I stand by my claim that Bud Selig was the greatest commissioner in baseball history. As I and many of you noted, a huge reason for that is just how crappy most of the other commissioners were. But hey, if you’re the best out of a group of losers, you’re still the best. And, as I noted in that piece, the definition of “best” relates to how well he did the job he was hired to do, not how well you or I or anyone who did not employ him or benefit from his commissionership feels he did. The Commissioner of Baseball is a CEO who answers to a board of baseball owners. He is not your personal baseball Santa Claus.
A few of those commissioners — including Bowie Kuhn, who was one of the worst — were inducted into the Hall of Fame. I would bet my first born on Bud Selig waltzing into the Hall of Fame the first time he is considered for induction by the Veteran’s Committee, which will come in December 2016. I question why any commissioner should be in the Hall of Fame to begin with — there are conflicts of interest galore and any argument that keeps Marvin Miller out should apply in spades to the CEO who answers to a board of baseball owners — but based on historical precedent, Selig will get his plaque.
But as Jay Jaffe writes over at Sports Illustrated, even if one accepts that a commissioner should make the Hall of Fame, maybe Bud shouldn’t make it? At least not immediately? Not because he was an SOB you hated because he wasn’t your personal baseball Santa Claus, but because the very same things that keep players out right now apply to Selig too. Indeed, he harmed the game in ways Hall of Fame voters are on record as not much liking.
For example, Jaffe correctly notes Selig’s agency and abdication of responsibility which helped the PEDs epidemic grow, and then notes:
If Bonds and Roger Clemens can’t get elected to the Hall of Fame despite overwhelmingly strong credentials that put them in the discussion for the best position player and hitter in the game’s history, respectively, then maybe the best commissioner ever doesn’t deserve to waltz his way into Cooperstown, either.
And that’s just one thing. Jaffe notes others too, such as the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and the high-handed and in some cases downright sleazy tactics that damaged baseball in certain markets. Things that, even if you acknowledge that he did the job he was hired to do better than anyone before and even if baseball subsequently recovered from the acts, substantively harmed baseball.
I still go back to the idea that maybe commissioners shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame at all, as their primary job isn’t to create the sorts of great and memorable baseball moments which are suited to eternalization in the hallowed halls of a museum. At best a commissioner is a patron of an artist or the financier for the artists’ studio and museum. Essential, yes, but not the reason anyone loves the art and certainly not worthy of his own gallery in the museum.
But even if you disagree with that and think that a commissioner should be in the Hall of Fame, maybe they should be held to the same standards as everyone else who is considered for induction?