Allan H. “Bud” Selig was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this past Sunday. Selig served as the acting commissioner/commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1992 to 2015 and an indelibly positive mark on the game that rightfully earned him a place in the Hall of Fame.
The sport of baseball is stronger than it’s ever been and Selig is responsible for a large chunk of this success. For starters, MLB generated $9.5 billion in 2015. Sports leagues exist to make money and MLB is making more money now than at any other point in its history. This revenue growth can be attributed to developments under Selig that – in addition to being cash cows – improved the fan experience. These developments include:
- The construction of 22 new stadiums, including Miller Park. Though I’m not thrilled that Miller Park was publicly funded, the stadium has been a tremendous boon for Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin. If nothing else, fans no longer have to worry about watching early season games in rainy, 35 degree weather.
- The creation of the Wild Card. This is something Milwaukee Brewers fans in particular should be thankful for. Without the Wild Card the Brewers would not have made the playoffs in 2008. Outside of Milwaukee, the Wild Card gives allows more fans to feel the thrill of a playoff chase, even if their team ultimately feels short. This is a good thing.
- Increased revenue sharing. This was first instituted in 1996 and prevents teams like the Brewers, Kansas City Royals, and Tampa Bay Rays from being hopelessly uncompetitive.
- The most strict PED testing policy in American sports. This is a stark contrast to the 90s, which is also know as “The Steroid Era.”
- Most importantly, with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place MLB will have 26 years of uninterrupted labor peace.
Is Selig’s election to the Hall of Fame without controversy? Of course not. Selig was the acting commissioner during the 1994 player’s strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series and essentially drove a steak through the heart of the Montreal Expos. Selig was also in charge during the Roaring 90s when PEDs were rampant and marginal players were hitting 50 homers every season. Looking at the big picture, however, these drawbacks should not preclude Selig from entering the Hall of Fame.
The aftermath of the ’94 strike was labor peace that will extend through (at least) 2021. The aftermath of the Steroid Era was a strict drug policy that bans first-time users for 80 games and third-time users for life. You can make the case that Selig deserves blame for allowing the Steroid Era to happen and I will not necessarily disagree that he shares culpability. However, with both the strike and the Steroid era you have to evaluate Selig by the end result. As it relates to PED testing and Labor Peace, Major League Baseball is currently in a better position than any other sport.
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Bud Selig has been a force for good in the world of baseball. Major League Baseball is positioned to be healthy and popular or decades to come in large part due to the work Bud Selig did as commissioner. As imperfect as he may be, Selig deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown.