget in his last two years in order to make the team more sellable, he and Bob Uecker are solely to thank for Milwaukee even having a baseball team at all. From the moment the Braves skipped town Selig was front and center lobbying for a new team for the great baseball town of Milwaukee, a task that was not the leasr bit easy. He employed the help of his old friend Ueck and together they made all the right PR moves and bugged and bothered all the right people until the opportunity finally presented itself. To hear some of the 60’s owners and baseball people talk, Bud was like the little kid in the back seat “are we there yet? Are we there yet?” To put it simply, without Bud there would be no baseball in Milwaukee.
As commissioner he was forced into the role because of his incredible baseball knowledge and his savvy business sense. He understood the need to expand baseballs television presence and did so the same way college football conferences were, expanded playoffs and focusing on rivalries. The divisional splits and the wild card have been strokes of genius, as it keeps almost every team alive through August, and means even when your team is out of it they are playing meaningful spoiler games through the end of the year.
Since the advent of the position, the baseball commissioner has had probably the easiest job in pro sports. Baseball was America’s game until the late 70’s when it started to be challenged by the NFL, and until the late 80’s held off the threat well. A commissioner was necessary maybe a handful of times, most notably the Black Sox, Pete Rose and probably most necessary during the 90’s strike. No time was more important for baseball. During the 20’s and the 70’s, baseball was mostly unchallenged for sports supremacy. The commish had to try and get the scandals out of the headlines as soon as possible, but didn’t have a lt to do as far as damage control because there were no real sports entertainment alternatives. On the other hand, the 92 strike could have been the beginning of the end for the National pastime. Baseball came through it with brilliant marketing, an emphasis on fan interaction, and innovative ideas that jumpstarted a stagnant product. Bud Selig can be thanked for that.
On a somewhat more disappointing note, Selig also jumpstarted the game by taking a passive view of steroids. Home runs were filing the stadiums and baseball was happy to get the fans back. Combined with the changes to the ultratraditional game, baseball was soon booming again. Now, Selig dropped the hammer. 50, 100, life. Brilliant. Mr. Selig got steroids to work both ways for him. They brought back his struggling product and when the beast threatened to bring back down that product, Bud was able to tame it.
Congrats Mr. Selig. You kicked the crap out of the union, gained the thanks of Senators who were on thin legal ice (CBA anyone?) and made massive PR points. The icing on the cake is the addition of amphetamine testing.
Total. Utter. Victory.