How should the good people of Tampa Bay remember the departing Commissioner?
Me? I think Commissioner Bud is a phoenix, that cyclically regenerating bird of myth. That is, if instead of being consumed by glorious flames and then rising from the ashes, he instead suffocated under the weight of his own excrement only to rise again from a septic tank.
This is a man who (along with Jerry Reinsdorf) was a prime mover in the salary collusion scandal of the 1980s. That collusion begat the bitterness that eventually blossomed into a cancelled World Series in 1994 and a near-death experience of our national pastime. So what did Commissioner Bud do? He turned a blind eye to the bulging biceps of the steroid era and cheered on Mark and Sammy as they recaptured the nation's attention. (To be fair, he was not alone in that willful blindness. He was, however, in charge of the damned sport, so maybe we should hold him to a higher standard.)
But when Barry Bonds turned that victory into a sham by showing what a real legend on the juice could do, it was Commissioner Bud who was shocked, Shocked, SHOCKED to find that there was 'roiding going on in his establishment, and he cleaned up the game. Never mind that it was a toxic waste dump he helped create.
There were other gaffes Commissioner Bud made along the way. He let an All-Star Game end in a tie (who cares?) and then "fixed" it by making the game "count."
Then to the Rays detriment, he broke the rules by suspending a World Series game that never should have been started to begin with. In the grand scheme of things, this was nothing. But damn, remember B.J. Upton sloshing around the bases? We don't get that without Bud.
How else shall we remember Commissioner Bud? As the man who hijacked the Pilots after just one season in Seattle? The man who torpedoed the Expos, and arranged for the very lucrative sales of the Red Sox and Marlins? The man who, when dealing with admittedly terri-bad person Marge Schott, first suspended her then forced her to sell the team? The same man who un-suspended from a lifetime ban the also admittedly terri-bad person, George Steinbrenner?
How else shall we remember him? How about as a man whose decisions sometimes worked out, even when they didn't seem like sure things at the time they were made?
For instance: Despite the carping of traditionalists, the Wild Card has been a huge success, and inter-league play has at times been mildly entertaining. And though he was probably dragged kicking and screaming into the replay fold by some astoundingly bad post-season umpiring, he should get credit for allowing himself to be dragged.
Not all sports commissioners are capable of recognizing that obvious injustices deserve more than a tsk-tsk response (looking at you, Roger.) So it would be hyperbole to say that everything the dark Lord has done was bad. It's also said that Hitler was a fair painter.
And somewhere in the midst of all that giveth-ing and taketh away-ing, there is Bud's role a hero and foil to Tampa Bay baseball.
How should we remember Commissioner Bud? Because, in true Selig fashion, the current trouble in St. Pete that he so often decries [insert obligatory attendance article link here] is one that he was instrumental in creating.
True, it was Ueberroth and not Selig who famously warned local officials not to build the dome. But it was under Commissioner Bud's watch that the franchise was awarded to St. Pete, perhaps slighting investors from Tampa in process. (Frank Morani suit against MLB alleging this was settled out of court in 2003.)
So what is left for Bud and Tampa Bay as the used car salesman rides off into the sunset? Does the man who used the Tampa Bay region to extort new stadiums for the Giants, White Sox, et al deserve praise?
Time will tell. If this club moves to Montreal, it will be because Bud was not just a weasel, but an idiot for looking at a prime region and putting his franchise in exactly the wrong spot. But what if Montreal is the bait that finally gets a stadium built in a reasonable location? Will Commissioner Bud legacy be remembered any differently?
If the Montreal strategy works for the Rays, as Tampa-bait provided stadiums to Chicago and San Francisco, perhaps we can at least be appreciative. After all, without expansion maybe we still don't have a franchise to be upset about.
The Rays began nearly 20 years ago under his watch, and for that we can be grateful. If we ever get a real stadium, maybe we'll hate him a little less.
Montreal fans, on the other hand...