Question of the day: Would you rather have Bud Selig at $22 million or Vernon Wells at $24.6 million?
OK, I guess I'm supposed to be outraged that Selig will be offered a two-year extension, with compensation at more than $22 million annually, as Buster Olney reported. We're not supposed to like commissioners and be criticial of their decisions. Is $22 million a fair salary? Ridiculous? Hey, the MLB owners are the ones paying it, and they are happy enough with Selig that they keep asking him to remain in the job. Getting 30 owners with a wide range of goals to agree on anything isn't easy, but Selig's skills in this regard have been a key element of baseball's financial success the past decade.
In recent years, baseball's revenue has grown from $5.5 billion in 2007 to $6.6 billion in 2009 to a projected $7 billion-plus for 2011.
In fact, while the media loves to criticize World Series TV ratings, MLB revenue has grown from $1.4 billion in 1995 in large part due to local and regional TV deals.
Selig has brokered a reasonable peace between the players, big-market owners and small-market owners, no easy task. Yes, both Red Sox owner John Henry and Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner have criticized MLB's revenue-sharing plan ... which tells you Selig has been effective in fighting for the smaller teams. In 2009, revenue sharing totaled $433 million; in 2010, $404 million. In 2011, the Yankees paid out $200 million in luxury tax bills, according to Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball site.
Parity -- once Selig's rallying cry -- has been improved. Since 2001, nine different teams have won the World Series in 11 seasons and 14 different organizations have reached the World Series (nearly half the league). Three of the teams that haven't reached the World Series since 2001 are the big-market Dodgers, Mets and Cubs.
Despite the bad economy of recent years and increasing stay-at-home entertainment options, MLB attendance has remained strong -- 72.9 million in 2011, a slight increase over 2010 and nearly 13 million more than 1996, the first full season following the 1994 strike.
Has Selig made some mistakes? Sure. He (and everyone else) turned a blind eye during the steroids era and it took too long to implement a drug-testing program. There was the All-Star Game tie fiasco (and the insistence on making the All-Star Game determine World Series home-field advantage). I haven't liked the way he's attempted to cap bonuses on draft picks. And there was a World Series cancelled under his watch. But baseball is thriving on the field -- where I believe the product is better than ever. And its thriving off the field like never before.
So, yes, $22 million and a private jet is it a lot to pay a commissioner. But at least he hasn't blocked any trades.