When Major League Baseball Commisioner Bud Selig announced his retirement in October 2013, many were skeptical that he really meant it. After all, Selig has announced his retirement on more than one occasion (remember 2009 and 2012?). But, the Commissioner, who will turn 80 in July, was adamant that he really means it this time around. He told the baseball owners at their quarterly meetings:
“It’s 100 percent. This is definitely it. I’m more comfortable today than I was when I [announced] it in October, if that’s possible. Jan. 24, 2015, is it. And I’m very comfortable with that. I’m done.”
So to say goodbye to the baseball world Selig told ESPN’s Jayson Stark that he’d like to have a farewell tour, visit every ballpark (even Oakland!) to thank the fans and employees in all 30 cities.
“I want to talk to season-ticket holders and fans,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of people to thank.”
That idea came about, he said, in part because several clubs reached out to him after his announcement and asked to honor him, but also because Rivera’s farewell tour got Selig to thinking about ways to connect with people who love baseball.
“I like that,” Selig said. “I like talking to people. And … that’s what I want to do: [speak to] season-ticket holders, people who work at ballparks. I just like to walk around and talk to people. I love that. I did that when I ran the Brewers. And I enjoyed it. I miss that.
“Many people ask me, ‘Is there anything you miss [about owning a team]?’ And that’s it. I really miss all that. I knew every vendor. And you knew what they were thinking, too, because they’ll tell you, especially if your team is losing.”
Funny thing is that most fans are not really all that fond of Selig. A lot don’t like him one bit. Take the fans in Oakland who, while they love their O.Co Coliseum, are in desperate need of a new venue. Many would argue that Selig has helped keep this from happening and helped keep the players there knee deep in sewage (literally). Many would argue that he shouldn’t have a farewell tour like Mariano Rivera, a man revered and respected by baseball fans everywhere. In essence such a tour could be, well, awkward.
But has Selig really been that bad of a commissioner for the past 22 going on 23 years? Should the fans really dislike him as much as they do?
Sure, performance enhancing drug use ran rampant during most of his tenure, but hasn’t he really worked to clean that mess up? He made his point in standing his ground and taking down baseball’s public enemy number one, Alex Rodriguez, and suspending many others for cheating with PEDs. Should it have been taken care in a more timely manner? Absolutely. Players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should have suffered A-Rod’s fate years ago and their names should not be on Hall of Fame ballots today. But under Selig the game has been cleaned up.
The game has changed a lot for the better, actually, under his watch. Baseball now has the toughest anti-doping rules in all of sports. There have been 21 straight years of labor peace since the strike of 1994. And consider the advent of the wild card system, interleague play and the World Baseball Classic, all of which have helped the game of baseball grow in popularity and legitimacy. Yes, Selig will always be the commissioner who presided over the “Steroid Era” but he has actually done some great things for the game.
Back to the fans and how they might receive this so-called “farewell tour.” Most will hate it, few will like it. Let’s face it, the commissioners of professional sports are never well-liked. But in this case, Selig says he wants to walk side by side with the season ticket holders, fans and park employees that make his job possible, not simply ride around the field in a little car and say a few words.
Personally, I never saw that coming. When I first heard of this tour of ballparks my first thought was “well that’s pretty arrogant.” But after thinking it through and doing a little research, my resolve has softened a bit. Not all the way to say the least, not even close as I am still skeptical of him in general. However, if he does indeed make this 30 city tour a reality, maybe the fans should give him a chance to prove that he really appreciates them and has done his best for the game over the last two decades.