Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Selig? Retire? He's too valuable to the owners.

His job title is "Commissioner of Baseball".

While he does fill the role, Bud Selig should more accurately be referred to as "The Major League Owners' Financial Manager".
"What did you say?  Retirement?  No thanks."
The 77 year old Selig will be given a 2 year contract extension to remain commissioner.  A rumored announcement is to be made tomorrow.  This goes against everything Selig has said over the last few years.  Over and over again he has said that when his contract runs out, he is done.  Why did we think he would?  Every time his contract nears an end, he says he is going retire and he ends up staying on.

Selig may very well have intended to retire this year...but the owners won't have anything to do with that.

Selig is the second longest serving commissioner in baseball history, 19 years, and in that time 4 new franchises have been created, 20 new stadiums have been built and 4 playoff teams have been added.

These could all be considered as the legacies of Bud Selig.  You can add to that interleague play, the World Baseball Classic, MLB Network, record attendance and, unfortunately, steroids as well.

But in reality, his legacy isn't any of these things.  Bud Selig's legacy, and the reason the owners are so eager to keep him on as commissioner for as long as he lives, is money.

For many of these owners, Bud Selig's run atop of Major League Baseball has resulted in a huge profits and skyrocketing franchise values.
"Baseball been very good to me."
Look again at the list of things that Selig will be remembered for by fans...

4 new franchises:  Money fed directly into the pockets of the existing owners
20 new stadiums (and major renovations to 4 others):  Instant boost of revenues for each of those teams
4 new playoff teams:  More post season games results in more sales of tickets and TV rights
Interleague play:  creation of new rivalries that boost attendance and interest in the regular season
WBC:  Increase the interest of baseball world wide tapping into new revenues never before available
MLB Network:  Obvious monetary benefits and control of baseball media

It could even be argued that the blind eye baseball had toward steroids added significant revenues to the owners pocketbooks.

When Selig took over as commissioner in 1992, baseball as a whole had revenues of around $1 billion for the season.  In 2010, baseball had around $7 billion in revenue.  Average value of a franchise after the strike in 1995 was about $110 million.  In 2011 the average was $520million.  An owner would have quadrupled their investment on a team that they had bought in 1992.  It's an average of an 11% increase during which the economy of the United States suffered from two separate economic crashes. I wish my retirement fund had that sort of return on it.

It is believed the before the strike in 1994, nearly half the major league teams were losing money.  While baseball doesn't publish precise numbers, less than a hand full of teams are actually losing money now.  Even teams with poor attendance and shitty ownership (hint hint...Marlins?) are operating with significant profits.
"Don't hold your breath, I'm not going anywhere."
Does Selig deserve all the credit for this?  I don't know.  I would image that the other major sports have seen some similar revenue increases, but basketball, hockey and football have all had either money or labor problems at some point over the last 15 years, while baseball has thrived uninterrupted.  

Most of us don't like Bud Selig.  I've never been a fan.  I hate many of the changes he has promoted in the game like interleague play and the expanded playoffs (I'm an old fart in how I view the game).  But the owners love the guy.  It comes down to money.  As long as Selig lives and the dollars continue to come in for the owners, we will need to accept the fact the Selig is going to be the commissioner.