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.