Commissioner Bud Selig has reportedly informed owners that he will retire as commissioner of Major League Baseball when his current contract expires in 2012.
As it stands, the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers is most likely to be known for presiding over the period when interleague play started and the expansion of the playoffs to include three division winners instead of two as well as a wildcard team. He'll also be known as the guy who was in charge when steroids forever tainted baseball's record books.
But the thing I will most remember of Selig's tenure is that it was under his watch when the finances of baseball got completely out of control.
When Selig became the acting commissioner in 1992, the highest salary in the majors was Bobby Bonilla's $6.1-million paycheck from the Mets and the league average paycheck was $780,000 a year. Next season Alex Rodriguez will make THIRTY TWO MILLION DOLLARS.
What's the big deal? Besides the fact that baseball is being priced out of the reach of the average American family, competitive baseball is priced out of the reach of three quarters of the clubs in the majors.
Big deal if four teams in each league make the playoffs every year instead of two. It seems like there is a pool of five or six teams in each circuit that are in the running. The fans of more than half the teams in baseball know they are realistically out of the running before the first pitch is made on opening day. And it's killing the viability of the game in longtime baseball hotbeds like Kansas City, Baltimore, Oakland and Cincinnati.
I don't think there is any way that we'll ever see the clock turned back to the time when it was reasonably priced to go to the ballpark. But he can leave a meaningful stamp on the economics of the game before he goes.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2011. Selig needs to make sure, unlike the last time a deal was struck, that revenue sharing and a salary cap are part of any new agreement. Otherwise, the game that he was entrusted to be the caretaker of nearly two decades ago will be almost completely unrecognizable by the time he leaves.