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MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday formally declared his plans to retire when his current contract ends on Jan. 24, 2015. Fully consistent with his stated intentions since signing a two-year contract extension in January '12 to carry him to that date, Selig's planned retirement will end his tenure as commissioner after more than 22 years. The announcement in effect formally begins the efforts to find Selig's successor, and the league said it will soon announce a transition plan in preparation for Selig's retirement. MLB execs declined to specify any forthcoming changes, but the plan could be the most significant change to the sport's senior leadership structure since the departure of league President Bob DuPuy three years ago. Industry sources, however, suggested the forthcoming transition plan will not signal a likely successor. Selig in a statement said, "It remains my great privilege to serve the game I have loved throughout my life. Baseball is the greatest game ever invented, and I look forward to continuing its extraordinary growth and addressing several significant issues during the remainder of my term." During Selig's tenure, annual industry revenues have more than quintupled to about $8B, labor peace has existed since '95, attendance has reached record levels, both the MLB Network and MLBAM were created, and competitive balance has improved measurably (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
IT'S OFFICIAL: The AP's Ronald Blum wrote, "Selig has been a bit of the Boy Who Cried Wolf in the past when it came to his retirement." Many "speculated Selig wanted to surpass the term" of late Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who served from November 1920-November 1944 (AP, 9/26). In St. Louis, Rick Hummel notes Cardinals Chair & CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. "was not surprised at the news, especially after talking to Selig at recent meetings." DeWitt: "He’d made it pretty clear this was it. He wanted to get this news out sooner than later to avoid any speculation that could occur.” Former MLB manager Tony La Russa, who is on Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, said, "I study leaders, and I was really impressed with him as a leader. He's a very take-charge guy" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/27).
THIS BUD'S FOR YOU: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt writes MLB during Selig's tenure "emerged from several dark years of labor strife, including the 1994 player strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series." Selig "vowed to never have another work stoppage if he could help it, and the extended years of labor peace allowed the game to prosper in many ways." Selig also "spearheaded several initiatives," including eliminating separate league offices and introducing the World Baseball Classic as a way to continue "expanding the game globally" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/27). ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote under the header, "Bud's Impact Distinctly Positive." Selig "guided baseball through numerous innovations and leaves the game in a stronger position than when he arrived." There is "a lot more positive than negative in the final record." Selig's tenure "resulted in new ballparks and attendance records, and the advent of the wild-card system and the World Baseball Classic." PEDs remain an "ongoing issue, but baseball has aggressively pursued offenders though a testing system that MLB hails (justifiably) as the most stringent and demanding in sports." Revenue sharing and the luxury tax also have "made for a more competitive environment" (ESPN.com, 9/26). MLB.com's Mike Bauman wrote the league, through Selig's "relentless efforts, has become much more inclusive in its hiring practices" (MLB.com, 9/26). On Long Island, Steven Marcus writes, "Selig was the steward for ushering in more balanced revenue sharing, interleague play, wild-card playoff berths and, by next season, the likelihood of expanded replays on disputed calls." But the "specter of PEDs in the sport has often clouded Selig's highlight reel" (NEWSDAY, 9/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Mike Oz listed five good things and five bad things Selig did for MLB (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/26).
MAN OF THE PEOPLE: MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote Selig is "the best Commissioner baseball has ever had." He gave MLB a "human face in a way few other Commissioners ever have" (MLB.com, 9/26). In Toronto, Brendan Kennedy writes, "It's difficult to think of a more pivotal figure in the game over the last two decades than Selig." His retirement announcement "was long anticipated, but his absence still creates much uncertainty" (TORONTO STAR, 9/27). In San Diego, Matt Calkins writes under the header, "Bud Selig's Legacy? Better Than You Think" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman wrote under the header, "Bud Selig's Legacy: The Most Innovative, creative 'Hayseed' Ever" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/26). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes despite Selig's "polarizing persona, his term was quite successful." History will treat Selig well because the commissioner's job "is to make his constituents money and he did that -- and then some." Attendance, worldwide appeal and "most importantly -- franchise values skyrocketed in his tenure." With all the "venom and controversies ... he will hand off to his successor a sport in far better health and with a better working apparatus than the one he took over" in '92 (N.Y. POST, 9/27).
CAN'T OUTRUN PED CRITICISM: The N.Y. Daily News' John Harper said Selig is "just not going to be able to get away" from the PED issue in terms of his legacy, as it "became such a stain on the game." However, he also "did a lot of good things," including bringing labor peace to this game. WFAN-AM's Joe Benigno said Selig "did a lot of good things here, no question, but there's no getting away from these steroids." N.Y. Daily News' Andy Martino said Selig's tenure can be "broken up into two parts." There is the Selig who "sat back and allowed that steroid thing to happen, however culpable he was personally, and then there's the guy who spent the second half of his career in that job acting really decisively and definitely on drug-testing and also these other issues." Martino: "He went from seeming like a milquetoast leader to a really strong leader" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 9/26). FoxSports.com columnist Reid Forgrave said Selig "will be remembered for what he didn't do: The PEDs, the strike." Forgrave: "Baseball has succeeded financially but has become less relevant in his tenure, and I think that's the bottom line" ("Rome," CBSSN, 9/26).
FINAL THOUGHTS: NBCSPORTS.com's Craig Calcaterra wrote Selig was "an amazing credit to the game at times and a gigantic source of consternation at others." But there is a "funny thing about all of Selig’s controversies and failures: he learned from them." And from them he "enacted measures which made things better than they were before" (NBCSPORTS.com, 9/26). GAMMONSDAILY.com’s Peter Gammons writes Selig was the “most important commissioner baseball ever knew, maybe any sport.” He “got ballparks built, he got revenue sharing, he expanded the playoffs, he helped negotiate incredible television contracts, he helped baseball be a far more competitive business than his NFL counterparts." However, the first questions Thursday "were whether or not he did enough for performance enhancing drugs.” MLB is a business where each owner “doesn’t see his franchise as 1/30th of the business, but a separate entity whose interests often conflict with the best interests of the game.” Gammons: “Understand that, and you understand the difficulty and complexity of the job Selig has done so well” (GAMMONSDAILY.com, 9/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote in a job that "could have fed his ego," Selig "more often led with the game." Change would "sometimes be slow, and this would be taken for indecision, or stubbornness, and probably sometimes it was." Those closest to Selig "saw it differently, however." They saw him "trying to get it right" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/26).
COMMENTS FROM PEOPLE INSIDE THE GAME: DeWitt said, "Selig's impact on baseball during his tenure as Commissioner has been nothing short of historic" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/27). Twins President Dave St. Peter said Selig was "as progressive and innovative as any leader has ever been in any professional sport." St. Peter: "I don't think he gets enough credit for what he's accomplished to help transform the sport" (MLB.com, 9/26). Baseball HOFer Hank Aaron: "He will leave our game in a far better state than when he started. The Commissioner has been a marvelous leader for baseball." Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "He's made every effort to try to clean the game up. We've seen a lot of things improve in the game of baseball." D-Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall: "He has taken our industry to record highs in attendance, revenues and ratings, which all equates to monumental valuations" (MLB.com, 9/26).
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's longheld "grip on the role" means it is "entirely unclear throughout all areas of the sport, from the league office to the union to inside clubhouses, who will be the sport's 10th commissioner" when Selig retires following the '14 season, according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred is seen as the "odds-on favorite" to succeed Selig after serving for more than a decade as Selig's "No. 2, his consigliere, the man who has negotiated labor deals and understands the inner workings of the sport better than anyone." A source said that Manfred is the "safe and smart" pick. Passan noted compared to "other potential successors within the commissioner's office, Manfred's advantage is having weathered all aspects of the job." MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan is "even better versed in the money-making operations, and some consider him a stronger candidate than Manfred." While MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman has helped grow MLBAM into "one of the greatest new-media success stories there is, and is considered among the most brilliant people in the sport, two sources said his reputation as someone who is abrasive could hinder him from getting a job that relies so much on public perception." Others "on the periphery" are Tigers President & GM David Dombrowski, Mets GM Sandy Alderson and D-Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/26). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes while White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf or Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston "would be shoo-ins" among owners, they "have no interest." Manfred is the "most powerful man aside from Selig," while Brosnan is "responsible for the tremendous growth of the industry's TV deals that have been windfalls for owners." Nightengale also lists Dombrowski, Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio and Braves Chair & CEO Terry McGuirk as possible candidates (USA TODAY, 9/27).
NOT AN EASY UNDERTAKING: In Chicago, Phil Rogers writes under the header, "Replacing Selig A Monumental Task For Baseball." It is "anyone's guess" where MLB will turn, but "smart money says that the next guy will know the baseball business from the inside out, as did Selig, and that he will get a lot of help from his predecessor." Beeston, Alderson, former Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail and Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten are "likely to be considered once MLB gets around to naming its transition committee." But "don't be surprised if the next commissioner is currently among MLB's 30 owners." Cardinals Chair & CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. and Phillies President & CEO Dave Montgomery "might have the most appeal if owners decide to stay in house" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/27). ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote, "The next commissioner is not coming from outside baseball" unless it is "going to be a whole different sort of job than it's been" under Selig. MLB team owners "are not going to choose a commissioner they don't know, can't predict and possibly can't even trust." Stark ranked Manfred, Brosnan and Bowman as his leading three candidates to succeed Selig. However, Dombrowski is a "name to watch," as is Indians President Mark Shapiro. Stark wrote Hall, Attanasio and Giants President & CEO Larry Baer are the "types of names that are likely to well up if it becomes clear that neither Manfred, Brosnan nor Bowman have the votes to get elected" (ESPN.com, 9/26). Cleveland-based WEWS-ABC reporter Andy Baskin wrote people should look for Shapiro to "make the short list among experts." Shapiro has "experience on both the baseball operations and business side" (NEWSNET5.com, 9/26).
SHOULD MLB LOOK OUTSIDE? Author Jeff Pearlman said he hopes MLB "does the right thing with their next commissioner and brings in someone as they did when they brought in Peter Ueberroth -- an unbiased, impartial guy who's going to represent both sides." Pearlman: "Ever since they brought in an owner to fill it, I think that's been a real problem with the players" ("Rome," CBSSN, 9/26). In L.A., Bill Shaikin cites baseball sources who "believe owners are most likely to select one of their own or one of Selig's lieutenants." However, former President George W. Bush "previously expressed some interest in the job" (L.A. TIMES, 9/27).
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: ESPN.com's David Schoenfield listed the "five key issues for the next commissioner to address." They are "instant replay and quality of umpiring;" the DH issue; unresolved ballpark issues for the the A's and Rays; teams losing on purpose to gain high draft picks; and the "unbalanced schedule" (ESPN.com, 9/26).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday said that it is "extremely unlikely" the NFL will make changes to its season structure in time for '14, but added that the "timing for altering the calendar of games is right," according to Judy Battista of NFL.com. Goodell said that there "haven't been any recent conversations" about going to an 18-game regular-season schedule. Battista noted while the idea "is not dead ... there haven't been any internal talks nor talks" with the NFLPA. Any changes would "have to be discussed at the league's annual meeting in March, and Goodell said there still is a lot of work to be done on the possibilities." However, the league is "considering myriad scenarios ... to improve the preseason." Goodell said that he "has not decided if expanding the playoffs beyond the current 12-team format is best for the league." Critics of the idea "fear adding another layer of playoff games will dilute the importance of the regular season." But more playoff teams "keeps interest in the season alive in more areas of the country and would provide another lucrative TV package of games." The Steelers play the Vikings Sunday in London in the first of two games scheduled for the U.K. this season, and the NFL next year is "considering playing a third game in London as part of its evolving" Int'l Series. Goodell said that a "final decision hasn't been made, nor is there a timeline for deciding if a franchise will be permanently placed in London." Meanwhile, Goodell said that his comment two weeks ago regarding the Redskins possibly changing their name "should not be interpreted as a shift in his position from a letter he sent to several members of Congress in June." He also said that he considered the $765M concussion lawsuit settlement a "victory for the players and their families" (NFL.com, 9/26).
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? ESPN's Mike Golic wondered if adding teams to the playoffs would be "watering it down" some. Golic said with more playoff teams, "sometimes it would look ugly," as teams could make the playoffs with a .500 or losing record. ESPN's Jonathan Coachman said the 8th seed in the NFL would have a chance to win the Super Bowl, "unlike the NBA" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 9/27).
NFLPA CHALLENGER HAS PROS & CONS: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes former NFLer Sean Gilbert, who is intending to run for the NFLPA's Exec Dir position, demonstrates in his new book a "keen sense of NFL economics and the inner workings of the league." He "makes a powerful argument about how the NFLPA gave up its legal position to sue owners for collusion by agreeing to penalties imposed" on the Redskins and Cowboys for "violating salary-cap rules during an 'uncapped' year" in '10. But Gilbert "has never held an executive position," and "isn't a lawyer." Gilbert "wasn't even active in NFLPA matters" when he played. He "could have a tough sell with one pillar of his proposals: the 18-game season" (USA TODAY, 9/27).
The NFL having a franchise in London full time is "an idea that needs to be slow-walked," according to Don Banks of THE MMQB. The idea is again being talked about in advance of Sunday's Steelers-Vikings game at Wembley Stadium, but Banks wrote, "Call me a skeptic when it comes to the far-fetched notion of the NFL ever being successful full-time in a market five hours and many time zones removed from the East Coast of the United States." Two "well-attended regular-season games doesn't sway me into the 'it's inevitable' camp." The league would be "wise to continue a testing-the-waters-as-you-go approach." Why is the NFL "not more interested in football-rabid Mexico City?" The Mexico capital is seen as "a built-in sellout every week, if the NFL would ever look its way." Perhaps the NFL's "realistic hope is to get one or two teams to play half their home games at Wembley, and that would be enough of a stake in the ground to claim that Europe was conquered and that football without borders was now accomplished" (MMQB.SI.com, 9/25).
PLAYERS' PREFERENCE: Eagles C Jason Kelce called the idea of playing full-time in London "awesome" and said, "The biggest thing the league has been trying to do is globalize, to spread to other countries." But Panthers WR Steve Smith said, "If it was a complete league out there, that's a different animal. But to live in London and travel to the United States to play, whomever that team is, they're at a disadvantage every time they hop on a plane." He added, "If that happens, it's a clear vision that they don't really care about the players' safety." Eagles CB Cary Williams said, "It's cool to go across the water and all that. It's cool for a trip, but you don't want a franchise out there." Dolphins CB Brent Grimes: "It's cool for one game, but I can't see it just being all teams in America and one London team. How long of a flight is that? What if they have to play the Raiders?" (ESPN.com, 9/25). Steelers S Troy Polamalu: "The trip is going to be really tough. It's going to be unlike anything we've ever experienced. It's not like going from Oakland to New York. It's just not the same" (ESPN.com, 9/26). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com's Ryan Wilson noted Fox analyst and Pro Football HOFer Terry Bradshaw "hates the idea that teams now are forced to play in England." Bradshaw during an appearance on WFAN-FM said, "It's the most disrespectful thing you can do to these teams, to make them travel over to London to promote our NFL product." He added, "Nobody cares anything about that game. The players don't want to go. You can't enjoy it" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/24).
JUST A BLIP ON THE RADAR? In Pittsburgh, Alan Robinson notes huge banners promoting Sunday's game "stretch for blocks along fashionable Regent Street" in London, but as "hundreds strolled by Thursday, not one person could be seen glancing up at the banners" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/27). Also in Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic noted Regent Street is "draped in banners boasting of the game, with sports bars there promoting the cause and even a few locals decked out" in Polamalu or Vikings RB Adrian Peterson gear. But at the "bloke-in-the-pub level, the reaction is an almost universal shrug" (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/26).
COVERING THE COVERAGE: Stateside print coverage of the latest U.K. game has been present but limited in Pittsburgh and the Twin Cities leading up to Sunday's matchup. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Kovacevic made the trek overseas and has a piece Friday morning about the lack of excitement among Londoners. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features a Steelers notes column that focuses on the two head coaches' differing approaches but makes little mention of the contest's off-the-field significance. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune focuses on on-field issues for the Vikings, with the exception of an anecdotal piece about backup QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson's connection to London. The St. Paul Pioneer Press features a short piece in which Vikings DE Jared Allen discusses playing overseas, with little else on the fact the game is in the U.K. Throughout the week in London, the Daily Mail, Guardian and Evening Standard have offered some coverage of the game, with the Evening Standard posting the most recent story on the game's impact. Other London outlets, including the Telegraph and Independent, have offered very little coverage (Preston Bounds, Staff Writer).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "led a group of league and team executives" to Dodger Stadium on Thursday to promote the Ducks-Kings Stadium Series game, the NHL's "first outdoor game scheduled outside a cold climate," according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. The ice at Dodger Stadium "will be covered during daylight hours and workers will do the necessary grooming" from 6:00-7:00pm PT until 6:00am or 7:00am, "when temperatures are coolest." There will be "only one rink -- no auxiliary rink, as has been built for other outdoor games." If conditions make the ice "unsafe -- unlikely because outdoor games have been played elsewhere in rain and in 60-degree temperatures -- the game would be played" the following day. Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said that he had "no fears the field might be damaged by the rink or the pipes required to keep the ice frozen." NHL COO John Collins said, "We typically have done the cold and the little rinks and sort of the iconic look of a winter festival. We've got the guys already laying out some ideas on how to fit this game into Southern California" (L.A. TIMES, 9/27).
WEATHER PATTERNS: In California, Eric Stephens notes Bettman "initially was cool to the idea of having the enormously popular and successful Winter Classic played in a warm-weather city." But NHL Senior Dir of Facilities Operations Dan Craig "convinced him it could work." Temperatures in the greater L.A. area "average around 68 degrees during January days, but the game will have a 7 p.m. start, when it is typically in the 40s and 50s at night." However, January is "one of wettest months of the year in Southern California." Bettman said of Craig, "Whatever the weather is, he will be able to put down a sheet of ice that will provide for a competitive game as he needs to." Craig and his "12-person crew will arrive with a newly built refrigeration truck and ice-making plant about two weeks before the game to lay down the ice after about 40 people will assemble the boards in a first-to-third-base layout." The plan is to have "both the Ducks and Kings practice the day before the game." Bettman also "spent a few moments taking in the panorama from the stadium’s highest point." He said, "Clearly [Walter] O’Malley was a visionary. It’s magnificent. When you’re up on the ninth level and you see the view, it’s off the charts" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/27).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: SI's Brian Cazeneuve writes, "Given outdoor hockey's popularity and revenue-making potential, expect the league to make it an increasingly regular feature of the NHL schedule." For now there is "little reason not to add more games if the novelty of playing in the fresh air has not faded" (SI, 9/30 issue). NBC's Doc Emrick during a conference call on Thursday supported the league's addition or more outdoor games. He said, "People love these games. Other teams were waiting and waiting and now they’ve finally gotten a chance (to host). We’re going to show all of them this year and I think then we can assess, after the six are done, whether it’s watered it down or not." Emrick added, "It will be the same group of players that are playing in all of them. So the talent level will continue to be as it normally would be. And the notion of watching a game, played at Dodger Stadium or at Yankee Stadium, I think is fascinating. We might have waited a long time to ever get a game at Dodger Stadium. But now that this has been expanded a little bit, we have it" (Jillian Fay, Staff Writer).