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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

This Fall Classic part of lasting legacy of Bud Selig

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a news

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a news conference before Game 2 of the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Photo Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A win for the Royals in Wednesday's Game 7 figured to be a victory for the little guys everywhere.

Not only are they the flag-bearers for parity in baseball, but this also was a glorification of the wild-card era and an endorsement of home-field advantage as a worthy prize to be dangled at the All-Star Game.

Officially, this championship bout between the Royals and Giants was known as the 2014 World Series. But for all this Fall Classic represented, we should just refer it as the Bud Bowl.

Could there be a more fitting send-off for Bud Selig, who will retire in January after 22 years in the sport's highest office? Much of Selig's legacy -- aside from the exhausting PED crackdown -- was on display Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, where he would present the Commissioner's Trophy for the final time.

The significance was not lost on Selig, who seemed quite proud of this World Series matchup. Maybe it didn't start out as a TV ratings bonanza.

But one of the goals of Selig's administration had been to level the playing field and the Royals' success was a vindication of that effort.

Selig recalled how he was told during the mid-90s that "25 teams couldn't win" because the sport's economics were stacked unfairly against franchises that didn't play in the most lucrative areas. But the AL champs have gone to bat for Selig this year. Only the Rays were valued below the Royals on Forbes' 2014 list and Kansas City is the 31st-ranked TV market, according to Nielsen.

And still, they are the last AL team standing. Not the Yankees, not the Red Sox -- two clubs with nearly double the Royals' $92-million payroll. If Kansas City could get to the World Series, doesn't that prove anyone can do it?

"It's sort of a manifestation of all that," Selig said. "This is a wonderful story, just for that reason. You've all heard me say how much I believe in the "hope and faith" theory and I do believe it. I don't think we're drawing 74-million-plus and having these attendance years if you didn't have a lot of franchises like Kansas City."

Don't forget, neither the Royals nor the Giants would even be playing Wednesday night if not for Selig, who presided over the implementation of the first wild card in 1995 and the addition of the second for the 2012 season. Traditionalists balked at the further expansion of the playoffs, as they always do in baseball.

But after seeing the tailored-for-TV drama of do-or-die, one-game playoffs and the validation of the wild-card qualifiers, there aren't many detractors now. Selig's innovation has greatly enhanced both the September stretch run as well as the postseason.

"I love the wild card," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a beautiful thing. It gives another team a chance, another city hope that their team can get in there. I think it says something about the parity in baseball.

"It just goes to show you anything can happen when you get to the playoffs."

Selig also took abuse for attaching home-field advantage for the World Series to the result of the All-Star Game, a radical change that came about for a number of reasons. Part of that had to do with MLB's embarrassment over the 2002 All-Star Game ending in a tie. But Selig also wanted to make the Midsummer Classic more appealing for his TV partners.

We're not sure how much that really has affected the level of play for what amounts to an exhibition game -- or if it makes the event more attractive to viewers. But there's no denying that home-field advantage is something worth trying to win at the All-Star Game. The Royals were attempting to become the 10th straight team to win a Game 7 at home.

"It means a lot," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "To have that energy cheering for you instead of against you -- our guys feed off that. It's the adrenaline factor that comes into play. It's a big boost for us."

No matter who wins Game 7, Selig should be smiling when he presents the trophy. The commissioner couldn't have asked for more from this Series. It was just how he drew it up.

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