Bud Selig: "it was a difficult year but a wonderful year"

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The week between Christmas and New Year’s means that everyone and their brother will be writing year-in-review stuff.  Might as well lead with the guy in charge:

“It was a difficult year, but a wonderful year. There were a lot of clubs that had difficulty, some were
significantly impacted, but
in terms of management, in terms of the popularity of the sport, which
is just enormous, it was a remarkable year in a lot of ways. We
launched a [television] channel which had remarkable success, [MLB.com]
continued to do very well, we draw 73, 74 million people. It’s a great
tribute to the sport.

“[The decline in attendance] was fractional. If you take out
the two New York ballparks’ reduced capacity, we’re down about five
percent. There isn’t a business, there isn’t an entity in America who
would be unhappy being down only five percent in this economy. You bet,
I’m very proud of that.”

Hard to argue with that. I haven’t seen final 2009 revenue numbers yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were down less than the 5% attendance was down, even if you take out MLB Network revenue. Fewer seats in New York, but they generated higher revenue.

More controversial is Selig’s statement that “On the field, it was fabulous. A great year, beginning to end. We had more competitive balance.”

I suppose it’s possible that there are numbers you can run that, by virtue of overall records or whatnot, there was, in fact, more competitive balance. But when your average fan talks about competitive balance these days, they’re talking about big market-small market stuff, and there’s no escaping the fact that 2009 was a year where the big market teams did really, really well. Maybe that’s an aberration, but whatever it is, you’re going to have a hard damn time selling competitive balance to people who aren’t fans of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Phillies of the world.

But when Selig talks about success, competitive balance is not anything he’s particularly interested in. Yes, he gives it lip service — talks about baseball being in such a bad state when he took over and how things have improved so much since then — but the fact is that his greatest success as Commissioner has been overall revenue growth.  Revenue, and not competitive balance, is what was dismal when he took over, and that has improved dramatically during his tenure. Competitive balance was great pre-1992 and took a header starting right after that.

If the reverse had happened — stagnant revenues and great competitive balance — the owners would have fired him a long damn time ago.  Baseball’s challenge is getting both of those things to improve at once. To date, no one has shown the inclination, let alone the ability, to make that happen.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.