Commissioner Bud Selig has tried to retire before, but baseball's owners have always convinced him to stay. Now, apparently, his decision is firm and the 2014 season will be the last for Selig, who has presided over record economic growth but also the downfall of big-name players linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
"I am grateful to the owners throughout Major League Baseball for their unwavering support and for allowing me to lead this great institution," Selig, 79, said Thursday in a statement. Selig, whose term ends Jan. 24, 2015, said he will soon announce a transition plan. MLB VP Rob Manfred appears to be high on the list of possible successors. Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, Dodgers president Stan Kasten and Braves president John Schuerholz also have been mentioned.
Selig, a former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, took over as acting commissioner in 1992 when Fay Vincent jocularly announced he was removing himself "in the best interests of baseball."
Selig said he did not want the job to be permanent, but was elected in 1998 and re-signed in 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2012. After the 1994 World Series was lost to a work stoppage, Selig stabilized what had been a contentious period of labor strife with uninterrupted play guaranteed through at least 2016. Industry revenues grew from $1.2 billion in 1992 to $7.5 billion in 2012, MLB said. Along the way, Selig was the steward for ushering in more balanced revenue sharing, interleague play, wild-card playoff berths and, by next season, the likelihood of expanded replays on disputed calls.
But the specter of PEDs in the sport has often clouded Selig's highlight reel. Potential Hall of Famers Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were stained by the allegations that started in the 1990s. Later, it centered on Roger Clemens and more recently, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun topped a list of 14 players in the Biogenesis probe. The Rodriguez case is pending.
Biogenesis occurred despite what Selig has referred to as the "most comprehensive drug program in pro sports." Former senator George Mitchell, who investigated drugs in MLB in a 2007 report, lauded Selig's efforts, saying in a statement, "In the years since I issued the report, I have been pleased that the commissioner has brought baseball to a leadership stature on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sports and to an example that now stands out as worthy of emulation."
Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who authored "In The Best Interests of Baseball: The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig," said the outgoing commissioner ultimately will have a positive legacy. "Because we have the A-Rod story, the Ryan Braun story, people are still thinking a lot about steroids," he said. "From a broad sweep historical perspective people look back and say this is what Selig says it is: a golden age of baseball."