Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bud Selig's Legacy in Minnesota: Contraction Threat

Bud Selig is set to retire this off-season after 22 years at the helm of Major League Baseball. Rob Manfred has already been voted in as his successor, a position he has been groomed for over since starting to work for MLB in 1998. The 55-year old Manfred will have a variety of issues on his plate as he takes over from the 80-year old Selig.

During Selig's tenure as commissioner, baseball has been marked by a variety of ups and downs. A large growth in attendance has increased revenue across the game. This has resulted in some slough of large contracts for baseball's more established players. Besides the positives, there was also a World Series that was cancelled because of a strike and the performance enhancing drug scandal impacted many parts of the baseball world.

For the Minnesota Twins, there have been some positive things that have happened under the Selig regime even if they can't all be credited to him. The Twins were able to finance a new stadium and Target Field has turned out to be a gem. Increases in revenue allowed the Twins to pay Joe Mauer one of the largest contracts in baseball. The organization also got to host the last All-Star Game with Selig as commissioner.

However, the biggest story surrounding the Twins and Selig will always be the threat of contraction made following the 2001 season. Minnesota and Montreal were left on the MLB's chopping block after Selig revealed owners had voted 28-2 to eliminate two teams.

Twins owner Carl Pohlad was frustrated with Minnesota's state government for not being able to come up with a deal to replace the outdated Metrodome. Pohlad would be paid $250 million to close out the franchise he purchased in 1984. There were a lot of things going wrong in the baseball world in the aftermath of September 11th.

In an interview with the Pioneer Press this summer, Selig said, "Contraction had nothing to do with Minnesota. Baseball was really struggling at the time, losing a fortune as a sport. There were owners who believed that contraction might help."

Luckily for Twins fan, contraction never happened. A Hennepin County judge ruled that the Twins had to honor their Metrodome lease for the 2002 season. The Twins took full advantage of their new life as they qualified for the playoffs for the first time since their 1991 World Series Championship. The team won the AL Central Division three straight seasons and six of the next nine years.

Minnesota found itself back on the baseball map but not after dealing with a situation that left more than one scar on the franchise. Selig did some good things for the Twins but his lasting memory will be the fact that he almost stole baseball away from a generation of fans in the Upper Midwest.

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