This is easily the most arguable of eras to stake the claim of Baseball’s Golden Age. This era is replete with mistakes: Steroids, dwindling World Series ratings, The All-Star Game mess, the Mitchell Report, the Expos debacle, and even more steroids. But in the end, look at the game! It is now more popular than ever. More fans file through the turnstiles than any other sport in America. For the past 16 years, Bud Selig has several points he can put forth to prove his era as Baseball’s Golden Age.
Albeit with 30 teams, just remember that 30 years ago, very few teams drew 1 million fans to their ballpark in one season. Now if a team cannot draw between 2-3 million, the team is not financially viable and relies on revenue sharing to get by.
2. New Stadiums
All across the country, stadiums have been built that are reminiscent of an earlier age before AstroTurf. These fan friendly environs helped to fuel an attendance boom the likes of which have never been seen before.
3. World Baseball
If Selig is known for anything, it is this. He has turned America’s game into a worldly game. From regular season games in Mexico and Japan to the World Baseball Classic to the expansion deep into the Caribbean, Selig has overseen a Latin and Asian explosion of talent which has infused the game with a wealth of talent the last 15 years.
4. Cable TV and New Revenues
Many franchises now value Cable TV revenues more than the gate receipts. Merchandise sales have also propped up many franchise and can generate as much as twenty million in sales each year. Cable TV also has spawned the new MLB Network and has been a staple of ESPN programming for the past 20 years.
5. Franchise Values
During Selig’s Tenure, the value of many teams have skyrocketed to over $200 million and the Cubs were put on the block for a cool billion.
6. “Chicks Dig the Long Ball”
While McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and ARoid reinvigorated the game, it also made for some of the best drama seen on television in the last 15 years.
7. Fantasy Baseball
No sport embraced the fantasy sports craze as baseball did. Statistics are seen as essential way to analyze the game and its players. By bringing together the fantasy providers, Baseball has unified the process and it is another way for many fans to enjoy the game.
8. The Internet
MLB easily foresaw the advantages of the computer at home. By providing content, tickets and merchandise, each teams website has become one stop shopping for all things baseball. It truly is a fan friendly way to sell your sport.
Knocks against Selig
1. Steroids – I don’t think I need to say anything here
2. World Series – ratings are down. Ratings are way down. It is hard to reconcile the ratings and attendance, but baseball is a regional game and 7 games may be a fine way to find a champion, but it is one that wears on the viewers.
3. The All-Star Game – A tie? Really? What were you thinking?
4. Expos Mess – Let’s collude with an owner to move a franchise and then get sued and settle out of court.
5. Yankes-Red Sox – Outside of New York and Boston, nobody wants to hear about this rivalry. The Midwest would much rather hear about Cubs-Cardinals or Brewer-Cubs.
6. The Mitchell Report – The Cheating Era – The list of cheaters is a who’s who of the 1990s: Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Palmiero, and Pettite. There are also missing names like Sosa, but maybe there are more in the 2003 report to include Sosa and a bulked up Pedro and Manny.
To sum up the Era of Bud Selig, it is easy to see the growth of the game. All the expansion teams of the 1990s all have made the World Series with Arizona winning once and Florida twice. But despite the management of Selig, or in spite of his mismanagement, the game thrived during his stewardship. It is the great American game. Whether or not Selig himself guided the renaissance of the game is up for debate, but one can not debate that the game is stronger than it ever has been and it happened on Selig’s watch.
For Further Reading
Golden Age of Baseball: The 1920s