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).