Hey Bud! This Series is for you.

October 21, 2014

I am not aware of any special ceremonies planned during the 110th World Series to honor the outgoing MLB Commissioner, Allen H. “Bud” Selig. If there is no mention of his imminent retirement, that will not mean that his contributions to MLB the past 22 years will go unnoticed. That would be impossible, because without Bud Selig’s influence neither SFO nor KCR would be playing in the World Series this year. Yes, the Series itself will be like a “30for30” film about Bud and Major League Baseball (there just happens to be 30 MLB teams, you know).

Let’s start with the fact that Game 1 tonight will be played in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Why? Not because of the annual alternating of home field advantage that was the tradition for nearly 100 years, but rather because the AL won the All-Star Game this year in Minneapolis. That victory earned the AL pennant winner home field advantage in the Series, which has been the rule since 2003. It was changed after the 2002 All-Star Game ended in a tie when neither team had pitchers left to pitch after 10 innings. It was an embarrassing moment for Commissioner Bud, who sat in the front row of Miller Park in Milwaukee (his former owner’s seats, perhaps) with a pained look on his face about the farcical nature of the Mid-Summer Classic. His solution was to make the game “count” by awarding the winner home field advantage in the World Series. Thus KCR, the play-off team with the fewest wins during the regular season, owns home field advantage.

But that is not really unfair since often times under the alternating years approach a pennant winner with more wins would not have home field advantage. And this year, the NL pennant winner isn’t even a division winner, but rather a wild card team – and a SECOND wild card team, at that. The admission of even a first wild card team was the work of Acting Commissioner Selig in 1994. The addition of a second wild card team was accomplished on his tenured watch in 2012. So neither KCR nor SFO would have qualified for this year’s post-season tournament if not for the two decades of influence wielded by Bud.

Because the Series is starting in Kansas City, you may have read some retrospectives on the last time the Fall Classic was played there. The 1985 Series is perhaps best remembered for a missed call at first base to start the bottom of the 9th in Game 6, with the home team down 1-0. That runner eventually scored the tying run and KCR ultimately won the game, 2-1. They then won the Series in an 11-0 wipe-out in Game 7. Those two wins have now been combined with this year’s 8 consecutive wins to create a 10-game, 29-year long post-season win streak. But would that streak have even begun if the play at first place had happened in today’s game?  Replays then showed that the runner was clearly out, although it was a close play.

http://m.mlb.com/video/v13062921/85-ws-gm-6-stlkc-denkinger-misses-the-callhttp://m.mlb.com/video/v13062921/85-ws-gm-6-stlkc-denkinger-misses-the-call. This year,thanks to the influence of Mr. Selig, the official use of replay would certainly have overturned the call. Would KCR still have come back to win the game and the Series? The players for STL certainly don’t believe so.

Of course STL has won two World Championships since that 1985 debacle (or miracle, if you are a KCR fan), and has played in two other Series. During that time KCR devolved into one of the worst teams in all of professional sports and had the longest post-season drought until this month. There were many reasons for that, but the loss of many home-grown stars due to free agency (or the fear of free agency) was certainly a factor: Saberhagen, Cone, Damon, Beltran, Greinke, etc. However, this year’s successful team also has 5 homegrown stars – Gordon, Hosmer, Butler, Perez and Cain. They may yet move on in free agency, but how has KCR managed to keep them to date? Another Bud Selig influence – revenue sharing. I have previously articulated that this one accomplishment should be the true legacy of Bud Selig. http://babesbaseball.com/2012/12/13/love-your-enemies-part-2-marvin-miller-and-bud-selig/. Nothing else he has done or tried to do better served MLB or its fans than devising and achieving a means by which small-market teams can afford to retain their homegrown talent.

So, perhaps you were thinking that the observations above were leading to a critical assessment of Mr. Selig. That was never my intent. I simply wanted to establish that, whatever you think of Bud, the show you will be watching tonight is very much a reflection of him. And that is about as good a retirement celebration as anyone could want.

P.S. ESPN posted an interesting piece on Bud’s legacy as interpreted by Jerry Reinsdorf, CWS owner; Tom Davis, Former US Congressman; and Donald Fehr, former MLBPA Executive Director. http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/11709885/bud-selig-contemporaries-discuss-legacy-mlb-commissioner. I agree with almost everything said by all three of them and I was shocked to see Donald Fehr  (not my favorite person)express himself almost exactly as I had in my piece back in 2012:

Fehr: “But if I was going to describe what he had accomplished, I think it would come down to this — he managed to be the CEO in a significant period of time, for a very long time, and maintained the trust and confidence of his constituents. That’s pretty high praise in my book.”

Rose: “When your company has increased total revenue over 600% during your tenure, you are generally considered to be an effective CEO….If you have been on the job for nearly 20 years, are approaching 80 years old and they still want you to come to work every day, you must be doing something right.