It is a refrain that has been heard before by Bud Selig. First, it was his denial that he wanted be become commissioner of baseball permanently after taking on the role as “acting, or interim” in 1992. On July 7, 1998, when he was made commissioner permanently, without the aforementioned tags, he said to the NY Times, “I remember Tommy Werner saying 'you might be there a little longer than you think,' '' Selig related. ''I said I don't think so. There wasn't much conversation other than that. When I got off the plane that day, I called my wife and said I have a little change in responsibilities. She said how long. I said two to four months. Here we are five years later.''
Flash-forward to more recently, and it was about his retirement. He had his contract extended in 2004, and with that contract ending in 2009, Selig said in 2006, "My contract is going to be over. I'm going to be 75 years of age,” Selig reflected. “I want to teach — I've already had some great offers — and want to write a book.” He then added, "I think that will be enough. There's no question, because there are other things I really would like to do."
He did hedge his bet last year saying, that he learned to "never to say never about anything.”
The owners have stood behind him. As late as last December, they have stood right there with him in the press. As reported by The AP, ``He has total support of the ownership ... The job is not done yet,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the White Sox. "He shouldn't leave until he knows he has accomplished all he wants to accomplish and there's somebody in place to pick up the ball and go the rest of the way."… "He's a terrific commissioner, and he's doing the right thing in trying to clean up the sport," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said through spokesman Howard Rubenstein. "I am fully supporting him."
So much for retirement.
Today, Selig’s contract was yet again extended to 2012. The decision was voted on today at the Owners Meetings in Scottsdale, AZ. With vote being conducted by MLB’s executive committee, the commissioner must leave the room. When he returned, he was greeted with a standing ovation.
While there have been cries by some for Selig to be replaced, his ability to gain consensus and grow baseball as an industry have kept him a darling with the owners. As reported by MLB.com:
The owners endorsed Selig, who replaced the deposed Fay Vincent on an interim basis on Sept. 9, 1992, on the heels of the release last month of the Mitchell Report, the result of an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. At Tuesday's four-hour Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, the Commissioner was commended by a number of elected officials for having the foresight to seek former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell to spearhead the investigation.
Selig, 73, just finished his 15th full season as Commissioner. As a business, the sport has never done better, setting records last season in gross revenue ($6.1 billion) and total attendance (79.5 million). Projections right now are for attendance to easily soar over the 80 million ticket mark in 2008.
Shortly after the vote, MLB released comments through press release:
“My optimism about the future of Major League Baseball has never been greater,” Commissioner Selig said. “Through the hard work of many, our great game has made many meaningful strides. We have achieved unprecedented labor peace, competitive balance, record attendance, business performance and exciting international growth. I am truly grateful for the incredible fan interest that the game has inspired. This is a golden age for our national pastime.
“What will continue to be paramount to me is the protection of the integrity of the game. Major League Baseball unconditionally embraces its enormous social responsibilities. The sport faces important challenges, and we will not rest until they have been met.”
George M. Steinbrenner III, the principal owner of the New York Yankees, said: "In my 35 years in the game, baseball has never had better leadership than it does right now. Bud's ability to bring people together has steered the game to remarkable popularity and prosperity, and I am very pleased that he will carry on as Commissioner for the next five years."
William O. DeWitt, Jr., the Chairman of the Board and General Partner of the St. Louis Cardinals, said: "Commissioner Selig remains the perfect choice to lead our industry, to maintain the extraordinary heights that the game has reached and to continue its growth. The Commissioner's passion and reverence for the game resonate as strongly as ever, and those are the very qualities that have driven the game to its current popularity, which is also greater than ever."
Added Houston Astros Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Drayton McLane: "Bud Selig has brought much needed leadership and stability to the Commissioner's Office and has advanced the game in ways that many had believed to be impossible. He is the best Commissioner the game has ever had and his record of accomplishment will continue to grow in the years ahead. Baseball is fortunate to have him."
And, it maybe these comments that show why Selig is different than his predecessors: Small, large, and mid-market owners all support him. He's been a master consensus builder.
All in all, based on the induction of the likes of Bowie Kuhn into the Hall of Fame, there seems little doubt that Selig will wind up going in as well, as soon as his time arrives. Critics will certainly bring up the ’94 strike, the All-Star game tie, and the fact that the current PED culture happened on Selig’s watch. Point taken. But, the fact that he and Don Fehr were able to avoid labor stoppage (something never done prior since the inception of collective bargaining between players and management), and grown MLB into a sports industry that will soon surpass the NFL in total revenues, it seems that Selig will be asked to remain commissioner for the rest of his life.