Ask someone to propose a bad idea in four words and one suggestion might be "Bud Selig Farewell Tour."
But apparently, that's exactly what MLB's outgoing commissioner has in mind for his final year on the job. As ESPN's Jayson Stark writes, some are skeptical that Selig will actually follow through on his retirement plans because he's changed his mind before. Twice, actually. Selig originally intended to retire after the 2009 season. Then he wanted to call it a career at the end of 2012. But this time, the commish — who will turn 80 this year — means it.
Selig told Stark that he's more comfortable with the idea of retirement now, even more so than when he first announced his intentions in October. That feeling of peace and contentment may be compelling Selig to let down his guard a bit, tossing out proposals he likely wouldn't have considered while he was entrenched as commissioner and preoccupied with whatever issues needed to be addressed. Or maybe Selig is just feeling really good now that he's nailed his public enemy No. 1, Alex Rodriguez, and wants to take a bit of a victory lap.
The first thought is that a farewell tour for Selig seems absurd. Does he realize how he's generally perceived by fans throughout the sport, whether that's justfied or not? Selig almost comes off like Michael Scott on The Office, under the impression that everybody likes him because he's the cool boss. But no one likes the boss. No one likes management. Such sentiment is tightly woven into our culture.
This isn't Mariano Rivera reveling in the final season of his career, accepting thanks for the teams, players and fans that enjoyed watching him dominate as baseball's finest closer for 19 years. Selig isn't nearly as popular a figure as Rivera or any other legendary player, such as Derek Jeter, who will likely receive the same treatment later on. Yet it's not like his accomplishments don't warrant such an extended sendoff.
Selig has been the commissioner of baseball for more than 22 years. Nearly every MLB team is playing in a modern ballpark built within the past 25 years. Adding a wild-card team to the postseason format adds to the playoff chase excitement each season. Interleague play allows fans an opportunity to watch virtually every team and any player over a handful of seasons. Every game can be viewed on MLB.TV or MLB Extra Innings, and MLB Advanced Media has been a pioneer in streaming sports content.
Though MLB's last work stoppage in 1994 occurred on his watch, while he was still considered an interim commissioner, baseball hasn't suffered through a strike or lockout since then. Peace between the players union and owners helped enable the tougher drug policy that resulted in a season-long suspension for A-Rod and 50-game bans for 12 other players associated with the Biogenesis investigation.
Of course, there have been mishaps. Regional blackouts prevent fans in many regions from enjoying the MLB.TV product to its fullest. A satisfactory instant replay system still needs to be implemented. Player safety issues — such as pitchers protecting themselves against line drives — need to be explored further.
We can certainly make jokes about what sorts of gifts the outgoing commissioner might receive from each MLB team this year. Search the Twitter hashtag "#SeligFarewellTourGifts," and you'll see some hilarious suggestions such as Expos 1994 postseason tickets and the mortgage on Marlins Park. Personally, I think Oakland should present Selig with one of the pipes that backed up and caused raw sewage leaks in the clubhouses and dugouts at O.co Coliseum.
The 2002 All-Star Game that ended in a tie wasn't the commissioner's finest moment. And really, nor was Selig's solution to prevent future deadlocks. Attaching home-field advantage to the winner of the All-Star Game may have been good for a one- or two-season gimmick to draw interest and goodwill back to the midsummer classic. But as a competitive incentive, it's ludicrous, disregarding the merits of finishing with the best record during the grind of a 162-game season.
Selig is taking a lot of credit for cleaning PED use from baseball nowadays. Yet it can't be ignored that use of illegal performance-enhancers was rampant throughout the sport in the early years of his tenure as commissioner. Selig opted to cover his eyes, hoping the problem would go away or be ignored by media. A testing program wasn't in place.
Perhaps this is best typified by Selig's reaction and body language after Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron for first place on the all-time home run list. As Bonds circled the bases following his 755th homer, Selig initially didn't stand up until coaxed into at least acknowledging the moment by then-Rangers owner Tom Hicks. Rather than applaud, however, Selig kept his hands in his pockets and looked rather sheepish. He didn't want to be seen celebrating what virtually everyone knew was a tainted achievement, albeit a historic one for baseball. But Selig couldn't hide from it either.
However, PEDs had such an effect on the game and its history that the abuse had to be addressed and confronted. The 60 Minutes report on Tony Bosch, A-Rod and the Biogenesis investigation ended with Scott Pelley saying, "Part of [Selig's] legacy is the establishment of the toughest anti-doping rules in all of American pro sports."
Selig says that he wants to meet with the people during his farewell tour, thank the season-ticket holder and fans that have led to MLB being so successful. That actually sounds nice. Rather than wave to the crowd and possibly make some passing remarks — which will surely happen when each MLB team honors the commissioner on the field — Selig actually wants to connect with those who support the game and hear what they have to say.
Really, the unfortunate part of this is that Selig didn't have such an idea sooner or that it wasn't inspired by his retirement.
Selig himself acknowledges that he was once so unpopular that meeting fans could have been a disastrous experience. But rather than hold a "State of the Game" address at the All-Star Game every year, imagine if the commissioner took the time to meet with season-ticket holders and fans every year. Maybe such an endeavor would be impractical on a yearly basis, but that kind of outreach and accessibility would set MLB's commissioner apart from his counterparts in the NFL, NBA and NHL. It would be another way to promote the game, while also hearing from the people who buy the tickets and cheer on these teams.
Maybe that's something we can look forward to, especially if Selig's farewell tour goes well. That would be quite a parting gift from the commissioner to those that made his tenure so prosperous.