Selig, who will turn 80 in July, has been running MLB since 1992, for six years as interim Commissioner and holding the job officially since 1998. The sport’s revenues have seen explosive growth during his tenure, but his reign is tainted by rampant steroid use that caused many of the game’s revered records to be smashed.
“I am grateful to the owners throughout Major League Baseball for their unwavering support and for allowing me to lead this great institution,” Selig said in a statement. “I thank our players, who give me unlimited enthusiasm about the future of our game. Together we have taken this sport to new heights and have positioned our national pastime to thrive for generations to come. Most of all, I would like to thank our fans, who are the heart and soul of our game.”
Selig is quick to point out that Major League Baseball will have had two decades of uninterrupted labor peace, though a work-stoppage wiped out the end of the 1994 season and forced a truncated ’95 campaign. He oversaw expansion of the postseason to include two Wild Cards in each league and Division Series in both leagues. The league also grew from 26 to 30 teams, with the establishment of the Marlins, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Rays, and franchise valuations skyrocketed. In later years, Selig also helped the league revamp its revenue-sharing model. The league was on the forefront of the digital revolution with the establishment of MLB.com and MLB Network.
But Selig also turned a blind eye to widespread steroid use that peaked during the “Steroid Era” in which the single-season and career home run records were shattered. Several players from the Steroid Era, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, have been denied entry into the Hall of Fame as a result of their use, not all of which has been proven. In his final year, he pushed for the league to investigate several players linked to a Miami clinic, Biogenesis, that led to the suspensions of 14 players, including Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun. The Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez is appealing his suspension, which could stretch as long as 211 games.
“It remains my great privilege to serve the game I have loved throughout my life,” Selig said. “Baseball is the greatest game ever invented, and I look forward to continuing its extraordinary growth and addressing several significant issues during the remainder of my term.”
Major League Baseball did not announce Selig’s replacement, but the league said its management structure would be altered after his retirement. The league said it would announce a transition plan soon.
Selig has talked about retiring before, only to remain on the job, so there’s still some “I’ll believe it when I see it” skepticism surrounding this announcement, but the timing gives MLB a chance to establish a full-time successor and make a seamless transition.
I’m looking forward to a Mariano Rivera-style retirement tour around baseball.