Bud Selig

Bud Selig: the greatest commissioner in the history of baseball?

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Save your easy jokes. I know it’s fun to slam Bud Selig because he’s the boss, has been for a long time and thus every baseball complaint we’ve had for over 20 years is easy enough to lay at his feet. Plus he’s kinda funny in a lot of ways so that makes it even easier. Believe me, there is no Bud Selig punchline we haven’t heard.

But Jayson Stark lays out, at length, the case for Bud Selig’s legacy today. A legacy which Stark believes to be unparalleled in baseball history:

Bud Selig has been, without any dispute, the greatest and most important commissioner in the history of his sport. Period.

Again, save the jokes. And name a commissioner who has a better claim to that title. Or, at the very least, one whose legacy isn’t severely compromised by illegality, segregation, unfortunate early death or, in some cases, pure fecklessness. Happy Chandler integrated the game, but that legacy is far less his than Jackie Robinson’s and Branch Rickey’s. Really, among the nine guys who have held the title of Commissioner, Selig is pretty easily the top choice. Stark makes a good case for him. And he doesn’t let him off the hook for many of his stumbles either.

But I do feel a bit of a whitewash afoot, however unintentional it may have been on Stark’s part. And I suspect it was unintentional for the very reason Selig is such a fascinating Commissioner in the first place: his legacy and history in the game is extraordinarily complex, and thus almost impossible to capture while trying to keep things from spiraling out of control.

By way of example, Stark — while correctly noting that Selig and others in the game looked the other way on PEDs for years — lauds Selig for ultimately dealing with the PED problem more aggressively than any other sports commissioner. He also offers the defense for Selig’s past inaction that Selig has offered in the past: that he couldn’t do it alone. He had to have player cooperation. This is very true. But what’s left out of that is the reason why players were loathe to cooperate with ownership on PEDs or anything else for the great bulk of Selig’s term.

Put simply, there was zero trust between players and owners due to decades of owners doing absolutely everything they could to screw players over. The Collusion cases involved illegal conspiracies by the owners — with Selig and his ownership allies at the forefront — to hold down player salaries. To some of you it may seem like ancient history — most of the acts took place in the 1980s — but when Selig took office the Collusion cases were still very recent history. Indeed, the most recent expansion in 1998 which brought us the Rays and Diamondbacks was a direct result of those cases. The owners needed the money to pay the settlements and got it via expansion fees.

This distrust, on top of the owners still-ongoing aim of imposing a salary cap which led to the 1994-95 strike, meant that financial matters were first and foremost in every player-owner negotiation. Indeed, they could just barely deal with those (and in 1994 didn’t), meaning that there was no way they were going to get to any drug issues until at least after the last acrimonious CBA negotiation in 2002. Eliminating PEDs wasn’t a priority of ownership at all and even if ownership had pushed it, their treatment of players over the previous couple of decades would have made reaching some agreement next to impossible.

The same dynamic underlies labor peace as well, which is the primary thing Stark credits Selig for bringing. Which, yes, he did. Eventually.

While the labor battles of the 80s and 90s are often portrayed as player vs. owner, the reality is that for most of the post-free agency era, the biggest battles have been between small market owners and large market owners, and the complicated financial negotiations that led to labor strife were often a function of small market owners trying to tamp down salaries, both to help their own pocketbooks, but also to hamstring the richer, larger-market teams. Pushing back, of course, were the larger market teams who resent having to share the wealth they receive by virtue of a territorial monopoly system trying to screw the small market owners. It was only after they bruised each other for a while that proposals were put to players and even then there was a lot of owner-owner intrigue in the mix.

Selig was, unequivocally, the leader of the small-market owners in the late 80s and into the early 90s, and it was clear that their plan — to try to institute a salary cap — was the one that carried the day (what, you think Steinbrenner thought of that?). Selig led the charge to get rid of Commissioner Fay Vincent. Selig and his allies took the hard line that led to the 94-95 strike which caused the cancellation of the World Series. And of course, Selig was, by then, acting Commissioner.

So, yes, Selig brought about labor peace. But it was a peace attainable only because everyone knew how awful the alternative was. And they only knew that because Selig was the leader of the movement which led to that awful alternative in 1994.

There are other examples of this. Things which Selig is credited for doing now only because he had a hand in messing it up to begin with. We’re getting instant replay now because there have been a lot of high profile umpiring mistakes that wouldn’t have been possible but for baseball’s hesitance to get tough with umpires or adopt technology sooner. The financial success of MLBAM and local television are helping the game boom, but how much of that is because of, as opposed to in spite of Selig, is an open question (Frank McCourt cashed out of baseball a billionaire, after all; it doesn’t take a genius to make money in MLB these days).

Yet I am still inclined to agree with Stark about Selig’s primacy among baseball’s Commissioners. And not just because it’s a pretty weak field overall. I give Selig credit for many if not most of the good things baseball has done during his tenure because, hey, at least he didn’t stand in the way. And even for those items I mentioned above — the “victories” Selig claims even though they’d be impossible without his previous failures — because it speaks of a quality in leadership that is so often lacking: learning from mistakes.

Really, how many leaders actually think about, learn from and ultimately solve the problems they created? Not a ton. Most leaders declare victory no matter what happened and let their successors deal with the fallout. Maybe that wouldn’t have been as easy for Selig given how long he’s been around, but there is an undeniable humility on his part in actually trying to get things right after being wrong previously. It’s something we expect from normal people but hardly ever see and rarely even demand of leaders. The fact that Selig has learned on the job and the fact that he has grown is much to his credit.

None of that makes Selig perfect. None of it brings the 1994 World Series back or the Expos back or gets rid of Jeff Loria or keeps sewage out of the A’s clubhouse or equalizes the TV revenue the Brewers get with that the Dodgers get. But when you judge Selig you have to give him credit and blame where it is due. And on the whole, I believe Selig is running an accomplishment and leadership surplus. And, yes, compared to his predecessors, he is the greatest of all time.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

Toronto Blue Jays Justin Smoak watches the flight of the ball after hitting a two run walk off home run off Texas Rangers pitcher Phil Klein during the tenth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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I woke up at 3am today. In the past when that happened I’d post And That Happened at like 4:30AM or some dumb thing. I’m just not doing that anymore. I wrote a personal blog post about it this morning explaining why. It’s mostly part of an effort to not wake up at 3am anymore. If anyone has issues with that, maybe it’ll help. Or maybe you’ll be able to tell me that I’m deluded and my little plan to not wake up at 3am is doomed. I dunno. If you care, there’s a picture of one of my cats there too. She says hello to Kevin Kiermaier.

Anyway: Here are the scores. Here are the highlights.

Blue Jays 3, Rangers 1: Holy Smoak! Justin Smoak tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth and then won the game with a walkoff homer in the 10th. They were his first two homers of the season. If any nerds in their mother’s basement so obsessed with his spreadsheets that he can’t be bothered to watch a dang ballgame is devising some Home Run Leverage Index — HeRLI, we’ll call it — Smoak definitely leads the league in that category.

Royals 7, Nationals 6: Down two in the ninth and the Royals rallied, first with a two-run single from Mike Moustakas to tie it up then with a walkoff single from Lorenzo Cain. Three runs and five hits in the ninth, all off of Jonathan PapelbonChien-Ming Wang got the win after pitching a scoreless top of the ninth. That’s his first win since 2013.

Indians 7, Tigers 3: Francisco Lindor hit a three-run homer, got two other hits and played his usual stellar defense. It’s a testament to how many great young players there are in the game right now that, when people are asked to list them, he’s usually fifth, at best, when they do so. It’s also something of an insult to him.

Brewers 5, Angels 4: Two homers for Chris Carter. He hit two homers on Sunday too. Former Brewer Khris Davis hit two homers on Monday and, if I remember correctly, hit two in a game multiple times last year too. Brewers should probably just get a whole lineup of Chrises at some point and see how it works. What do they have to lose?

Orioles 4, Yankees 1: Two homers for Mark Trumbo and a solid outing for Chris Tillman. Six straight losses for the Yankees and the bats are still moribund. It’s their worst start in 25 years. Oh, and A-Rod tweaked his hamstring so he’ll probably miss some time. I’ve been impressed with how little “If The Boss was still alive . . .” rumbling, but it’s starting:

Cubs 7, Pirates 1: Jake Arrieta allowed only two hits in seven shutout innings agains the team he handcuffed the last time he faced them too, in the 2015 NL Wild Card game. Kris Bryant had a couple of hits. The Cubs have a five-game lead already, and two of the teams trailing them are, like, good.

Giants 3, Reds 1: The Reds were up 1-0 in the eighth and blew it by giving up two runs. According to the good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau, the Reds pen has given up at least one run in each of the Reds’ last 21 games, which is the longest such streak in major league history. Congratulations, you guys. You did it.

Braves 3, Mets 0: The better Matt won. At least the better Matt on this day, as Wisler topped Harvey, tossing eight innings of one-hit ball. The Braves have somehow won three of five. Time to pop the champagne.

Marlins 7, Diamondbacks 4Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run pinch-hit single to put Miami ahead. The old man is still an artist with the Thompson. He’s now at 2,947 for his major league career. Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich homered.

Dodgers 10, Rays 5Trayce Thompson, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig all homered. Puig’s was an absolute moon shot. Thompson drove in four. This is the Dodgers’ first trip to Tampa Bay since 2007. A change of scenery often helps people get out of a funk and this change of scenery helped the Dodgers’ bats wake up. No one said it had to be a change to good scenery to fix a funk.

White Sox 4, Red Sox 1: Sox win!

Astros 6, Twins 4Jason Castro and George Springer each hit homers. Castro’s barely cleared the fence and had to be confirmed via replay. Springer’s hit the dang train tracks high up in the outfield seats. They both counted for the same. At least once you adjusted for the fact that Castro was on base when Springer hit his. It’s all a very complicated set of operations to do that involving some fairly esoteric math so I won’t go too deeply into it.

Phillies 1, Cardinals 0: Aaron Nola threw seven shutout innings and Ryan Howard homered against his hometown team. He has always liked hitting in St. Louis. Guy has 12 homers and 40 RBI in 36 games in Busch Stadium. Remember a few years back when Buster Olney was peddling a rumor that the Cardinals and Phillies were gonna do a Pujols-Howard swap? Yeah, it probably had its genesis in some random “Howard sure would do well here” talk that got out of hand.

Mariners 8, Athletics 2Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Leonys Martin hit home runs. Hisashi Iwakuma pitched seven innings, allowing just one run. The M’s are 15-11.

Padres 6, Rockies 3: The Rockies built an early 3-0 lead off of Andrew Cashner, and if you get to him early you can get to him big. But he settled down, Matt Kemp and Brett Wallace hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to bring it closer and then the Padres scored three in the sixth and won going away.

Bronson Arroyo is throwing side-arm now

Washington Nationals pitcher Bronson Arroyo catches a pop fly during a drill at a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Viera, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
AP Photo/John Raoux
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Nationals pitcher Bronson Arroyo has partial tears of tendons in his rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Considering he’s 39 years old, no one would fault him if he decided to call it quits. But he has one more idea, MASN’s Mark Zuckerman reports: Arroyo is going to throw side-arm, or at least three-quarters.

“It hurts when he gets on top [of the baseball],” manager Dusty Baker said. He continued, “So we’re taking our time. And if not, if nothing else, he’s a good guy to have in your organization.”

Arroyo missed the latter half of the 2014 season and the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Prior to that, he was known as a workhorse, racking up at least 199 innings in each of nine seasons between 2005-13.

Robbie Erlin needs Tommy John surgery

San Diego Padres' Robbie Erlin pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin has a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament and he’ll need Tommy John surgery as a result, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Times reports. Erlin landed on the disabled list on April 21. Now he’ll miss the rest of the season and likely the beginning of the 2017 season as well.

Erlin, 25, posted a 4.02 ERA with a 13/3 K/BB ratio in 15 2/3 innings spanning two starts and one relief appearance to begin the 2016 season.

Cesar Vargas moved into the rotation in Erlin’s absence and has pitched well thus far in two starts, yielding only one earned run with a 9/6 K/BB ratio over 10 1/3 innings.

The Reds’ bullpen set an ignominious record

CINCINNATI, OHIO - APRIL 08: Caleb Cotham #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the sixth inning of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on April 8, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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Reds reliever Caleb Cotham allowed a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Giants, setting a rather ignominious club record. It marks the 21st consecutive game in which the Reds’ bullpen has allowed a run, setting a new major league record, as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out.

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Reds’ bullpen had been by far the worst in the majors with a 6.54 ERA. The Padres’ bullpen, second-worst, is comparatively much better at 5.27.

The last time the Reds’ bullpen had a clean night was April 10 against the Pirates. That afternoon, Dan Straily, Jumbo Diaz, and Ross Ohlendorf combined for five scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory.