I am curious: what exactly does it take for a commissioner not to be considered a hero by his owners? In recent years,
despite all of the upheaval and utterly moronic moves by culturally and psychologically cloistered commissioners, they seem to live on in their positions, promoted not only to incompetency but far beyond it. When Bud Selig announced that he was coming back through 2014 for another round overseeing the demise of America’s pastime, I found myself wondering whether being a commissioner might be the easiest job to retain in the country. As long as the commish is content to be a puppet of the owners behind the scenes and a Generalissimo in front of the cameras, he can do whatever he wants as Americans continue to eat up all the sports content they can get, though their tastes waver between the sports.
You would think that perhaps if franchises are losing money or the sport is losing market share to the other major sports that that could be a reason to get rid of a commissioner. It would make sense after all- if the commissioner’s job is to oversee the league and the league starts to struggle, then like any CEO he is out. But that may be the best part about the modern-day commissioner. When push comes to shove, he can always blame the players. Yes, blame the players for the insane salaries that the owners choose to pay them, and blame the players for the decline in revenue when teams negotiate TV deals and ticket prices. Yes, blame the players for the poor business practices that allow teams to limp along collecting paychecks through revenue sharing. After all, it is far easier to blame the employees than to look across the table at your fellow owner and handle the problems in-house. The commissioner can act as a foil for the owners, and like any charlatan can rustle up enough anger to create a showdown at the next collective bargaining negotiation.
But Bud Selig hasn’t had a work stoppage in some time, so at least he has that going for him. And no, I don’t hold him responsible for the Marlins and Pirates (at least, likely many more teams) lying about their profits to get local citizens to pay for their ballparks. I don’t even hold him responsible for baseball losing its place as the #1 sport in America. The rise of college football has fed the pro game to some extent, and I will be charitable in not penalizing MLB too much in not marketing itself with the same ability as the NFL. On the field however, Selig’s work is sloppy at best, decisions made late or not at all. Even leaving the steroid crisis aside (one that he was tacitly responsible for and has done his best to declare “over” long before any action had been taken), Selig has neglected and in some cases damaged the game on the field.
After numerous questions about instant replay for safe/out calls or plays at the plate, Selig assembled a committee to review on-field activities. They were formed over a year ago, and not a peep heard since. It is his favorite past-time, I think. Not baseball, mind you, but forming committees to silence the critics then never taking action. He did the same thing with the steroid issue at first before it exploded in his face. Looking back he was a lot like BP executives when they kept underestimating the amount of oil spilling into the gulf but each time reaffirming that this is the final, accurate number. He had the All-Star game called a tie, and then years later declared the winner of the All-Star game to have home-field advantage. He never answered the simple question of what would happen if another All-Star game lasted that long; he just hopes it doesn’t happen again. One day he is willing to make a tie in baseball, the next he tries to declare that game eminently meaningful.
But I suppose those on-field blunders don’t cost the owners money, but they will eventually when fans care even less than they do now. But with such a player-friendly labor system in place, he has plenty to fall back on if anyone ever threatens to blame him. He can always blame the players.
None of this explains how David Stern of the NBA or John Marinatto of the Big East manage to keep their jobs. Stern has seen his league retain its inaccurate image of a league of thugs while his heavy-handed measures only alienate his players. Sorry David, but a dress code doesn’t make someone make wiser decisions with their lives. Marinatto has seen his league utterly collapse while teams bolt to anyone who will take them, becoming so unattractive that Air Force actually turned them down. I could go on, but I can’t help but think I made the worst career choice ever. I should be on the fast track to being a commissioner. All I need to do is lose all respect for the sport and I should have the greatest job security short of the federal government.