Commissioner agrees to three-year extension

1/17/2008 - MLB

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

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

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

"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

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

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."