Updated: 05/06/2014 1:40 PM KSTP.com By: Phil Malat
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig
Photo: Photo: MGN Online/ESPN
As the now circus silliness surrounding the once revered autumn classic gets underway, we should appreciate that this has been a banner year for our national pastime. Not because of anything that has occurred on the field but because Bud Selig has mercifully (for the fans) decided to end his reign of cruelty to the game by announcing his retirement in January of 2015.
Selig has used his valuable and precious position to accomplish one thing and one thing only, namely, to feed the enormous greed threatening to consume the game. His departure is the best news baseball could have received with the possible exception that all the players suspended for drug use would be permanently barred from baseball, which is an action way beyond Selig's level of character to institute.
Selig's new playoff debacle this year of introducing a second wildcard team into the pennant race only serves to further dilute the accomplishments and success of the best teams in baseball. In a bygone era we would have been treated to two absolutely marvelous pennant races between the season's four BEST teams.
As the final weekend of play began only one game separated the Boston Red Sox from the Oakland A's in the American League overall standings. In the National League, weekend play began with Atlanta and St. Louis tied for the best season record. None of this mattered. Under the Selig formula designed to promote a gushing giddiness for mediocrity we all focused on the celebration of the mundane exploits of baseballs also-rans, rather than focusing on the season accomplishments of the games finest teams.
Naturally this new playoff format, featuring even more questionable teams competing for the big prize, will take on a life of its own once one of these paragons of mediocrity reaches the World Series. That will provide the same irrational respectability that became the cornerstone of the old format when the 1987 Minnesota Twins (85-77) and the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals (83-78) won the World Series - all of which serves to diminish motivation and a desire for pride in excellence within regular season play, as well as badly tarnishing the image of the trophy.
Self-indulgent Bud was also the architect of the now absolutely absurd unbalanced schedule depriving fans in both leagues from seeing many of baseball's best teams on regular intervals. As if that wasn't bad enough, bungling Bud instituted not just the addition of inter-league play, but the expansion of this insanity. It was this sage leader who looked the other way while a livened up baseball was employed at a time when players were using performance enhancing drugs. This propelled a disgustingly, bogus frenzy around the greed driven enterprise to eclipse the records of Roger Maris and Henry Aaron. This all resulted in forever corrupting two of the most revered records in all of sports. And who will ever forget his ruling in the 2002 All-Star game which resulted in it ending in a tie.
As for those of us old fuddy-duddies, and possibly some young fuddy-duddies, who are at the very least annoyed by the millions of dollars routinely tossed around in baseball, let's please bear the following in mind as we watch this year's chase for the once most treasured of all sports trophies. Bud Selig is not just indirectly responsible, but DIRECTLY responsible for Alex Rodriguez's $28 million salary and Hunter Pence's new five year, $90 million contract extension. It was Bud Selig who employed a veiled threat to contract the Minnesota Twins to provide leverage for the team to secure hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for a new Twins ballpark. The Twins said thank you by promptly giving Joe Mauer a new eight-year, $184 million ($23 million per year) contract.
There is more, oh so much more, but suffice it to say, Bud's greatest legacy may ultimately be our watching the grandest of all sporting contests stretching into November (nights only) baseball played on something resembling a frozen tundra. We will gasp with unbridled excitement as we watch the exhaled smoke bellow from the breaths of our summer heroes while they race around the field adorned in those cute 1940's kiddy-caps with the earmuff flaps. Not even God could have envisioned such an assault on one of His most precious gifts to mankind.
So yes, bring on this circus silliness called the baseball playoffs. However, this year let's add to the festivities by cracking open a very special beer to provide a very special toast in celebration and expectation that some form of sanity may yet return to the commissioner's office with the departure of the game's biggest nemesis.
Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.