During our conversation about In The Best Interests of Baseball? Andrew Zimbalist remarked that the book's subtitle, "The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig," was, in part, ironic.
Yes, but apparently only in part. Zimbalist makes a case for Selig as different from previous commissioners in ways which, if not revolutionary, are at least significant. One of Bud Selig's achievements has been the current, fragile rapprochement between baseball's owners. Since the defining characteristic of Major League Baseball's management style had previously been vicious name-calling and self-destructive, ignorant posturing, this accomplishment shouldn't be underestimated.
Zimbalist also respects Mr. Selig's promotional efforts. Under his commissionership, Major League Baseball belatedly developed a marketing department. The result has been millions of dollars of income and a higher profile here and abroad. Now if only Bud Selig would recognize that his game would gain a lot of young fans if playoff and World Series games were occasionally played while children were still awake...
The first half of In the Best Interests of Baseball? is concerned with the commissioners who bungled the job before Bud Selig accepted it, supposedly with reluctance. Compared to them, Selig looks like a champ. He has not broken the law by drawing a judge's salary while in the employ of baseball (Judge Landis), and he has not cost the owners millions and millions of dollars by orchestrating obvious collusion among them (Peter Ueberroth).
On the other hand, Mr. Selig is presently investigating Barry Bonds and his alleged use of steroids at the same time that he is preparing celebrations for the record-breaking homeruns Bonds may soon hit. While Zimbalist concedes that Selig might have been derelict in dealing with the steroid situation as it was developing a decade and more ago, he's not sure anybody else could have done any better with that mess. At the end of In the Best Interests of Baseball?, the author is more inclined to look ahead with optimism than to dwell on the game's — or the commissioner's - current embarrassments.
This program aired on April 13, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.