Whatever you think of Bud Selig and the job he has done during his long tenure as the commissioner of Major League Baseball, there’s no disputing the current success of the league.
Selig, who assumed the position in 1992, at first on a temporary basis before officially becoming the league’s ninth commissioner in July 1998, was in Grapevine on Wednesday celebrating the league’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and the RBI World Series that will take place in Grapevine, Colleyville and Arlington this weekend.
Selig turned 80 last week and has been on a tour of all 30 franchises this summer. He’ll retire in January after 22 years at the helm, the second-longest tenure behind the league’s first commissioner, federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who shepherded the game from 1920 to 1944.
Selig became the interim commissioner in September 1992 when former commissioner Fay Vincent resigned. Selig, who owned the Milwaukee Brewers at the time, figured he’d be in the post maybe two to four months.
He was on a plane headed to Milwaukee from St. Louis to see Brewers great Robin Yount collect his 3,000th hit. On the flight with Selig were Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, former American League president Dr. Bobby Brown and George W. Bush, then the managing partner of the Texas Rangers.
“And I got off the plane and my wife, who I hadn’t called, said to me, what does this mean?” Selig said. “I hadn’t called her because I didn’t know what to tell her.” He told her: “Two to four months that’s all I’ll do. Don’t worry about it.”
Of course, 22 years later, he has presided over some of the most eventful, good, bad and ugly times in the league’s history.
He’s stayed out of the search for his replacement but remains “well-informed” during the process. The three leading candidates include Werner, Rob Manfred, the league’s chief operating officer, and Tim Brosnan, the league’s vice president of business.
“They came up with this list on their own,” Selig said of the search committee from a ballroom at the Gaylord Resort. “The job is theirs. After all, they have to live with the commissioner. I’m going to be gone.”
The next commissioner, he said, needs to keep pushing the game’s international exposure. The league is hoping to schedule more games abroad in the wake of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks’ two-game series in Sydney, Australia, in March.
“The interest in us internationally is fabulous so we will do that, no question,” he said. “The internationalization of the game is very important. I think it’s critical that we continue that.”
Selig presided over multiple performance-enhancing drug scandals, but said the league has never been cleaner.
“We have the cleanest clubhouses we’ve ever had, and I’m grateful for that,” he said.
He’s thrilled with the success of replay this season, but expects a few tweaks for speed.
“Oh, I love it. And our fans like it,” he said. “We’re getting it right. That was the objective. Look, I was against it. I’ve got to give the managers credit — Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Mike Scioscia, Jim Leyland — they are the ones who talked me into it.”
Selig said the Rangers’ struggles in 2014 don’t concern him because Texas “is an extremely well-run” franchise in a “great market.”
“You’re going to have your tough years. I don’t think anybody saw the Rangers and this coming. In their case, given their great farm system and all the things I look at all the time, I don’t have any concerns about this franchise at all. I really don’t,” he said. “They’ve had a terrible spate of injuries and that’s luck.”