Ben Lindbergh Interview With Bud Selig

I listened to Ben Lindbergh’s interview with Bud Selig on his podcast. You can listen to it here. By the way, Ben’s music that he picks is definitely different than your typical podcast music, and it’s a great change of pace. Also, I really like Ben and Meg Rowley’s speaking styles, and I could listen to those guys for hours. Frankly, I love everything Ben and Meg individually and collectively put out there.

Anyway, the interview starts around the 29-minute mark. There was some BS and some interesting points:

-He gives himself a lot of credit for how revenue was increased — and therefore how effectively it reached the fan — by MLBAM (MLB Advanced Media; all the online stuff). I think I agree with this, even with my minor squabbles about how MLB promotes itself online and how much access it provides, since MLB.tv seems to be one of — if not the — most popular streaming service for professional sports. I haven’t done a ton of research into this, but just my gut tells me that MLB is doing a good job promoting its product to audiences online vs. the other major sports.
-He said Barry Bonds was not blacklisted by the owners. Grade-A, 100% BS. This was the most egregious example of him talking on behalf of the owners. He cited Bonds’ age (42 years old) twice as the primary reason he was not re-signed. He had a 1.045 OPS in his last year while playing in 126 games. The one defense he gave that I can agree is that Bonds by that point was ripe with controversy, and the owners were wise to simply stay away from it as the game was growing. But other than that, this was the biggest piece of BS from Bud. He’s an owner and a salesman.
-He seems confident there will continue to be labor peace. He did a lot of downplaying major issues in the game over the last 35 years, and this interview was in the context of him promoting his memoirs so there ought to be skepticism baked into this, but this is also something that I think he’s probably right about.
-Lindbergh speculates to Bud — and Lindbergh was quite kind to Bud while often giving him softballs — that it’s possible that it wasn’t just steroids that fueled the home run craze in the late 90’s, and Ben speculated that they didn’t have the bat- and ball-testing technology 20 years ago the way they do now. I thought that was an interesting point, Bud agreed (of course), and they moved on. I think it was fair and right to not spend too much time pressing Bud on the steroid issue, and Bud was adamant that they did all the testing the MLBPA would allow them to do. Believe what you want.
-Bud really talked up public funding for baseball stadiums as a huge benefit to the local municipality, citing a study for the Brewers that their stadium brings in $330M to the city. He also cites the revitalization of the Washington ballpark to the surrounding area. Perhaps he should talk about what has happened (or not happened) to the areas around the Trop and Marlins Park. But he could also say the same about the area around STP, to be fair. Later Ben clarifies that the study about the Brewers’ stadium was done at the request of the Brewers, for what that’s worth. I find this topic to be one of the most interesting of Bud’s tenure, especially since I am both an Atlanta Braves fan, a St. Pete resident, and someone who can’t decide which side of the fence I come down on since both sides’ arguments aren’t particularly compelling.
-You would have thought he was another current public figure with how much he talked about how there was no collusion by the owners in the 80’s. He paints a bleak, dire picture of the financials of the teams in the 80’s with some having significant profit-and-loss and cash flow issues. He emphasized there was a significant concern about player salaries rising to a point where the league and teams were no longer economically viable. Bud just talks like an owner the entire time. Ben makes a good point to point out that Bud refers to the owners as “we”.

I do find it interesting that the word “collusion” is thrown around so much about the baseball owners. I guess if a market of buyers corrects in any other buying environment, it’s hard to say that millions of people got in a room and agreed to stick it to the sellers. But it’s much, much easier to believe that a group of 24-32 baseball, football, or basketball owners (or governors?) do so.

But Bud paints this picture that the owners had been concerned about the direction of the league since the 80’s, and he even when he took over as acting commissioner in 1992, he told the owners to evaluate him based on the appreciation of the franchise, not necessarily short-term profit-and-loss. And he even told them that they should expect to even lose money from year-to-year.

Ben rightly notes that Bud might be the most popular (or perhaps better put, the least unpopular?) of the 9 commissioners baseball has had, and I think I’ll enjoy doing some research on if that’s true. Bud seems to want people to believe his legacy is he was an owner and commissioner who helped the game grow beyond what people expected while the owners had the value of their franchise grow exponentially, player salaries wrote precipitously, and fan engagement and excitement grew. If those are the only 3 things by which you would evaluate a commissioner (and after all, what else would you use as a criteria?) then you would have to give Selig a passing grade. Considering you don’t have to go very far on the internet to read about how Selig and Manfred are both idiots who have done more to hurt than help the game over the last 35 years, I thought this style of interview was especially helpful to formulate my opinion on certain topics and to hear from the man himself.

Cool interview.

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73 thoughts on “Ben Lindbergh Interview With Bud Selig”

  1. Nice editorial, Rob. My only opinion on the steroid days is that it was unholy while it was going on and needed to be shut down. Those guys were not playing the same game we’ve all grown to love. The results were not comparable to any other era. Much the same could be said of corked bats. And it was not fun to watch or be a part of. That’s why I understand what the guys here are saying about a good pitching duel.

    Note that I really don’t have a problem with a juiced ball as much because all players use the same ball.

    I like any game the Braves win whether it be a slugfest, a blowout, or a pitcher’s duel.

  2. If I’m not mistaken, home run levels today are higher than during the steroid era, are they not?

  3. What’s he worth? Filling in till 1.45 watching Zach Wheeler’s start against the Phillies.

    Gave up 4 runs in the top of the first. You tell me.

  4. I’ll just say it: I want to see 8 IP, 2 ER from Keuchel. I want 8 IP from someone every now and again.

  5. @2 Total HR levels are up and it’s spread evenly around the league not just among a few players who are juicing. No one is getting a extra edge nowadays (presumably).

  6. I’ve written a fair amount about Selig, like here: https://tht.fangraphs.com/can-baseball-get-by-without-a-commissioner/

    Bottom line: he was probably the most successful (or, as Rob might wisely put it, least unsuccessful) commissioner baseball has ever had.

    He inarguably drastically increased revenues and baseball’s hugely successful expansion and Wild Card, and he also inarguably presided over the steroid era. As a team owner who barely divested his own holdings, he was anything but a neutral arbiter, and you could never trust anything he ever said about stadium economics as he supported the usage of threats of team contraction and team relocation, which forced numerous municipalities to front tons of public money to build shiny new stadiums for teams – as JC Bradbury frequently points out, this has worked out great for owners, and has been lousy for taxpayers.

    I’m not going to comment on modern uses of the term, but baseball owners were found by multiple arbitrators to have impermissibly colluded. There has never been any serious dispute over the arbitrators’ decisions. To suggest that there is any doubt that the owners colluded is either ignorant or mendacious. And Selig, who was then the owner of the Brewers, is not ignorant.

    https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-07-19-sp-498-story.html

  7. The Braves infield looks solid today. Keuchel is putting their defense to good use. Rob may get his eight innings.

  8. Oh Chad….. Oh, Keuchel did not deserve that. And Sobotka looked so good on the first hitter.

  9. I don’t think Sobotka is an answer.

    Unless that question is who is the next guy to get sent down.

  10. Great day for Keuchel! He’ll start back to back games as he’ll be first in line after ASB.

  11. Sobotka has to make things interesting. How nice of him to make it a save situation for the next guy…

  12. @DG
    He’s looked great since his recall, but he’s going to give up the occasional dinger.

  13. @24: Oh, I could sense it coming. I think Cooper would’ve homered off anyone in that situation.

  14. Camargo is not looking good. I think some time in AAA when Ender is activated should help him.

  15. Bases loaded, nobody out, and not a single ball hit hard. I’m sorry, but this is not on Luke Jackson. And it’s not like he’s a guy not striking a ton of guys out where you can criticize them for allowing too much contact. It just is what it is.

  16. My checklist for Luke is already 2/3. BS hits and bad defense. Here comes the blown save.

  17. CULBY!!! Fabulous throw. Savior in the field as opposed to the bat.

    I think Austin would have made that throw too.

  18. I’d also say that Camargo may have made the play Donaldson couldn’t. Just saying.

  19. Not out of the woods yet but that throw by Charlie Clutch was the defensive play of the year.

  20. @56:

    To think, there are people voting for “starter” in that poll on this site.

    This team really, really needs to acquire a legit closer by August 1. The Luke Jackson thing ain’t going to fly in the postseason.

  21. Luke did his job. Slow roller, routine grounder that found a hole, popped bunt—and the bases were loaded.
    None of that was his fault. In a way he deserved the good fortune of Charlie’s phenomenal throw. Except I don’t believe that. Anyway he’s throwing well.

    Having said that, of course I’d like to have a shut down reliever. But we also need another starter from somewhere.

  22. @70

    traffic jam…how interesting!

    @ win…

    A hatful of heroes…Charlie first, agree, defensive play of the season so far. Total commitment, uninhibited throw.Can some IT genius here freeze the throw at the point where he has no contact with the ground?

    Luke a close second…how dispiriting can that be to see that garbage load the bases and you far off your best control. Then, after the Culbertson throw, you promptly reload the bases, sickening! No margin for error, no walk.

    One more maybe. Mac’s defense and play calling crucial to that whole saga to keep Luke afloat, the heads up before the last out, the balls in the dirt. Again, there was this awkward feeling, like yesterday, glad it’s him behind the plate.

  23. @70

    Talk trade with the Marlins…Travis/Duvall for Yamamoto and one of those other guys from last night. Chip assures us, they need hitting.

    Three one run games. Jeez, what are the odds?

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