At the end of the 2014 season, Bud Selig will step down as MLB commissioner after 22 years in office. What baseball historians will write about Selig, a former car dealer from Milwaukee, Wis., remains to be seen, but from a business standpoint, he has put the game in better shape.
There is a chance that when Selig steps down, MLB will have surpassed its 2013 record income of more than $8 billion. He has crafted television and multimedia deals with ESPN, Fox and TBS, which will run through the 2021 season and will pay each team around $51.67 million per year during the course of the broadcast deals.
Part of Selig's legacy in the mid-Atlantic region is that he returned baseball to the nation's capital in 2005. He felt the Washington Nationals could thrive in Washington, D.C., without impacting the passionate Baltimore Orioles fan base.
PressBox spoke to Selig about baseball in the Baltimore-Washington region, and got his take on the issues facing MLB coming into the 2014 season.
PRESSBOX: What are your thoughts about the health of baseball in the Baltimore-Washington region?
Bud Selig: Both teams are looking forward to a successful season. From everything I have seen and read, Washington should be a real contender this year. Also, the Baltimore Orioles made some moves that should put them firmly in the race in the AL East. So, I always knew that the region was a great baseball area, and this year, the fans of both the Nationals and the Orioles expect their teams to contend for the playoffs and go into the postseason. That is a compliment to the hard work put in by the Washington and Baltimore ownership, fan base and players. It is going to be an exciting year of baseball in the region.
PB: With the new 2014 broadcast deal in place, is your goal to show all 30 teams on a national basis?
BS: Well, you know how I feel about competitive balance. It's always a concern, but we've really reconfigured this deal, because it's easy now. We have a real competitive balance, more so than we've ever had, and I think more so than anybody else has. But that's for another day. But now, yes, all 30 teams will be on, and there will be a lot of teams on at different times. The ESPN schedule will manifest what's going on in the sport, and that is that we've got a lot of teams that are very competitive and therefore will be on television. So yeah, we've come a long way.
PB: There has been a great deal of talk about speeding up the game. What are your thoughts on the topic?
BS: Well, it's the pace of the game. Speed sometimes is not always the right answer. … I have been talking to all of our people, particularly Joe Torre and Tony La Russa and Peter Woodfork and everybody, and yes, I've talked to a lot of the umpires, and I'm confident that we're moving in the right direction, and it's important that we do continue to do that. Obviously, it will depend on the type of game, number of pitching changes, everything else, but yes, that is a matter that I have been talking to a lot of people about.
Selig also announced MLB's new deal with ESPN, which begins with the 2014 season and runs through 2021. It will allow ESPN to broadcast a Wild Card Game, alternating between the American League and National League each year. The network will have the ability to add extra games in September, which will feature teams involved in pennant chases. ESPN will also broadcast any regular-season tiebreaker games.
It is possible the network could broadcast as many as 101 games in 2014. Another part of the announcement was that ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" would, for the first time in 25 years on the air, have the ability to flex some games in September, the way the NFL does on Sundays for Weeks 11-17 of the regular season.