News Column

It's Swan Song For Selig, Too

July 16, 2014

By Bob Nightengale, bnighten@usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig presided over his last All-Star game and will retire in January. (photo: MLB)
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig presided over his last All-Star game and will retire in January. (photo: MLB)

Derek Jeter doesn't remember the exact moment they met, but the two will be forever linked for their prodigious achievements.

Surely, they will wind up in the Hall of Fame together. One as a player, the other an executive.

Jeter is retiring once the New York Yankees' season is over.

The other will stay on for a few more months and step down Jan.24.

We're talking about Commissioner Bud Selig, who also participated in his last All-Star Game on Tuesday, only without the boisterous fanfare surrounding Jeter.

Baseball won't be the same without Jeter, who won five World Series championships with the Yankees and became the game's ultimate role model.

"If you were sitting around two decades ago and wondered who you'd want be the face of baseball, you couldn't have written a script like this," Selig says.

"He's just remarkable."

Then again, baseball also might not be quite the same without Selig, who also is leaving the game in a much better place than when he arrived 22 years ago.

"He's done a great job," Jeter says. "He going to be remembered for the wild card, expanding the playoffs, creating greater fan interest, stricter drug testing.

"Those are all things he's going to be remembered for."

Sure, baseball still has its issues, and a few will be sitting on the desk for the next commissioner.

The Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays still will be stuck in their decaying stadiums, although Selig did say that Montreal made a great impression in hosting two spring training games in March and he thought the city would be an excellent candidate in the future.

The Los Angeles Dodgers might have received an $8.3 billion TV deal, but their games still aren't shown in most of Los Angeles. Selig says he has tried to intervene with the cable companies, but so far, nothing.

The same goes with the Houston Astros, and that might be a good thing.

The Astros, who have lost at least 100 games for three consecutive seasons, are being accused of improper tactics in negotiations with No.1 draft pick Brady Aiken, whose agent, Casey Close, also represents Jeter.

"It is disappointing on any number of levels to think what has happened in that situation and what has happened with respect to the integrity of the draft process in general," said Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"You can rest assured that the manipulation we think that happened in this case is going to lead us to have some conversations."

The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2015, and although there are no signs acrimonious negotiations could lead to baseball's first work stoppage since 1995, that responsibility falls to the next commissioner.

Yet, with the sport generating nearly $9 billion in revenue, players earning an average salary of $3.3 million with no salary cap and the Dodgers recently selling for $2.15 billion, there's enough money to wash away all of the blemishes.

"I think the industry is doing a lot better now monetarily," Jeter says. "Just look at the attendance; it's higher than it's ever been. Salaries are higher than they've ever been. Teams are making more money than they ever have."

You ask Selig, and it's clear that's how he wants his legacy defined, thinking it should overshadow the ugly steroid era and canceled 1994 World Series.

"When it's all said and done, I'd say the economic reformation of the sport, because there have been so many manifestations of that," Selig said. "We have the best competitive balance we've ever had, and it's led to so many other things."

Really, when you think about it, baseball's biggest problems and greatest concerns have vanished.

Baseball, which had zero drug testing, has the toughest program in American sports, not only testing for human growth hormone but also banning amphetamines, which used to be popped as frequently as bubble gum. Selig even hopes to ban smokeless tobacco, but that is an individual right, Clark says, adding it's tough to ban a product that's legal and sold in convenience stores.

"One of the things I'm proudest of is that this sport went from no drug testing to the best testing program not only in sports but in America," Selig said.

"Our program is as good as it could be."

Sure, the games are dragging a bit these days, with the time of games averaging a record three hours. Yet it's hardly a major problem, considering baseball's soaring demand for TV.

Really, the only dilemma in Jeter's and Selig's final months together might be planning the final celebration. Selig and Major League Baseball executives were hoping to officially honor Jeter at the All-Star Game, but Jeter nixed any plans.

"There will be an opportunity between now and the end of year to do that," Selig says. "There are a lot of ideas we will kick around. There is enough time to honor him.

"How lucky can this sport be to have the icon of his generation turn out to be Derek Jeter."

Then again, maybe the sport was lucky to have Selig, too.

So it was only fitting Tuesday that they went out together in one last All-Star Game.

"My time has come," Jeter says. "It's the end of the rope for me.

"I wish (Selig) all of the best."



Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY


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