Bud Selig On The State Of The MLB “We have more competitive balance gentleman than any other sport.”February 17, 2011 – 7:30 am by Steven Cuce
With the on-going possibility of a work stoppage in both the NFL and the NBA as both their current collective bargaining agreements expire at seasons end, Major League Baseball will attempt to move into the spotlight of the sporting world this week with the start of spring training. Most sports fan would contend that MLB is the only sport without competitive balance due to the nature that the league does not have a salary cup, thus every team does not have a fair chance at a free agent player. Big market teams can trump small market teams in terms of revenue with stadiums and televisions contracts.
Bug Selig would love to refute that notion. Major League Baseball has had 20 different teams in the playoffs over the last decade. This year in his opinion was a perfect example of how baseball is growing to be more competitively balanced with two smaller market clubs making it into the World Series in Texas and San Francisco with the Giants taking home the championship. (Editor’s note: San Francisco or Dallas/Fort Worth aren’t small markets Bud) It may have just worked out that way over the last couple of years, but baseball has made adjustments to many flaws in its’ game dealing with substance abuse and somewhat of a system of revenue sharing. Bud Selig has noted “The system is not perfect,” but changes are being made. The pace of game issue needs to be addressed along with instant replay, but baseball is a different animal when comparing it to the other major professional sports of this country. Baseball still has many issues with teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates for example not being able to do a thing about futility, but baseball could soon be the only sport without a labor issue moving forward.
Bud Selig joined 98.5 the Sports Hub in Boston with Felger and Massarotti to discuss if he think there is enough competitive balance in baseball, does he feel there’s more competitive teams in one year that can’t compete that next year due to free agent loss than in any other sport, does he anticipate any issue for the 2011 labor negotiations in the MLB, is he concerned about length of games and does he think teams like the Red Sox with a $180 million dollar payroll are bad for baseball.
Do you think enough of your teams have a chance competitively to win? Do you think there is competitive balance or that the whole thing is out of whack?
“Oh no, not out of whack at all. That’s one of the great myths that people do not understand. We have more competitive balance than ever before. We have more competitive balance gentleman than any other sport. We produced a lot of numbers and figures that Mike and Tony I’m sure you’ve seen them, Pat Courtney and others. You know we’ve had 20 teams in the playoffs in the last 10 years. More different division winners. Last year was a classic in terms of the teams in the playoffs and what happened. I’m proud. In the 1990′s we had a problem. Today not only the best in our history, but the best of many professional sports by far.”
I would contend you were fortunate that it’s worked that way. San Diego and Tampa are two contenders for example last year with superstar players, who just couldn’t afford to keep them and are bound to take a step back this year? That exists in your sport more than any other by far?
“I don’t think so. That’s fine, but I don’t agree with that. I keep hearing that and yet, look you can’t say what’s existed in the last ten or twelve years is an accident. It’s a reality. That’s what it is. You go to Minnesota today or come right here to Milwaukee or go to Cincinnati and you can go on-and-on. Now I talked to Stu Sternberg [Rays Owner] and he tells me he thinks they are going to be very competitive this year, but I can tell you a lot of clubs that I know…Oakland feels like they are going to be more competitive and-on-and-on. Is that an accident? No. Now look is the system perfect? No. I didn’t say it was perfect, but I said that I think what exists today is pretty darn good. In the next labor negotiation we have to tweak it in some areas and it’s significant tweaks. I’m not talking a little and I’m very comfortable telling you that. I can only go by the facts that exist, not by somebody thinks or somebody says “Well that really isn’t true,” because I think it is true. As I look at the divisions this year I think it’s more true than ever.”
How have negotiations gone with the labor talk being that the deal ends in 2011? Do we anticipate any issues?
“Well it’s much premature to even get into that. You know we’ll eventually start doing that. Other sports will go before us I guess. We’ve had this very contentious history, but now we’ve had sixteen years of labor peace and as a result the sport has been more popular than it’s ever been. I call it the “Golden Era,” because it is. Revenues have raised from a billion to seven. Why? A lot of reasons. One of them is competitive balance. We have work to do in labor. Am I’m in favor of a salary cap…well there are different ways to get to the end of the road. I think this is not often understood and I believe if we keep changing the system to correct some of the inequities and I said that early that it is not a perfect system. Yes I think we can solve our problems in a different way. Remember you have sports that have salary caps you know that are looking for big changes now.”
What about the length of games? Are you concerned with it?
“Well of course. I call it pace of game. I don’t call it length. I call it pace of game. Pace of game is a concern of mine. We’re working hard on it. We’re going to continue to work hard on it. I think we’ve actually made some progress, but yes I’m concerned, but it’s the pace not the length. Do I think we oughta do some things better? I do.”
Are teams like the Red Sox who have now a team high $180 million dollar payroll bad for baseball?
“No. No I don’t think so at all. Look I’m very positive about where we are. I understand. I think clubs now understand the economic messages I give them not only four times a year, but a lot more than that. But are they bad for baseball? Absolutely not.”