Bud Selig is far from perfect. He is not slick in front of the cameras, like Roger Goodell. He has a hearing problem, has yet to get aids, and a myriad of pictures have been snapped of him cupping his ear. He fancies himself a historian of the game, which he’s better at than many give him credit for, but ask those that have known him for years and they’ll tell you while he’s well versed on the big picture, he’s far from it on the finer details. He shrugged at an All-Star Game tie, has said there never was collusion in baseball, and has feigned ignorance on the issue of steroids occurring in the game.
For all his detractors, I say this: you don’t know Bud.
Yes, Selig is getting an extension of at least two years (says Olney), and that should be the least shocking news you’ve heard in a while. After all, this is the man that said he’d never take the position of commissioner beyond “acting”.
But, as I wrote for Baseball Prospectus on Monday (see Why Selig Isn’t Retiring):
But, really, this is about the owners. They adore Selig—and for good reason. Pardon the political reference, but Selig is very much Ronald Regan in that he’s the master communicator. He may not be as sharp as he could be on the finer details, but he has a solid grasp on the big picture. He wields the phone in ways the best CEOs can only dream of. As one long-time executive said, “Whether it’s the Yankees or the Pirates, Bud always is able to relate to an owners plight and does so with sincerity.”
That’s Bud’s master stroke. He is the consummate consensus builder in ways Goodell, Stern, or Bettman can only fantasize about.
There are smart people out there – both within and outside baseball – but none are going to be able to “relate” the way Selig does to the owners. Sure, you can hire a movie or Coca-Cola exec (Fay Vincent reference), but as Reinsdorf was quoted as saying to the former commissioner in Lords of the Realm, “You can never understand us, Fay. You don’t have any skin in the game.”
Rob Manfred? Smart. Very. A large part of labor peace in the league. But, the issue of labor, believe it or not, isn’t all that goes on with the commissionership.
Alderson? Maybe. Very smart man. Worked at the club and league level for years. Highly respected.
MacPhail? Has the lineage, that’s for certain. GM. President. Knows The Lodge members well.
But, here’s what’s more likely to happen: Selig is commissioner for life.
The owners know that Bud can’t last forever (although as I wrote in the BP article, “If the owners had their druthers, Bud would be stuffed, propped up in a chair, a séance would be held, and Selig would run the league from the afterlife. They love him that much”). At some point, there will be another commissioner. But, owners want that for another day. There’s been massive turnover in the managing partner space over the last year, the A’s and Rays need stadiums, and “club debt” has replaced “steroids” as the #1 issue confronting the league.
Bud’s the man, and likely will be for a while longer. The owners will most assuredly be giving him his extension this week.
Welcome back, Selig. As if you were ever going to leave.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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