Selig marks retirement by noting that he never got around to getting the A’s that new stadium

MLB commissioner-for-life Bud Selig is finally retiring, which I guess means either that that “commissioner-for-life” thing really was a joke, or that even stranger forces are at work here. Anyway, Selig took time out from his ballpark farewell tour to make clear that he still really, really wants somebody to build the Oakland A’s a new stadium:

“This is always something I wanted to get resolved before I leave office, which is another 5½ or six months,” Selig said. “If it were easy, just like if it were easy in Tampa, then I would have been 24 out of 24 (in new ballparks). I have hopes in both places. But do I wish it had been solved? Of course I do, and I understand people’s frustrations.”

Oh, yeah, he still really, really wants someone to build the Tampa Bay Rays a new stadium, too. In case you’d forgotten the last few times he mentioned it.

This is actually an interesting moment, because we tend to look at commissioners like Selig as all-powerful gods, wreaking vengeance on cities and any owners who don’t toe the line by flinging thunderbolts from on high. In reality, they’re more like corporate CEOs: At the helm of a hugely powerful enterprise, but having to answer to major shareholders, and having to constantly strategize how to best use their leverage to extract concessions both from external forces and in internal power struggles.

All of which is to say: No, Bud Selig was not able to get new stadium for the A’s and Rays just by waving his magic Bud Selig wand, nor should we have expected him to. The Rays have that ironclad lease that St. Petersburg is holding them to, and the only easy route to a new A’s stadium would have been to force the Giants to let them move to San Jose, which would have been “easy” only in the sense that the massive shitstorm that would have followed would have been internal among baseball owners, not out in public like most stadium battles. Selig has been very adept at steering his massive money-sucking craft to suck as much money as possible — since becoming The Commissioner Who Canceled the World Series he’s even managed to avoid labor strife — which is worthy of some measure of props, I suppose. But in the end, he’s just this guy, and Rob Manfred will be another guy, and most of the forces determining who gets stadiums where will be beyond their control, if certainly not their influence.

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33 comments on “Selig marks retirement by noting that he never got around to getting the A’s that new stadium

  1. Neil – you state:
    “Selig said. “If it were easy, just like if it were easy in Tampa, then I would have been 24 out of 24 (in new ballparks). ”

    Do you happen to have the % of public funds spent for the aggregate of these 24 ballparks?

  2. He has been great for the owners and for the business of baseball. As a custodian of the game itself (which, to be fair, I don’t think anyone ever elected him to be… certainly not the corrupt owners…), I would give him lukewarm marks. Maybe a D.

    One wonders if 30 years from now many of the changes he made to the game itself will not be undone… then again, we do still suffer with the abomination that is the designated hitter… so maybe not…

  3. Yeah, nobody asked me but get rid of the DH, go back to two divisions per league and only the division winner gets in the playoffs. No wildcard. Kill interlleague. Oh and the Astros go back the NL.

    Of course, it’ll go the other way. The NL will eventually get the DL and they will probably add yet another WC team.

  4. @Michael – I’d go along with that tho I would get rid of divisions altogether & take the top 4 teams in each league & get rid of the All Star Game home field advantage for the World Series rule.

  5. Gee Selig, sorry Oakland & Tampa/St Pete couldn’t be your patsy – not.
    Yeah we’re frustrated with YOU alright, Selig. No commissioner has done as much damage to a sport as Selig has. I barely even recognize the sport from 25 years ago.
    As a fan, I don’t care about how much money you made for the owners – you tweaked & wrecked the game for every last dollar you could lure & milk out of the fans. The record book is a mockery, you ignored PEDs because they made the game more exciting & fans ate it up, TV & networks control too much of the game (THAT’S why games are so long) & the umpires are almost never held accountable for mistakes. You still haven’t learned that Interleague Play is partly responsible for lower ASG & World Series ratings. I’ll watch games from local antenna TV…maybe…if I have nothing else to do. I give you an F-.

  6. Nah, not buying the idea that interleague play has hurt World Series ratings. Only the most pure of purists will care that the Nationals and Orioles have met before the WS.

    Long games? As much due to pitchers, batters and managers screwing around as TV.

    Not a Selig apologist, but no need to dump everything on him.

  7. Michael: Funny, I was going to mention going back to to two divisions in each league also.

    We all have our biases I guess. Probably there’s someone out there who believes even splitting the leagues into two divisions each was a corruption. Oh look, yes there is….

    Maybe Charles Wang will use the cash he (might) get from the Islanders sale to buy in to MLB… then it’s just a matter of time until all 30 (or 32) teams make the playoffs…

  8. Keith: I think that’s fair. I personally feel that some of the “mystery” of the WS has been lost given that teams do play interleague games, but that isn’t a major effect on whether people will watch. Obviously, it doesn’t matter what record the A’s have against the Pirates, Marlins, DBacks or Giants if they are facing the Cardinals in the world series.

    Interleague play itself, on the other hand, has I think run it’s course. There will always be interest in the so called “crosstown” or regional rivalries, but one of the things that makes those so intriguing is their rarity. In years past the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs were shuttled into different divisions, meaning they played only twice a year. I am old enough to remember both before and after this period, so I can say that the (artificial) scarcity that resulted from these two meetings added to the importance of the rivalry. They still sell out each time they meet, of course, and rabid fans are every bit as wild about the matchup. But for the average fan it is now a “ho hum, Habs/Leafs – again” reaction – just as it was prior to the Leafs move to the West.

    This was also true of the Mets/Yankees, Dodgers/Angels (less so I think), Cubs/White Sox etc. So perhaps the interest in the rivalries will wain if them become too routine? As for the teams who have no local rival in the other league, well, I doubt the Pirates and Rays will lose revenue by not facing off, nor the Rockies and Red Sox. Arguably, those kinds of ILP matchups actually cost the teams money… since they lose potential rival games rather than add them.

  9. Scott: Those numbers are in Judith Grant Long’s book, but it’s at home and I’m not.

    I’m not a fan of the wild card (I liked pennant races that mattered), but it’s certainly juiced interest in cities with marginal playoff teams. The most obvious dumb thing that Selig alone was responsible for was giving home-field advantage to the winner of the All-Star Game, but in the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t done all that much damage.

  10. Oh, I hate interleague play too, and think most fans would hardly notice if it went away. But again, it’s more an annoyance than a fundamental change in the game.

  11. World Series games that finish past eleven-thirty at night means kids can’t watch. And taking games off free OTA TV ensures nineteen percent of households won’t be exposed to the sport.

  12. Jerry: Sure, but that’s just chasing the money, as defined by what the TV networks want to pay. Selig has done lots of stuff like that that can be defined as “doing what’s he’s paid to do.”

    In terms of doing things that are optional, I think this may actually turn out to be one of his worst legacies:

  13. @John Bladen – Getting rid of divisions is more about making the regular season count more. It’s especially bad in the NFL – why should 8-8 teams make the playoffs while 11-5 teams stay home? (AFC ’08) Divisions are just random groups of teams & just being the best of the worst shouldn’t automatically be given a playoff spot. I did some MLB playoff research from 1995-2012 & noticed that 61% of teams were “incorrectly” seeded due to division winning preferential. Why should an 82-win team get home field vs a 100-win team? (NLDS ’05). Plenty of instances of Wild Card teams being stronger than division winners. With a balanced schedule, you don’t even need divisions at all.

  14. I’m not a fan of interleague play, but I’d note – to the concept’s credit – that I think it could be producing marginal gains in attendance for teams in a time of increasing geographic mobility.

    I almost never go to Rockies games, but I’d definitely want to go if the Rangers were at Coors Field. Is it possible I’d just see the Rangers instead of seeing Rockies-Marlins or something? Sure. But I like to think I’d mark the Rangers date on the calendar and treat all other games as I do now – opportunities that if someone says “wanna go?” that I’d weigh “yes” or “no” to depending on other activities, weather, etc. I don’t really consider “have I been to a game this year?” as part of my decision-making, so the Rangers game would be a gain for the Rockies from my end.

  15. “This was also true of the Mets/Yankees, Dodgers/Angels (less so I think), Cubs/White Sox etc. So perhaps the interest in the rivalries will wain if them become too routine?”
    It’s already waning. Two years in a row none of the Cubs-Sox games sold out, there was barely 21,000 at New Comiskey this year. I don’t even bother watching those because of how the stupid media is so obnoxious about it & hypes it like it’s the World Series.
    All Interleague Play does is wreak havoc on the schedule, adds much unnecessary travel & more suffocating if there’s a snow/rain out. Instead of just admitting it’s irrelevant & doing away with it, Selig moves the Astros to the N.L. Incredible.

  16. John: Divisions are supposed to be to save on travel expenses, which is why they create the groupings. Since teams then play uneven schedules (to save on travel), divisions are supposed to balance out how uneven everything is competition-wise. A team with 100 wins could get there by pounding on 3 awful teams, for example, while a 90-win team might be in a division full of winning records.

    In the NFL, the divisions will never go away unless the schedule expands. There aren’t good odds of fans approval towards nearly eliminating cross-conference matches and removing the two-fer of juicy rivalries (Steelers-Ravens, etc.).

  17. @ Erik G – The schedule is done by a computer so Interleague Play is completely random now minus those four “Natural Rival” games for some teams. I think I.P. hurts more than it helps. Home N.L. opponents were Cubs & Brewers – not exactly cartwheeling over those. Also playing division opponents 19 times each is just too much. It becomes boring & redundant.
    Interleague Play took away the mystique of the only of the Big Four that had separate leagues. There’s such a sameness in the NHL & NBA that everybody’s just waiting for the playoffs.

  18. “In the NFL, the divisions will never go away unless the schedule expands.”
    Please don’t.
    “There aren’t good odds of fans approval towards nearly eliminating cross-conference matches and removing the two-fer of juicy rivalries (Steelers-Ravens, etc.).”
    You can still schedule home-and-away rivalries without divisions & the rest of the schedule based on previous year conference rankings.
    “Divisions are supposed to be to save on travel expenses”
    Yet they don’t in the NFL or MLB. But I don’t want to see an East/West split like in the NHL & NBA. To split hairs, the Northeast will always have a travel advantage & 2/3rds of teams are east of the Mississippi River.

  19. @ Pete….”Save on travel expenses”…..Lol, yeah right….They don’t care about saving money because their personal income isn’t utilized. When you get down to it, all of it is subsidized by taxpayers….

  20. I think almost everything you people are complaining about is stuff that attracts casual fans which is what nearly every mass-marketed product is interested in. They do not care about the core fans. The core fans will be there either way.

    On top of that a lot of it reeks of complaining just to complain. Baseball is extremely healthy right now financially, and Selig certainly had a hand in that. That it is not as important as it once was is totally inevitable, and I have no idea why people thing otherwise. Selig works for the owners, and he has done a great job for them.

  21. “you people”

    You certainly came here to win friends.

    “The core fans will be there either way.”

    Not true. I have for a good chunk of my life been by almost any definition a “core” fan. But now I’m consuming way less of the actual games (that’s both live and televised, I even ditched cable too boot so I’m not even ‘cheating’ by watching EPSN or some other outlet for highlights).

    While I might agree that folks congregating on a blog that’s dedicated to issues regarding stadium financing might not be a mass-marketers wet dream, I don’t agree we’re complaining for the sake of complaining or because we don’t like change. To wit, without the Wild Card there would be some fantastic pennant races but I’m not the least bit excited by whether a Pirates team that’s barely over .500 can sneak in to the postseason. Or even better, Miami who are literally at .500 and are only 4 GB of a Wild Card spot.

    Also, as much as you want to trumpet the current financial health of the game, the average fan in baseball is old and getting older. So wait it out a generation, then maybe pass judgment on Bud.

  22. MP34: Divisional play creates even more issues than you’ve highlighted (85 win teams getting home field advantage over 96 win teams, for example).

    The fact that wildcard teams are included in the playoffs when the leagues do NOT play a balanced schedule is ludicrous. Just look at the AL standings… are the A’s, Mariners and Angels THAT good? Or do they just benefit from playing 40 games each against two of the worst teams in baseball? How are teams in the ALE, for example, going to be fairly represented when they have four tough teams in their division (ok, maybe three…) and the clubs in the west have two absolute patsies to beat up on?

    This has always been an issue for me with wildcard teams. It has added drama to the pennant races, but it also eliminates the need for clubs to be good all through the season. All you’ve got to do is squeak into the playoffs and you can win the WS. Before Selig (make that BS:), this could not have happened. Sure, sometimes a team built such a huge lead that they couldn’t be caught and then cruised into the LCS as a really bad team… but at least they’d won something (if only a division crown).

    I’ve no problem with there being wildcard teams if that’s what today’s fan wants. What annoys me is that the schedules aren’t even close to balanced, meaning the two wildcard teams are selected unfairly.

  23. Michael:

    So many fans think that the kinds of short term gains leagues earn by extracting ever more money from their present fan bases are sustainable (and the definition of success).

    In fact, the decisions that MLB is making today will, in many cases, not fully be understood for a generation or two. Many of today’s “elite” professional sports have developed their economic model to extract maximum dollars from “todays” fan. What they fail to understand is that those of us in our 40s/50s today did not grow up with ‘todays’ baseball. We became fans of an entirely different version of baseball than we have now, provided in an entirely different way (and at very low cost).

    Are tykes and teens being exposed to the game at the same rate we were? I’d argue not, since most games are not on OTA or basic cable/sat packages anymore. So unless your parents are sports fans and buy the subscription, you probably won’t be exposed to baseball as we were.

    If today’s youth are not being cultivated to be tomorrow’s fans, what is MLB’s plan to recruit replacement fans when ‘we’ are no longer around to pay to watch?

  24. “They do not care about the core fans.”
    No they don’t. Basically everything they’re doing to the game is a slap in the face of traditionalists.
    “The core fans will be there either way.”
    Don’t count on it. This “core fan” is losing interest in MLB every single year. Rule 7.13 has to be one of the stupidest things I have ever seen.
    “Selig works for the owners, and he has done a great job for them.”
    I’m not an owner, so I really don’t care how great Selig was to them. It shouldn’t cost so damn much to park & go to a game.

  25. @ John Bladen – I wonder if the owners & networks want the Wild Cards more than the fans. They want people to stay interested & go to the stadium in September. There’s been many issues with the schedule: uneven divisions & leagues (formerly), playing divisional opponents almost 50% of the time, Natural Rivals (We draw the Cardinals [or] Yankees every year? Gee, great) which only 20 teams supposedly had, everyone having a different Interleague Play schedule & now it’s very random.
    Greed was behind everything & the game is all screwed up now. My hunch is many of the people that complained about the old MLB are ones who never picked up a glove & play baseball only in a video game.

  26. “I’m not an owner, so I really don’t care how great Selig was to them.”

    I think the argument here (at least my argument, can’t speak for everyone else) is less “Let’s all give Bud props for being such a great flunky!” and more “This is what he was hired to do, so what do you expect?”

  27. “My hunch is many of the people that complained about the old MLB are ones who never picked up a glove & play baseball only in a video game.”

    The Selig-era marketing strategy has absolutely been “There are only so many people who really like baseball, so let’s find a way of getting people to games who don’t really want to watch the game.” It’s worked great so far — there are plenty of people who spend entire games eating pulled-pork sandwiches and watching videos on the jumbotron — but you do have to wonder if MLB (and other leagues, for that matter) is building a fan base that’s a mile wide and an inch thick, and which will wander off to watch Rollerball the minute that becomes a thing. We’ll find out, I guess.

  28. @ Neil – What irks me the most about Selig is how he was all for traditional things yet did the complete opposite. IMO he didn’t do anything to make the game itself better but made it more of a farce. Record profits & TV contracts are all fun & games until the fans & people are stuck with the higher tab. Things like the World Baseball Classic is completely pointless & just to sell more t-shirts & caps. Merchandising has become obscene. I bought my 1st game cap in 1992 & today it costs more than double what it was. MLB logo on the back? Add $1. Raised 3-D embroidery? Add another $1. Let’s design a whole bunch of stupid ugly novelty game caps so teams wear 8 different caps a season. I think eventually the bubble is going to break & attendance will come back down; probably in the next 5 to 10 years. MLB just keeps pushing and pushing, and eventually people will reach their breaking point. It’s starting to happen at Wrigley.

    On another point I made, if the playoffs started today, MLB’s #2 overall best team would be a mere Wild Card. That’s just not right. This is why divisions suck.

  29. “if the playoffs started today, MLB’s #2 overall best team would be a mere Wild Card…”

    “Merely” a wild card? Divisions or no divisions, how else they gonna get in?

  30. The original incarnation of interleague was fantastic. This current bastardized version of it needs to go away and go away quickly. I would like to see the “rivalry series” be a constant home and home, and then 2-3 series each year of rotated interleague play. Some of the best atmospheres are at the crosstown/rivalry series, and I would hate losing that by going with a purely traditional model.

  31. @MP34:

    What you’ve said is true, baseball is pushing the limit and trying to extract every last nickel it can from it’s supporters – be they lifelong devotees or just folks who can’t get enough of the hot dog races… but they are far from the only sports league doing that. In fact, they are far from the only marketing business to do that.

    Been to a car dealership lately? Just try and find a base model of anything… if you can, guaranteed it won’t be easy. How about that cable/satellite package? Do you know anyone who has the basic package (for very long)? Check out the NFL “fan experience”. Great financial success, but what is it beyond an attempt to get parents to buy tickets for kids who really aren’t all that interested in the game itself? We long ago ceased to be consumers of just what was ‘needed’. It’s about the extras, unfortunately.

    I agree with you in that the game itself is being corrupted to woo the casual fan (as with most other major sports). But unless and until that effort starts to cost MLB it’s long time core fans, why would they change? Revenues are at record levels… numbers absolutely unimaginable to the owners of the late 1970s or early 1980s.

    In many ways we fans are our own worst enemies in this: We complain about stadium funding models, and complain about the ever spiralling cost of attending games (or even watching them on television in certain markets). Yet apparently we are still forking out money for our sports fixes… if we weren’t doing so in sufficient numbers, the things we complain about would be changed…

    I also agree “this will end”. But I’ve been feeling and saying that for at least a decade now (in fact, when Jerry Jones shelled out nearly $200m for the Cowboys 25 years ago, I remember thinking “What an idiot. Kiss that dough goodbye you redneck meathead”. Well… who was the idiot in the end?). If we as fans really wanted change, we’d stop spending our money on the product, wouldn’t we?

  32. I did my part. I cut the cable last November. I watch the NFL on my OTA TV antenna and pirate MLB games on my laptop. I do not attend anymore events live and listen to the radio.

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