Bud Selig is set to sign another two-year extension to serve as MLB commissioner, despite promises he would retire this year. Why is he sticking around? To settle some loose ends, we’re told.
Not many in baseball were truly surprised when MLB owners unanimously voted to offer a two-year extension to Selig; there had been talk in recent weeks about Selig rethinking his commitment to retirement and, truth be known, many subordinates already carry out the day-to-day activities in Major League Baseball, leaving Selig to focus on the big issues and time to work on his autobiography. He’s been commissioner since 1992 (first on an interim basis, then permanently after 1998), and during that time MLB has undergone a fairly dramatic transformation on the revenue front: in 1995 MLB as a whole did $1.4 billion in 1995 to $7 billion in 2011. Most of the rise can be attributed to local and national media sales, as MLB has been pretty good at riding the rise of the cable-television era of mass media. Only the NFL has done a better job of monetizing its offerings, albeit in a totally different way: the NFL is attractive because virtually every game is an event, but with 162 games, MLB offers the sheer number of hours needed to keep a regional sports network going.
So why stick around? There are three big issues still facing MLB: Oakland, the Dodgers and Tampa Bay. Bud and his MLB cohorts have been very adept at working out new-ballpark deals across the sport, but these two markets have proven to be vexing because of prominent hurdles preventing the financing of a new ballpark: the Tropicana Field lease binding the Rays and the battle over San Jose preventing a move by the Athletics. One situation should resolve itself, as we predicted: now that it’s virtually impossible for Oakland to put together a ballpark deal because of the demise of redevelopment authorities in California, San Jose is the only logical place for the A’s to move, and there’s definitely movement on that front. The Rays issue will be a little more delicate: St. Pete politicians will need to be appeased or bought off before there’s any movement on a Trop replacement.
And then there’s the Dodgers. We could spend all day writing about the continuing soap opera that is the Dodgers. Right now let’s just say it appears a new buyer for the team appears every day; the most recent entrant is Roy Disney Jr., acting independently of Disney, the former owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Of course, the more cynical in baseball say there are 20 million or so reasons why Selig won’t retire: he’s reportedly been offered a $22-million yearly salary to stay on for two years. That’s not bad money.
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