Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Bud a bit blurred as a visionary
By Rob Neyer ESPN.com
Commissioner-for-Life Bud Selig is an idea man. He gets ideas, sometimes so many that he can't even fight them off.
Which would be great, except most of Commissioner Bud's ideas are harebrained (and I apologize to any hares that might be reading; it's just a silly term, and not meant as an insult to the hares of the world, many of whom have more sense than God gave Bud).
Bud Selig is thinking of tinkering with both the regular and postseason schedules.
"... I feel very comfortable with where we are," Selig recently told Sean McAdam. "The season is a journey. The NFL weights its schedule, and ours is almost identical."
Yes, the season is a journey. And for many years, it was a long journey that did a pretty fair job of rewarding the best teams at the end of the journey. But beginning with the introduction of divisional play in 1969, and then accelerating rapidly with the introduction of interleague play, wild cards, and teams essentially making their own schedules in the late 1990s, baseball has substantially changed the nature of the journey, with luck playing a bigger part than ever before in who's rewarded.
But it's OK, because that's how the NFL does things.
This is symptomatic of Selig's "thinking." Rather than attempt to preserve the place of baseball in the hearts of Americans (and, these days, Japanese and Europeans and Tibetans), Selig looks to the NFL and the NBA for inspiration. In Commissioner Bud's Wonderful World of Marketing Fantasy, the NFL has a screwy schedule and the NFL is popular ... ergo, if MLB has a screwy schedule, then MLB will be popular!
If only life were so simple.
Of course, Selig's not content to monkey around with the schedule, to the point where it's both unfathomable and unjustifiable. He also can't wait to add another round of postseason games to the already bloated postseason schedule.
According to McAdam, "Selig will tread carefully on this issue, because he knows it's bound to raise the ire of traditionalists. But a change seems assured, with the Division Series probably being extended to seven games -- with a concurrent shortening of the regular-season schedule to 154 games -- and the inclusion of additional wild-card teams likely."
And in a somewhat puzzling "explanation," Selig told McAdam, "You need to face societal changes ... But we also have this great history and tradition and we ought to be concerned with that, too. But I think it's in our best interest to (expand the format)."
Societal changes? Selig wouldn't know a societal change if it jumped up and scalped him. He must be talking about the NFL and the NBA, where they let half the teams into the postseason derby either because (in the case of the NFL) TV networks need the programming or because (in the case of the NBA) otherwise nobody would show up for most of the games in the last month of the season.
However, there's a big problem with imitating the NFL and the NBA: it's stupid. The TV networks are not clamoring for another round of postseason games, and baseball attendance is not contingent on the tenuous wild-card chances of various so-so teams.
What's more, teams that squeak into the NBA and NFL playoffs generally don't fare particularly well once they get there. That is, the worst teams in the playoffs rarely get far, due to the nature of the sports.
But baseball's not like that. In baseball, it's not at all uncommon for a bad team to beat a great team in one game, and it's common for a good team to beat a great team in a multi-game series. And so every time you let more good teams into the postseason derby, you decrease the chance that the great team will be rewarded with a championship.
One more thing about this ... With a 154-game schedule, you have a slightly worse chance of getting the more deserving teams into the now-expanded playoffs. Selig doesn't even have the guts or the wherewithal to preserve the 162-game season by actually scheduling a few doubleheaders (one per month per team, basically).
What's so special about All-Star uniforms?
Oh, here's another Seligian brainstorm: All-Star uniforms. Yeah, that's right ... Commissioner Bud would like to legislate one of the best things about the All-Star Game -- getting to see all those different uniforms on the field at the same time -- out of existence.
Why on earth would he want to do that? It's all about the money, friends. MLB introduced special All-Star workout jerseys a few years ago, and naturally you could purchase these jerseys for home use. Granted, you don't see a lot of those jerseys actually being worn ... but what if special All-Star jerseys were worn during the game?
That ka-ching you just heard was the cash register that's always powered up inside Commissioner Bud's "brain."
Yes, it's all about marketing. And short-sighted marketing, at that. For a few extra thousand dollars, Selig's willing to cast aside one of the best things about the All-Star Games.
As an owner (don't forget, he's still an owner) for more than three decades and the commissioner for seemingly forever, Bud Selig's done far more to hurt the game than he's done to help it. We're often told that Commissioner Bud loves baseball, and I believe that he does. Unfortunately, his love or baseball ranks somewhere behind 1) his love of profit, 2) his desire to leave a legacy as an activist commissioner, 3) his love of his fellow owners. Plus, he's delusional. In Commissioner Bud's Fantasy World, everything he's ever done has worked out perfectly, which means of course that anything he wants to do will work out perfectly, too.
But it won't. Selig's a dangerous man, and the sooner we're rid of him, the better.
Senior writer Rob Neyer writes four columns per week during the baseball season. His new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups," has just been published by Fireside. For more information, visit Rob's Web site.