Person of the Week: Bud Selig

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Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig (left)

Where have you gone, Bud Selig? As players and owners went into extra innings in baseball labor negotiations, the nation turned its lonely eyes to the sport's commissioner, and found — well, very little. Selig was conspicuous in his absence from talks as a strike threatened, and even when he did arrive, two days before the strike deadline, he remained aloof. And so, as the man who very nearly became the only baseball commish to preside over two work stoppages, Bud Selig is our Person of the Week.

It's been a bad year to be Bud. Selig's annus horribilis began immediately following last year's World Series, when he announced plans to eliminate several teams even as the newly-crowned Diamondbacks were still unlacing their grass-stained shoes. Then, midway through the 2002 season, Selig made the disastrous decision to call the All-Star Game, which was tied in the 11th inning, because both teams had run out of pitchers. He was booed in Milwaukee, where he was once a hero (for recruiting the Brewers away from Seattle). Fans were outraged, call-in radio shows were in an uproar and a few days later Selig promised never to make that mistake again. And while the institution of baseball can easily recover from such a bad call, Selig's career may not.

Things have not always been so exciting for Selig; aside from his role in the Brewers move, his career in baseball was fairly unremarkable until the early 1990s. That's when Selig led the movement to oust then-commissioner Fay Vincent, whom Selig, and others decried as too deferential to the players. In 1992, Selig replaced Vincent for a six-year temporary term, and in 1998 he was officially elected commissioner.

For fans, Selig's last-minute attempts this week to avoid baseball's ninth work stoppage since 1972 have only added to his demerits. While polls show the majority of Americans back the owners on this year's most contentious points — revenue sharing and luxury tax — that goodwill does not spill over to the commissioner, who's widely seen as not taking an active enough role in the talks. His Wednesday arrival in New York, where players' and owners' representatives had been hunkered down for days, didn't impress players either. "I'm very grateful and appreciative that the commissioner of baseball feels that 48 hours before another work stoppage, it's important enough for him to leave Milwaukee and go to New York," New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter said. Of course, Selig the commissioner has never been popular with players; his claim that 25 of 30 teams are operating at a financial loss, a favorite argument against increasing salaries, leaves most of them underwhelmed.

Even while labor negotiations were still grinding away in New York, the press was letting Selig have it: AP sports columnist Steve Wilstein called him "the harbinger of doom," and Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette wrote a scathing bit about "the most inept commissioner in the history of professional sports." Unfortunately for Bud, even Friday's happy ending probably won't do much to convence anyone otherwise.