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The MLB Exec Council yesterday approved a two-year contract extension for Commissioner Bud Selig, according to league sources. The move sets up a vote today by the full body of team owners and a formal announcement of the new deal. Selig last night declined substantive comment following the Exec Council session, but was clearly in jovial spirits, as he retains the sport's top job through '14 in what has become a period of historic success for MLB (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com's Hal Bodley wrote, "It's a no-brainer for both sides. Baseball needs Selig, and he needs baseball. It's that simple." Giants CEO Larry Baer said Selig has been effective because "he is so steeped in the game, so sensitive to everybody's team -- ownership issues and, quite frankly, player issues -- having been a team owner himself." Yankees President Randy Levine said, "He knows everyone and takes the time to understand their points of view." Former MLB VP/PR Rich Levin: "People tend to underestimate him. He's one of the smartest persons I've [known]. He doesn't forget a thing and has more energy than people half his age" (MLB.com, 1/11). In San Diego, Tim Sullivan writes Selig has become "the most inconspicuously effective commissioner in sports." Sullivan: "Whatever he lacks as a figurehead -- the commanding presence, the soaring rhetoric, charisma, decisiveness, gravitas -- Selig excels behind the scenes" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/12).
FOR LOVE OF THE GAME: FOXSPORTS.com's Tracy Ringolsby writes Selig "may talk about his fascination with history, but his love is baseball, and he has the ideal job for a baseball fanatic." Anyone who "looks at Selig’s tenure will realize his passion for baseball has brought about an era of greatness." Sports historians "will eventually have to admit that Selig did more for the game than any other man who has ever held the job, except for Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis." Ringolsby: "Selig has his detractors. Any leader does. But more than that, he has his supporters, particularly among ownership." Selig "brought credibility to the office of commissioner because there no longer was a false front that the commissioner was a man who was just as concerned about the wants of the leadership of the Major League Baseball Players Association as he was the owners" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/12). ESPN.com's Howard Bryant wrote through Selig's actions, "it's clear he is doing what he's always wanted to do." It has "always been difficult to understand why he has talked about leaving in the first place." In nearly "every sense of the word, Selig has won." He can "claim credit for the most prolific era of stadium building since before World War I, he has successfully brokered interleague play and wild-card playoff baseball, and he's now negotiated a third consecutive labor contract with the players association without a strike or lockout while watching the NFL and the NBA be immolated by work stoppages." Perhaps the "most remarkable part of the Selig journey the past several years is his ability to reach these accomplishments without really having to drop his leadership hammer on his sport, or having had the hammer drop on him." Selig even "overcame what was expected to be his Watergate: the steroid era." With baseball "in the shape it is, now might be the perfect time for Selig to leave." He has "nothing left to prove, really, which may be precisely why the owners are leaning on him to stay" (ESPN.com, 1/11).
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem was given a contract extension yesterday through June '16, and the 64-year-old said that he “never really considered retiring when his contract was due to expire" this June, according to Garry Smits of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Finchem said, “I just didn’t give it much thought until recently because I was too focused on the new TV contract.” Finchem said that his goals for the next four years “include enhancing the PGA Tour as a digital product and the fundraising campaign for The First Tee, with a goal of raising $100 million to attract 10 million children and youth to golf worldwide." Smits notes Finchem's financial package “was not revealed” but as the CEO of a nonprofit organization, his salary “is public record.” The tour’s IRS filing shows that his annual income “has fluctuated between just under $5 million and as high as $5.3 million in the past five years” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/12). The AP's Doug Ferguson noted there "probably won't be another extension." When told that he would be 69 "when the new contract expires, Finchem pointed out that 77-year-old Bud Selig just signed on for two more years as commissioner of Major League Baseball; and that Ronald Reagan was 70 when he was elected president, serving two terms." Finchem: "I never rule out any possibilities. But the likelihood is, this will probably be it for me. There's other things I want to do" (AP, 1/11). Finchem said of how long he wants to stay with the tour, “I don’t have a particular time frame in mind. I think it has to do with what’s best for the organization. ... I’m getting a little older so you have to ask yourself those questions a little more often, but I’m not worried about that right now.” GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard noted Finchem faces an "eventful six months as the circuit attempts to replace Nationwide as the umbrella sponsor of the secondary tour and either re-sign, or replace, FedEx as the sponsor of the season-long points race" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/11).
PROSPEROUS TIMES UNDER FINCHEM: ESPN.com’s Bob Harig wrote the tour “has prospered under Finchem’s leadership.” Finchem has “been at his best in recent years, when the economy suffered, when [golfer Tiger] Woods' game slumped in the aftermath of personal issues, when sponsors were bailing on tour events and the networks pushed back on rights fees.” While he is “clearly aware the big names drive interest, he also has looked out for the little guy, striving to make golf a lucrative pursuit for those able to shoot the scores.” He has been “too soft on slow play, unwavering in not announcing player discipline, perhaps too firm with sponsors who were looking to catch a break during a horrible economy.” There have been “spats about how many tournaments international players should be required to play, whether players should be required to add events they've not played, and whether the tour should set its own rules and forego those of the United States Golf Association” (ESPN.com, 1/11).
GOLFERS GLAD HE'S STAYING: Golfer David Toms said of Finchem, “A lot of the things he’s done I think have been great for our game, and certainly our game has grown. What he’s been able to do with the last TV contract, when everybody didn’t know what was going to happen, obviously it was a positive thing so I can’t argue with the job he’s done.” Golfer Joe Ogilivie, often seen as a possible successor to Finchem, said, “To go into 2008 and to be here in 2011 as a fully-sponsored tour is nothing short of heroic” ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 1/11). Golf Channel's Gary Williams said, "They’re not just towing the line saying they’re happy about it. I think that stability and continuity by and large is good for every professional enterprise, but I do believe that their sentiment is authentic. They’re happy that he’s staying on.” Golf Channel’s Jason Sobel: “Tim Finchem has done some very, very good things with the PGA Tour over the last few years. The most important of which is keeping all these sponsors through this economic downturn and we’ve seen so many businesses in other industries, and in the golf industry, that have really been hurt during this time of economic crisis, whereas the PGA Tour keeps rolling along. ... That’s one of the legacies of Tim Finchem’s reign in office” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/12).