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World Series: 8 Ways Bud Selig Changed Baseball

Oct. 20, 2014
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With all the fanfare surrounding New York Yankee Derek Jeter’s final season in the big leagues, relatively little has been made of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s impending retirement in January. Selig’s 22-year reign  has seen the MLB grow from a $1 billion industry in 1992 into one worth nearly $9 billion today.

Here’s a look at eight other ways baseball has changed since Selig took the commissioner’s chair.

1. Surging salaries

In 1992, New York Mets slugger Bobby Bonilla was the league’s highest-earning player, raking in just over $6 million. While the average salary hovered around $1 million that year, it has since increased to about $3.5 million. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was this season’s highest-paid player with a jaw-dropping income of $29 million, more than the payrolls of 10 teams in 1992. Rodriguez wasn’t exactly in a league of his own: Twenty players earned more than $20 million this year.

2. Astronomical budgets

Considering the increase in players’ salaries, it won’t come as a surprise that team payrolls have also ballooned over the years. At $235 million the Los Angeles Dodgers had the largest payroll this season. In 1992, that position was held by the Toronto Blue Jays, whose payroll was a relatively modest $45 million.

3. Massive TV deals

In the past few years, the MLB has inked television deals with Fox, TBS and ESPN worth a combined $12.4 billion. The revenue from these agreements, which run until the 2021 season, doesn’t include the billions of dollars that some teams are making from local television deals. The Dodgers and Time Warner Cable, for instance, agreed to a television rights partnership worth an estimated $7 billion to $8 billion over the next 20 to 25 years.

4. TV ratings

While broadcasting revenue is up, there’s been a steady decline in the number of fans tuning in to watch games, especially those that really matter. An average of 25 million people watched the Blue Jays successfully defend their title against the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1993 World Series. Last year’s Fall Classic between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals drew an average viewership of about 15 million people.

5. Strong attendance

When Selig took office, only about half of all teams attracted annual crowds of more than 2 million people. Today, all 30 teams are above that mark with an average annual attendance of about 2.5 million fans, an impressive feat given that many new stadiums are smaller than the ones they replaced.

6. Increased ticket prices

In 1991, you had to fork up only about $9 for a ticket to a ballgame. Nowadays, you’d be lucky if that gets you a hotdog and a drink. It’ll cost you about $28 to see a game, and you’ll have to dig even deeper in your pockets if you want to see the Yankees or Red Sox play, as both teams have average ticket prices of over $50. That said, going to an MLB game is still more affordable than seeing your favorite NFL team in action, which costs an average of $80.

7. Longer games

Baseball games are getting longer, and noticeably so. In 1992, only seven teams had games that lasted an average of three hours or longer. This season, 29 teams passed the three-hour mark. If you’re a little upset with the state of ticket prices, at least you know that you’re getting your money’s worth.

8. Expanded playoffs

Since Selig took over as commissioner, the MLB has expanded its playoff bracket to include two wild card teams in each league. Interestingly, 29 of the 30 MLB teams have made the playoffs since 2001. Though earning a ticket to the postseason is as difficult as ever, the new playoff system has provided some additional hope to fans whose teams are in the wild card race.

Final thoughts

Despite all the steroid-fueled turmoil Bud Selig has had to withstand during his tenure as commissioner, the MLB is extremely profitable and continues to entertain millions of fans each year. As this year’s postseason nears its climax, Selig’s successor, Rob Manfred, will have some big shoes to fill when he takes over in January.

Baseball fan photo via Shutterstock.