Bud Selig, 80, stepping down on January 25 as commissioner of MLB, will receive $6 million annually after he retires, according to ESPN.
Selig was part of a group that forced out prior commissioner Fay Vincent in 1992, stepped in as interim commissioner, and then took over in July 1998. Rob Manfred will replace him. Pat Vourtney, speaking for MLB, said ESPN incorrectly reported the package Selig will receive, but refused to reveal exactly what the package was, or how long Selig will continue to advise Manfred as part of the deal.
Selig’s accomplishments have been overshadowed by his failures; his accomplishments include buying the Seattle Pilots and bringing a team back to Milwaukee to start the 1970 season, eschewing a salary cap yet creating reasonable competitive balance, allowing inter-league play, a longer, more involved postseason, and helping to skyrocket franchise values and television deals.
On the other hand, baseball has continued to lose appeal among sports fans. Harris Interactive reported that 35% of fans favor professional football as their favorite sport, with only 14% claiming baseball interests them the most–a number that has dropped dramatically in recent times.
The drop in fans’ interest in baseball can be attributed to a variety of factors, but two salient points stand out during the era Selig presided: the devastating strike in 1994, the first time in a major American sport that the game lost its entire post-season, and the steroid era that followed, rekindling fans’ interest as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased home run records. The controversy swirling around steroid use culminated in the Biogenesis scandal of 2013.
Speaking of the steroid problem back in 2009, Selig said:
I don’t want to hear the commissioner turned a blind eye to this or he didn’t care about it. That annoys the you-know-what out of me. You bet I’m sensitive to the criticism. The reason I’m so frustrated is, if you look at our whole body of work, I think we’ve come farther than anyone ever dreamed possible. I honestly don’t know how anyone could have done more than we’ve already done.
He added, “A lot of people say we should have done this or that, and I understand that. They ask me, ‘How could you not know?’ and I guess in the retrospect of history, that’s not an unfair question. But we learned and we’ve done something about it. When I look back at where we were in ’98 and where we are today, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made.”
Selig blamed the players’ union for blocking the league from instituting a tougher drug policy, saying that the threat of another strike kept him at bay. He said, “Starting in 1995, I tried to institute a steroid policy. Needless to say, it was met with strong resistance. We were fought by the union every step of the way.” The joint drug program was not implemented until August 2002.