By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
For Bud Selig, retirement once again will have to wait.
A Major League Baseball source familiar with the situation confirmed Tuesday that team owners will vote Thursday during meetings in Phoenix to extend Selig for two more years through 2014 as commissioner of baseball. Selig is expected to accept that mandate.
Selig, who turns 78 in July, repeatedly had insisted he would retire when his current three-year extension expired after the 2012 season.
“This is clearly it,” he said after receiving that extension in January 2008. “I can say this without equivocation.”
Selig maintained he would move on to other stated desires, such as teaching at the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater, where a chair was established in his name in the history department. He also wants to write a book about his experiences as commissioner.
But as Selig neared the last year of that extension, owners began pressing him to stay longer. No search committee was formed to find a successor, which made it even more difficult for Selig to leave office as planned.
The primary factor is that Selig has shepherded the game through an era of unparalleled prosperity, which owners don’t want to interrupt. The baseline for that renaissance was extended labor peace, which Selig finally managed to achieve after the devastating player strike in 1994-’95.
Accordingly, owners pressed Selig in recent weeks to accept another extension then scheduled the vote. He hadn’t given them a definite “yes” as of Tuesday but was expected to do so in Phoenix.
“This isn’t Bud (asking for it),” said a source. “This is coming from the owners.”
Reached at his downtown Milwaukee office, Selig declined to address the extension before departing for Phoenix and two days of meetings.
“I can’t say anything at this time; I really can’t,” he said.
Selig accepted the job on an interim basis in 1992 and became commissioner on a full-time basis in 1998. He has served longer in the job than anyone other than the first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was in office for 24 years before dying in 1944.
If Selig stays in office through 2014, he will have served for 22 years as commissioner.
Selig has overseen a period of dramatic change in the game, beginning with the labor peace that allowed the game to reach new financial heights. Gross revenues exceeded $7 billion in 2011. When Selig’s tenure began in 1992, revenues topped out at $1.2 billion.
Selig pushed through such innovations as expanded revenue sharing, a comprehensive drug-testing program, expanded playoffs including the wild-card format, interleague play, the World Baseball Classic, the largest ballpark construction boom in the game’s history, the creation of MLB Advanced Media, and a change in the All-Star Game format that gives home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning league.
And more changes are coming. Additional wild cards will be added to both leagues, perhaps as early as this season. And Major League Baseball will realign in 2013, with Houston moving from the National League Central to the American League West, creating two 15-team leagues and increased interleague play.
Now recognized throughout the industry as the most effective commissioner in the game’s history, Selig has been rewarded by owners with salary increases that brought him to a reported current level of some $20 million.
Before becoming commissioner, Selig was principal owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, beginning in 1970 when he led a group that bought the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy. In his later years as owner of the Brewers, the club struggled as the game’s economics worked against small-market clubs.
Thus, it was with great fervor upon becoming commissioner that Selig championed baseball’s first meaningful revenue-sharing plan. The deal improved competitive balance at a time when the free-spending New York Yankees were making the World Series their personal playground.
Realizing the sport needed to move forward with the changes necessary to escape years of inertia, Selig focused on uniting ownership. He became a master at consensus-building, giving every executive his say, working the room during meetings and spending endless hours on the telephone, both at home in Bayside, Wis., and in his Milwaukee office.
By Tom Haudricourt