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Bud Selig's Legacy - This Is Sports Zone

After 23 years, Bud Selig’s tenure as Commissioner of Major League Baseball is over as of Sunday, January 25th. After being the “interim” commissioner through the strike of 1994, he took over the position officially in 1998. Selig’s tenure ends with him as the longest reigning commissioner of any of the four major sports, and while baseball is currently the sport with the longest period of peace between the players union and the owners, this week the question has been asked not only of the lasting legacy of Selig, but if he is in fact the best commissioner in baseball history, worthy of the Hall of Fame like many of his predecessors.

Of the eight previous commissioners of baseball, four are in the Hall of Fame. Bowie Kuhn’s reign saw two players strikes, the end of the reserve clause, the advent of free agency, the suspension of George Steinbrenner, and called Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” published in 1970, “detrimental to baseball,” then demanded that Bouton rescind the book. Ford Frick famously ordered an asterisk next to the home run record of Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs in an 162-game season, breaking the record of Frick’s former boss, Babe Ruth, who hit 60 home runs in an 154-game season. Happy Chandler oversaw Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and the first televised World Series game in history. Kenesaw Mountain Landis cleaned up baseball’s gambling problem with his lifetime banning of eight White Sox players during the infamous “Black Sox” scandal, while doing nothing to end baseball’s color barrier in a 24 year tenure. Selig’s tenure as commissioner started with the Player’s strike, but in the end will be remembered for the Steroid Era, one in which Selig and the rest of baseball’s owners turned a blind eye to what it’s players were doing in order to bring fan’s back to a sport that many felt displaced from after the year-long stoppage of play.

From 1996 to 2001, the prevalence of steroids in baseball led to an era of some of the greatest offensive numbers of any era that preceded it, and Selig did nothing. In 2003 he finally got the players to agree to voluntary drug testing, but that didn’t stop the US government from ordering Selig and many of baseball’s top stars to testify before Congress in one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of the sport. Selig’s indifference led to the home run chase between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, and Barry Bonds’ assaulting that record in 2001, but after being called before Congress, and the Mitchell Report that chronicled that entire era, baseball’s steroid policy finally took effect, even with the newly established investigative wing using questionable methods to find evidence against players, as was on displaying during 2013’s Biogenesis scandal. His outing and exposing of players such as Alex Rodriguez has, at times, seemed like a thinly-vailed attempt to build his own legacy by punishing those who prospered as a result of his looking another way, but he has cleaned up the game and ended the Steroid Era, even if it did come later than it could have.

Merely due to the blandness of his predecessors, Bud Selig probably is the best commissioner in baseball’s history. He has turned baseball into a $10 billion a year industry, growing it from averaging only a million a year in revenue when he first took office. He has presided over the advent of the wild card, interleague play, and expanding baseball’s playoff structure; all of which have succeeded in helping grow baseball’s revenues and fan base since their inception. In my opinion though, he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. That should be his penance for his part in the Steroid Era, and in only ending it when he stood to benefit from doing so. If Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire can’t get in thanks to their part in that time, it’s only fair that Selig can’t get in until at least one of them is able to be voted in. Imagine Selig being inducted into Cooperstown along side Bonds and Clemens, at the Grand opening of what should be dubbed “The Steroid Wing” of the Hall of Fame. As for his legacy, it’s safe to say that he will always be remembered as a man of inaction that led to growth, and then action to cover up the inaction.

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