SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Selig stayed coy about his future, but decided to stay at the plate through 2014

The simple turning of the calendar is very much at the root of last week’s two-year contract extension for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, a deal that will keep him in office through 2014.

As recently as a month ago, owners who spoke with Selig had no strong sense that the commissioner was willing to deviate from his oft-discussed plans to retire and expand his teaching interests at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University.

“Certainly at Christmas, I had no real feeling he was going to come back,” said Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff, who has known Selig for nearly 60 years. “And when they opened up that new office for him in Madison [at the University of Wisconsin campus], I was certainly concerned and discouraged. But I kept after him to stay on, as did others.”

San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, firmly at odds with Wolff on the A’s bid to move to San Jose, tells a similar story regarding Selig.

“It was only, maybe, in the last month or so that this really began to get on the front burner,” Baer said. “You saw the calendar turning over, and there was a decision to make. We certainly wanted him to stay, and as long as he had the appetite for it, that was certainly in the best interest of baseball. But if he didn’t stay, there was going to have to be a process set up this year [to seek a successor]. It turned out, fortunately, to be a fairly seamless process, which is great.”

Since the first step was to see if the 77-year-old Selig would remain in office before formalizing any structure to seek a successor, it is unknown whether the owners would have been able to come to any consensus on a new commissioner before the end of 2012. But given Selig’s lengthy tenure in office — already the second-longest in league history — and his substantial legacy, finding the next commissioner will not be easy whenever that process commences.

The 77-year-old Selig has the second-longest tenure in MLB history.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Selig said last week that a plan to find MLB’s 10th commissioner will be developed during this next contract term but offered no further details.

Owners last week also recognized the role of Selig’s wife, Sue, in the contract renewal. She was long skeptical of Selig’s steady retirement claims, even as they grew strident over the past year.

“You can’t forget her role in all this,” Wolff said. “And she knew, of course, what we all know: He looks better now than probably I’ve seen him. He’s got amazing energy, is still in great health and has this passionate love of baseball.”

There was a minor bit of drama last week in the contract-renewal vote, as outgoing San Diego Padres Chairman John Moores cast the lone dissenting vote against the new Selig deal. That move, however, according to league sources, owes to hard feelings stemming from last week’s tabling of a vote to approve the transfer of the team to current Padres CEO Jeff Moorad. It does not represent the consensus opinion of team owners, many of whom owe their existence in the game to Selig.

“I’ve worked with him and I’ve worked for him, and the changes I’ve seen in the game in just the last two years have been tremendous — and I give Bud a lot of credit,” said Paul Beeston, Toronto Blue Jays president and chief executive. “We’re in great shape going forward.”
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