12/26/11 10:00 AM EST
Selig shares praise of historic 2011 season
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
It had everything. Outstanding individual achievements. Down-to-the-wire drama in the Wild Card races. And a splendid seven-game World Series, in which the St. Louis Cardinals seemed to set nightly records for refusal to give up no matter how dire their circumstances.
It was terrific.
"I've had a lot of people, including a lot of owners, say that to me," Selig said in an interview with MLB.com. "The comments are usually along the lines of 'Wow, what a season," or 'It was wonderful.'"
One of the reasons for the game's overall health was again validated when the owners and the MLB Players Association reached an accord on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will run through 2016. By the end of this agreement, baseball will have had more than two decades of labor peace.
Selig listed all the previous years in which labor strife resulted in stoppages of play. There was public bitterness between the parties then, accompanied by seemingly incessant sniping that only served to deflect attention from the game on the field and alienated the fans.
"When I think about where we were in 1992," Selig says, "who would have thought that the grand old game could have had 21 years of labor peace?
"I was reminded of that when we had the conference call with the owners to ratify the CBA. It was so smooth. The owners were happy, they were pleased. There was a deal that dealt with our problems. It was fair and equitable. The vote was 30-0. The whole thing took a matter of minutes."
The relatively harmonious relationship with the union can only be marked as progress. On the field, the game has offered more genuine hope to more franchises through increased revenue sharing and the luxury tax, which have resulted in improved competitive balance. That can be seen as a trademark of the Selig era as well.
The result is a game that prospers both as a sport and as a business.
"The grand old game has never been more popular, by any manifestation you choose to measure," the Commissioner said. "We had our fifth-best attendance this year. There was more competitive balance than ever.
"When I took over in 1992, our gross revenues were $1.2 billion. And I spent a lot of time trying and trying to figure out how we could possibly increase that to $2 billion. I'm serious. And here we are today at [gross revenues of] $7.5 billion.
"And it's not only the game. MLBAM [Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the company that operates MLB.com] has been a great story. It is a great story not only in American sports but in all of American business, in this generation. And the MLB Network is also doing exceedingly well.
"I think the whole story is how far we've come in this generation."
An upcoming phase of Selig's own story in theory would be his retirement, when his current term in office is finished at the end of 2012. Selig insists that he will retire as planned, but there are, he acknowledges, large numbers of doubters on this topic.
"There are a lot of people who are doubting it, including members of my own family," the Commissioner said. "But I am looking forward to doing some of the things I want to do; teaching in Madison [at the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater], writing a book. Apparently I'm a minority of one who believes that."
If Selig does retire, he will leave behind a game that is in better shape than the one he inherited in 1992. The 2011 season, a success on so many different levels, offers direct proof of that notion.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.