At the age of 80, Bud Selig will be stepping down as commissioner of baseball after this season. A former car dealer and owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, Selig been at his post since 1992, when he took over as acting commissioner. He was named permanent commissioner in 1998. Following the NBA’s David Stern, Selig will be the second longtime Jewish commissioner to turn over his reins this year.
Selig certainly has been good for baseball, as the worth of franchises has multiplied under his leadership. The national television contracts guarantee considerable amounts of money before a game is even played. Selig added a wild-card scenario and followed that up with a second wild card (for which the Indians qualified last year), allowing interest to last longer, this year, in American League cities like Cleveland, Seattle, Kansas City and Toronto.
Interleague play can be blamed or credited to Selig, also. He also has failed to make a decision on the designated hitter, which mean each league continues to play under different rules, as they have since the experiment began over 40 years ago.
But if he was really interested in helping smaller markets, rather than jamming New York and Boston down our throats, there are several things he could have done. Let’s use Cleveland as an example. Earlier this season, the schedule-makers sent the no-name Colorado Rockies to Cleveland for a weekend series. The following Monday, the Boston Red Sox came to town for a three-game midweek series. The Red Sox are always a great draw, but they weren’t this time, their only visit to town this year. The New York Yankees made their only appearance, before the all-star break in early July, with a four-game, Monday-through-Thursday slate.
Last weekend, the Indians swept the Texas Rangers in a three-game series that drew well on Friday and Saturday, with more than 25,000 both nights, but just 18,000 on Sunday afternoon. In a split interleague play series, the Cincinnati Reds came up north for a Monday-Tuesday series, and the teams went south to renew the series Wednesday and Thursday.
Looking ahead – hopefully, the Indians will still be battling for a playoff spot in September – the Detroit Tigers will come to town for a four-game set beginning Labor Day and continuing through Thursday of that week.
To get any value from interleague play, the Reds and Indians should never meet during the week, and the same goes for Detroit and Cleveland. Reds and Tigers fans travel very well and baseball has to take advantage of that. As for the issue of interleague play, Indians fans only get to see the Yankees and Red Sox in one series per year (last year the Indians played the Yankees on opening day), making room for the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies to come to Cleveland this year. In addition, the Indians won’t see American League rival Tampa Bay in Cleveland until the final series of the year.
I realize the difficulties in scheduling for 30 teams a year while being forced to have an interleague game every day. But in Cleveland’s case, when you know the Indians will struggle with attendance in the first two months of the season for a variety of reasons, including weather, there are things that can be done. Despite the popular opinion that Cleveland is not a baseball town, there are things that major league baseball can do to help. And without renewed interest in the Browns and Cavaliers, help can’t come soon enough.
Les Levine can be seen statewide on “More Sports and Les Levine” on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (1311 or 311) from 6 to 7 p.m. weekdays, with replays at 10 p.m. and 7 to 8 a.m. the next day. Connect with him on Facebook at ClevelandJewishNews, or on Twitter @LesLevine.