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Selig staying on?

by Matt Smith

In one of the least surprising pieces of news in recent months, ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that 2012 may well not be Bud Selig’s final year as MLB Commissioner after all.

Not that many of us thought it would be. 

As Olney notes, back in 2009 Selig had said he would not continue in his role before he was persuaded to stay on for another three years.  With two of those three years now up, Selig’s future was becoming a talking point; not so much in respect of eyeing a successor, but in the expectation that another extension would be agreed.

Selig’s reign has been one of considerable change.  Division realignment, Interleague play, the introduction of the Wild Card and the use of Instant Replay have combined to change the MLB landscape considerably.

The recently agreed Collective Bargaining Agreement not only marked a welcome continuation of labour peace in the sport, it also called for further changes to the MLB competition.  In the offing is another phase of realignment (the Houston Astros moving to the AL West to make six divisions of five teams), a reconstituted schedule (as yet to be determined), an additional Wild Card (likely in a thrilling one-game ‘play in’) and another step along the technology road with Instant Replay expanding to additional plays (such as foul or fair ball calls).

Selig’s leadership of these changes could be seen as surprising considering his self-proclaimed traditionalist attitude to baseball; however that’s part of why the owners are so keen for him to remain in place.  He’s been able to lead the way while keeping the owners on side – and they are the ones who appoint him – as he takes a ‘softly, softly’ considered approach.

Things can move at a slow pace, such as the three-years and counting wait on the A’s potential move into the Giants’ San Jose territory, but evidentally that’s how the owners like it.  He makes sure he has tested the water and then reaches a consensus that leads to progress without rapid change. Despite the scale of the changes we have witnessed during his ongoing tenure, it’s been a case of evolution rather than revolution.

If Bud Selig was portrayed as a Spitting Image puppet he would undoubtedly get the John Major grey treatment. Still, for a sport that’s had more than its share of revolts, strikes and scandals over the last 50 years, a lack of the drama at the top is no bad thing. Few fans will agree with every decision he has made, but MLB continues to be a wonderful competition enjoyed by millions around the world.

Just as Man Utd will let Sir Alex Ferguson continue as their manager for as long as he wants, the MLB owners appear happy to postpone the task of finding a replacement for Selig for a few more years yet.

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