The light's went out in Oakland's O.com Coliseum Saturday night. The A's were hosting the Yankees and the action was delayed over 30 minutes while the lights in left field were returned to life. Problems with Oakland's park are nothing new. Locker rooms fill with sewage when there's a hard rain. The turf was unplayable earlier this season because of overnight rains.
The owners of the A's has been attempting to move his team down the road a few miles to San Jose, but the San Francisco Giants have blocked the move. Commissioner Bud Selig formed a commission to study the situation and to aid the A's. That was over five years ago. The conditions at Oakland have only deteriorated over that time while the bumbling Selig and his buddies have done little more than decry the conditions of the stadium and fight a lawsuit filed by San Jose against MLB for not approving the move.
This is supposedly Bud Selig's last season as MLB commissioner, and it is nearly half complete. As the end approaches, the media tributes from Selig's buddies will fill the airwaves and the print/internet. There'll be stories about the success of the MLB Network, and about the two decades of labor peace. There'll be bits about the great attendance numbers and the record amounts teams are receiving for media rights. He'll be known as the man who saved baseball from the evils of steroids, the commissioner who taught the players and owners to work with each other, the man who saved baseball.
But what is the real legacy of Bud Selig? Is he a savior, or is he a man who helped to force a shutdown of the sport, wiped out a World Series, then held on and rode the steroid-fueled home run surge return to popularity of the game? Is he steward of the game, or is he the man who helped to destroy the game in Montreal, and worked to scam taxpayers across the country, most specifically Florida? Is he a man who pushed through the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington over the vociferous objections of the Baltimore Orioles, or is the ineffectual dunce who is seemingly powerless to do anything that would help the A's?
Selig is universally hated by Astros fans for many reasons. Some real, some imagined. He forced the team to open the Minute Maid Park roof during the World Series. It was his desire for balanced leagues that led to Jim Crane's purchase of the Astros being made contingent upon the team's forced move from the National League Central to the American League West. And it can be argued that it was Selig/MLB's embrace of, then demonization, of the PED-fueled home run culture that is helping to lead to Astros' icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio still not being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But Selig's done harm to more than just the Astros. The A's are one of the biggest victims of Selig's rule, as are the baseball fans in Montreal -- to those who question the real baseball support in Montreal, read Jonah Keri's excellent new book on the history of the Expos. MLB helped Jeffrey Loria scam the taxpayers of Florida into building a new stadium they didn't want or need for the Marlins, only to see Loria strip the team of its valuable players. He's fostered a culture where the financial success of a team is dependent not no winning games and attracting fans to the stadium, but instead upon the dollars received in media rights fees fueled by the rapid proliferation of regional sports networks. But this bubble could be popping within the next few years as problems with the new RSNs for the Astros and Dodgers (both of which have failed to receive carriage within a majority of their viewing areas) point the way to more and more cable and satellite providers rejecting carriage agreements for team-owned RSNs.
Baseball has prospered under the Selig regime. But it's really nothing more than just a short term prospering that papers over the cracks in the foundation of the game. There are real problems in Oakland and Tampa Bay. The Astros have yet to recover from the move to the AL, and the lack of recovery is being aided by the inability of most fans to actually see the games.
Perhaps the lights going out in Oakland is the perfect metaphor for Bud Selig's MLB tenure. Fans are being priced out of the games, and now it's becoming increasingly more difficult for them to views games on television. But hey, it's not like Selig's forced the cancellation of a World Series for the past 20 years or so, so he must have been a success. Right?
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