Commissioner agrees to three-year extension

Updated: January 17, 2008, 8:09 PM ET
Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Major League Baseball owners gave commissioner Bud Selig a three-year contract extension through 2012 on Thursday, a move made two days after some congressmen were critical of his leadership is responding to the sport's drug problem.

Selig, who has been in charge of MLB since 1992, had repeatedly said since December 2006 that he would retire at the end of 2009 and that his mind couldn't be changed.

"This is clearly it," he said after the latest extension was approved in a unanimous vote on the final day of a two-day owners' meeting. "I could say this without equivocation."

Earlier this week, Selig and union head Donald Fehr testified before a congressional committee that both criticized baseball for its steroids problem and praised the sport for strides made during the past three years. Selig's contract extension drew immediate criticism from Rep. Cliff Stearns, who had called on Selig to resign last month after the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball was released.

"The explosion in the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs occurred under Selig's 15-year tenure," the Florida Republican said. "I have found commissioner Selig's glacial response to this growing stain on baseball unacceptable and I have called on him to step down. This three-year extension of Selig's contract is a vote of confidence in his record, which includes taking minimal steps in ridding baseball of these drugs."

Selig in May will surpass Bowie Kuhn and become baseball's second-longest-serving leader behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was the first commissioner from 1920-44. Despite previous Selig statements that he intended to retire, many in baseball didn't believe him.

"I did wrestle with it. I spent a lot of time agonizing over it, mainly with myself," Selig said. "But they really convinced me."

Selig said he won't accept any more extensions -- although that is what he said after the previous one.

"Look, when this is over, I'm going to be 78 years old," Selig said.

Selig became acting commissioner in September 1992, when clubs forced out Fay Vincent. After saying he wouldn't take the job, Selig was elected to a five-year term as permanent commissioner in 1998 and gave up running the Milwaukee Brewers, the team he bought in 1970 and his family sold in 2005.

Owners voted in November 2001 to extend his term through 2006, then voted in August 2004 to extend it through 2009.

Oakland owner Lew Wolff began the latest move for an extension when he sent Selig an e-mail about a month ago.

"I said that he couldn't retire until I expire," Wolff said.

Selig said he considered Wolff's message as he weighed his decision.

"I looked at that about four times a day, and actually began to take it quite seriously," Selig said.

Selig provoked the 7-month strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series, but since has presided over an era of labor peace unprecedented since the players' association was formed in the late 1960s. He pushed for interleague play and wild cards in the postseason, eliminated the structure of separate league offices, launched baseball's Internet business and international initiatives.

Up ahead in 2009 is the launch of MLB's television network. He predicted more change over the next five years.

"By the time I leave, you won't recognize the sport," he said.

Baseball will be opening the regular season in Japan for the third time when Boston plays Oakland in Tokyo in March. MLB hopes to finalize plans next week for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres to play exhibition games in Beijing during spring training this year.

"I have great dreams about internationalization," Selig said. "I feel comfortable telling you that we will do some very dramatic things internationally."

Selig received $14.5 million in the 12-month period ending Oct. 31, 2005, according to Major League Baseball's last available tax return.

Baseball's labor contract runs through the 2011 season and its national television deals with Fox, Turner Broadcasting and ESPN run through 2013. Revenue, which was $1.66 billion when Selig became acting commissioner, topped $6 billion last year. He projects it to top $6.5 billion this year.

After claiming massive losses in the 1990s, Selig said that only a "club or two" isn't making money.

"But hopefully we're going to get those situations straightened out," he said, without identifying the teams.

Selig said he expects revenues to continue to grow as the sport explores global markets and develops its own network.

"I don't have a specific goal in mind, but I expect us to continue to grow at a very aggressive rate every year," Selig said. "You can read into that whatever you want, but I expect this growth to continue."

On Thursday, Selig briefed owners on his testimony two days earlier at a congressional hearing. He defended them against critics who say baseball ignored the problem of performance-enhancing drugs.

"The owners have been completely cooperative," Selig said. "All this business about owners have turned their head and so on and so forth, there just is no fact to that, there's no truth to that. Now, were we slow to react? OK, people can make that observation, whether we all agree or not is not important."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press