Bug Selig, Jr.
Not really. The guy’s name is Rob Manfred, but he may as well answer to Li’l Bud. He’s MLB’s Chief Operating Officer and he’s been Bud’s number two for many years. Bud himself has handpicked his replacement and is maneuvering furiously to bypass any exploration or curiosity that owners might have about other candidates.
Names like Ben Bernanke and George W. Bush have been thrown around. As have baseball insider names like Stan Kasten, Ruben Amaro, Tim Brosnan and Bob Bowman.¬†A handful of team owners have reached out to Disney exec Robert Iger to think about filling out an application.
And though we can’t yet declare a winner of the Commissioner Appointment Sweepstakes is Bud or the game’s owners, we can declare a loser:
And me, too. And all fans. An entire generation of baseball fans has grown up with a commissioner who has served solely and unapologetically the interests of the team owners. That’s not how it was drawn up.
Federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the game’s first commissioner, was appointed, in effect, to save baseball from its owners. Before his appointment in 1920, Landis insisted on near-absolute power to act “in the best interests of baseball.” Sure, anything you say, Judge Landis! Just save us!
For years, the commissioner of baseball was a steward of the game. He didn’t answer to the owners. He wielded enormous power, particularly considering that baseball’s traditionally been exempt from federal anti-trust laws. The team owners had plenty of influence. But the commissioner’s job was to preserve and further the game, even if it meant steering the ship in a direction the owners didn’t like.
The idea was for the owners to elect a commissioner who wasn’t a baseball guy. He should be a fan and he should understand the game and its economics and its place in American culture. But he has to come from some other industry — law or media or the military or something that’s not baseball.
The commissioner before Bud fit that bill. Fay Vincent had been on the US Securities and Exchange Commission and he’d served as chairman of Columbia Pictures and vice chairman of Coca Cola. A pro-business, anti-labor background if ever there was one. But Vincent took very seriously his role of impartial commissioner, especially after inheriting the job from his close friend Bart Giamatti. Vincent spoke harshly about the collusion of the owners against the players association in 1980s, under commissioner Peter Ueberroth. And that seems to be the fork in the road where the owners decided they simply install one of their as commissioner from now on.
Enter Bud, owner of Selig Auto Sales and the Milwaukee Brewers. Bud has drifted with the trade winds officially since 1998 and unofficially since 1992. He oversaw the bitter negotiations that cancelled most of the 1994 season and, ultimately, that season’s World Series. Then, when fans were sick of the sight of greedy baseball, Bud was in charge while guys like McGwire and Sosa and Palmeiro “saved” baseball by breaking all its records with an orgy of longballs. And then, when media and fans wheeled on those guys and called them cheaters, Bud sang along, excoriating users of PEDs.
So here’s to you, Bud, and the owners whose water you’ve carried for 22 years. It’s no wonder baseball’s team owners want to clone you.
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