Selig worked well for MLB owners

PITTSBURGH – Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was at PNC Park Tuesday, part of his farewell tour as he prepares to retire.

Selig is stepping down at the end of this season, closing out a 23-year stay on the job that started on an interim basis after the owners ousted Fay Vincent.

So what’s his legacy after all that time?

Start with the understanding that Selig’s job is to serve as the CEO of a multi-billion corporation called Major League Baseball.

His first priority is to maximize revenues for the member clubs and to enhance the value of franchises.

In that role, he’s been a huge success.

People sometimes get confused about what the commissioner is supposed to do and for whom he works. Is he the fans’ advocate? Only in the sense that he wants to keep the game popular so that fans continue to spend their money on MLB and its related products.

MLB has shown steady growth in revenues, and franchises command record-setting prices when they’re sold. The players are wealthy, and the owners are even richer.

After blowing up the 1994 season and canceling the World Series for the first time, Selig has found a way to achieve labor peace. The system works for both sides.

Maybe it took the debacle of the 1994 strike to force changes, but both sides now understand the importance of not finding common ground and avoiding labor stoppages.

Despite the constant wailing about the divide between large and small revenue markets, baseball has a semblance of competitive balance. The Pirates made the postseason last year. The New York Yankees didn’t.

Is it perfect? Not by any means. Pirates fans still worry about whether the team will be able to keep its best players.

Yet they were in the playoffs last season, they’re in contention this year, and they appear to be positioned to remain relevant for at least several more seasons. They have a chance to win, and that hope is what keeps fans interested.

Selig’s legacy includes the steroid era, too. That corrupted the record book and drew the attention of the government. It also restored interest in baseball after the strike had chased away a lot of fans.

You can argue whether baseball is better than it was 30 years ago. There’s no disputing that it’s more profitable than it ever has been, and that’s the biggest part of Selig’s record.

Mehno can be reached at