Ahead of the Curve

Somewhere along the way Bud Selig lost the meaning.  Sometime between his halcyon college days (Wis 56) and tenure as MLB's big kahuna he seemed to lose his love for baseball.

It's a surprising turnabout given Selig's early years.

Like so many during America's radio days the young Bud joined that burgeoning class of folk known as sporting fans, often attending minor league contests with his Mom in Milwaukee (Brewers AA) (enjoying Casey Stengel in 1944 before Yankees beckoned).  Those were the days when the NFL was still a niche, ballparks welcomed the working-class and every boy dreamed of being the next Babe Ruth, Bob Feller or Jackie Robinson.

But apart from holding firm on the Pete Rose ban most of Bud's actions as Commish have been designed almost exclusively to add millions to the coffers of the game's elite.

Whether it's banishing day-games from post-season for max TV revenue or fostering an owner mentality that prices low-income fans right outta' the stadium ($12 dogs & $40 bleachers), Bud Selig's reign has been marked by unprecedented profits, playoff expansion, PEDs and baseball losing its title (to the NFL) as America's top sport.

Other notable Selig-era developments:

Inter-League play:

No doubt each Commissioner since Landis considered the move, and no doubt each decided against it because the benefit is ephemeral.  The initial excitement is short-lived while it weakens the League rivalry which had been pretty intense.

Home Run Derby:

Spawned by the power-surge from PEDs, the Home Run Derby is a vestige best forgotten.  It's turned the All Star Game it precedes into an anti-climatic sideshow.  But it's this exhibition (which should be a respite for the players) that determines World Series home field.  Probably Selig's single worst decision at the helm.


You don't have to be an old-school purist to see how replay-delay can make sport-watching excruciatingly painful while it stymies momentum.  But as long as on-field calls are scrutinized, replay will be necessary.  Selig's patient, targeted implementation of limited replay has shown intelligence, verve and respect for the game.  Kudos.

Elias Record Book:

No sport values its statistics and records like baseball.  MLB can ill afford to lose its touchstone (a trusted record book) to the ill-effects of PEDs.  If it means asterisks and broad delineations, so be it.  Inaction is no solution.

Bud didn't usher-in the latest version of greed that's swept the nation.  The six shots that rang out in Dealey Plaza on 11-22-63 likely did that.  But then Allan Huber Selig didn't do anything to moderate baseball's money-grab, either.

And yet somewhere deep in the recesses of Bud's heart a flicker of memory has been burning.  A remembrance of the reasons why he came to love baseball in the first place.  

Fanned by Roger Goodell's player-panned efforts to draw blood (for 2011 testing) in the NFL's recent money war, the flicker grew into a hearty flame.  Not to be outdone by the NFL again Selig worked overtime to ensure MLB would be the first to come clean.

Last month MLB player and owner reps announced they'd reached a new and bold CBA that would run through 2016.  Players moved quickly to give formal approval (12/1) while owners unanimously ratified the deal on Dec. 15th.

Getting most of the ink has been the planned expansion of playoffs, replay and market competition (luxury tax).  Small potatoes, all of it.

The biggest news is that major league baseball will begin drawing blood in 2012 to test players for HGH and other performance enhancing drugs, marking a watershed moment in America's professional sporting history.

To say it's been long in coming is an understatement.  For a brief time last July it looked like the NFL would be the Neil Armstrong, the Roger Bannister of major pro-sport and take that brave, first step into blood-testing.  But that hope was gone quicker than a cool summer breeze as DeMaurice Smith and NFL players quickly & cravenly backed-off their early concession to blood-draws once the NFL season began in September.

Serving the final year of his contract in 2012, Bud Selig might've departed as Mr. Moneybags, remembered only as the man who made his friends a lot o' loot and watched-by as PEDs nearly destroyed baseball.  Now he'll leave the game he loves as the fiscally-savvy, forward-thinking Commissioner who eventually became the game's savior.

"Go(ing) for the Gusto" (Schlitz) is gonna' make Bud Selig as famous as the town he calls home.

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