Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bud Selig: The Man for No Seasons

Just before the Christmas Weekend Expat challenged Gurufrisbee (GF) and the Old Man (OM) to write a post about why we (and others) have such a negative view about Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. So, here it is in a dialog format stemming from our holiday collaboration:

Owners collusion (1985-1987) - (GF) This was admittedly before he became commissioner, but it certainly goes towards his character and history.

(OM) He was an owner at this time, so he knew full-well what was going on and what the expectations of the other owners were, which is likely a central reason why he was appointed by the other owners to the role of commissioner.

(GF) Absolutely. I think this is one of the worst things he has been part of – but it was prior to him being commissioner, and I wasn’t sure if we wanted to just focus on that or not. It’s the biggest example of cheating and fraud in professional sports history.

Drug Scandal - (GF) This is obviously the most recent negative part of Bud Selig that has been in the news with the Mitchell Report, but even the most casual baseball fan has known there was a problem with performance enhancing drugs for YEARS in baseball and only very recently has Selig done anything at all to try to stop it - and what little he put in place doesn't do much still.

(OM) The adversarial relationship between the MLB Commissioner’s office and the MLBPA (players’ union) has required more leadership from Selig than he has shown himself capable of demonstrating.

The Wild Card - (GF) Many fans actually like this, but it's bad. Winning your division used to be the only way to get into the playoffs. It made a long season of accomplishment and excellence actually have great value. Now you can make the playoffs just as easily by finishing 20 games behind the best team in your division. What is worse is that there is virtually no difference in playoff positioning for the wild card and the division winner. So you can spend 6 months and 162 games proving you are clearly only the second best team in your four or five team division and then turn around and get lucky and/or hot for three weeks and be crowned the best team in all of baseball? Idiotic.

(OM) I don’t see this Wild Card issue the same as Guru, but to amplify his point, if Bud Selig had his act together he could far more effectively lead MLB to sound forms of marketing and promotion that would fill the stands and increase the TV contracts so that the Wild Card (i.e. expanded playoff system) would not be as much as an economic necessity as it is.

(GF) But it’s not an economic necessity. It’s a competitive balance liability.

(OM) It’s both.

Out of control salaries - (GF) Baseball isn't getting more popular. Every day, ordinary fans are getting more and more priced out of being able to go to the game to keep paying for ridiculous eight figure salaries.

(OM) The “Fast Buck” is the order of the day in the sick mess known as Major League Baseball. Instead of investing in the future of baseball by getting more and more young fans into the stands, MLB is fixated on luxury boxes for corporations and looking at ticket prices as a prime revenue stream for offsetting obscene salaries. The corporate boxes either sit empty or feature people with no interest in baseball. While this is not solely Bud Selig’s fault, his lack of vision and leadership does nothing for the future of the game.

(GF) Good point.

Inequity of payrolls - (GF) Every season you can generally take 1/3 of the league and rule them as contenders and 1/3 and rule them as out of the race - and it's entirely because of where their payrolls are. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Braves, Mets, Angels, etc. will always be competitive due to the fact that every off season they pay the most for the best free agents. Likewise, almost every year you can rule out the Devil Rays, Marlins, Royals, Expos/Nationals, Pirates, etc. because they can't spend any money.

(OM) They make this “inherent inequity” work in the NBA and the NFL. It makes these sports more interesting and marketable across the board. Every team in every market has a chance to contend for the title most years. A fifth grader could figure this out, but not Bud Selig who appears to think this cancer will just cure itself, if ignored.

(GF) The counter arguments here are how the Patriots are a dynasty in football – only they aren’t. They won three titles in five years by figuring out how to maximize on the cap – and they missed the playoffs completely one of those other years. The Yankees never miss the playoffs. The Braves almost never did. The Red Sox and Dodgers and Angels will all be there barring injuries most every year – and baseball only has 8 out of 30 make it. The NFL has 12 out of 32 (the NBA has 16 out of 31). The other faulty counter is that there is still openness to winning in baseball because different teams win it. But they don’t. The Marlins showed you can overspend to win it once and then sell everyone off – that doesn’t mean that low income teams can compete.

Interleague play - (GF) It had a tiny bit of appeal because you could see fun match ups like the Cubs and White Sox or Yankees and Mets, but you end up with many more mundane match ups and you end up with a great disparity in schedules - especially significant with the wild card in play - and you take a big chunk of the thrill out of the World Series because you end up half the time with teams that already played each other during the year.

World Baseball Classic - (GF) Failed to truly draw and interest and a large number of the players involved ended up burning out in the baseball regular season and getting hurt.

Cancelled World Series 1994 - (GF) This will always remain totally inexcusable. His job as commissioner is to keep baseball alive - and he killed it's biggest moment.

(OM) This should have cost Selig his job - immediately.

(GF) It certainly should have been no less than a strong ‘strike two’ count. And he has clearly swung and missed – or sat with his bat on his shoulder and watched – enough to be gone now.

Stupid change of all star game and all star game tie - (GF) Let's make sure we're really, really clear on this. Home field advantage in the world series almost NEVER matters in the slightest. Only twice ever has the World Series had the home team win every single game - the only scenario where apparently home field actually made the difference. So pretending that something significant is riding on this game is wrong anyways. But it's wrong to have tried to put significance on this game. It's an exhibition game. Players skip it and sit it out and undeserving ones get voted in and chosen by their manager - it's ludicrous to think it deserves value. Plus every team has to have a representative and the leagues have different numbers of teams in them - nothing about this suggests its the basis for a fair and meaningful game.

(OM) Again, this is an ill-conceived effort to add interest to the All-Star game. Why? Because many of the marquee players do not show up once elected. Why? Because they are not contractually obligated to play in it. The solution? It’s NOT to take the World Series home field advantage away from the league championship winner with the best regular season record. It’s to make all-star play a contractual obligation of the players and to do a more effective job of marketing the game to the general public.

(GF) I disagree. Drop all the ball players salaries to where the bonus for making the All Star game is a significant financial boost – but you only get it if you are there on the field. Even if you’re hurt (as in, on the DL), you can be there and get introduced. You want to skip it, you can, but you get no money. It’s exhibition – and optional. The reason they added this was because Selig was so inept that he actually let the all star game end in a tie and everyone hated it and was ready to stop watching it ever again and he had to do something to keep fans interested. Giving home field edge to the best record is just as wrong, since no one plays anywhere close to a similar schedule as each other. Go back to reversing AL and NL every other year.

(OM) I have no problem dropping salaries, I just think it’s far more likely that MLB would get the highest level of participation with contractual obligations rather than lowering salaries (which seems a much less likely alternative). I’m fine with the alternating AL/NL home field advantage in the Series. What I’m not fine with is pretending that the jackass who screwed up the All-Star game by ending it in a tie is still in the job of Commissioner five years later! This fact alone shows how messed up baseball is and how far it needs to come to get well again. Baseball used to be The National Pastime. Thanks in large part to Bud Selig, a meaningless pre-season NFL football game in late August now draws three times to viewing audience of a late season top baseball game pitting the two leading teams in a division with their starting aces going against each other. It’s pathetic. Thanks for nothing Bud!