Bud Selig had some unflattering words for the O.co Coliseum on Tuesday in his last official scheduled visit to the A’s home stadium as the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
“My only comparison is that this reminds me of (Milwaukee) County Stadium in its final days, and Shea Stadium,” Selig said. “And for those of you in this room, that’s not a compliment.”
In a nearly 35-minute session with reporters, Selig, who is set to retire in January after 22 years as commissioner, stressed the A’s are a team that “needs a new ballpark,” and cited the fact that has not happened during his tenure as a notable piece of unfinished business.
“Do I wish it would’ve been solved? Of course I do,” Selig said. “I wish it had, and I understand people’s frustration.
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“But is there anything I would’ve done differently? I don’t think so. I’m toughest on myself, and I would say that, ‘I wish I could’ve done this or that.’ But I can’t say that.”
While other teams enjoy the practical and economic benefits of modern stadiums – Selig noted 22 new ballparks have been built during his time as commissioner – the A’s still play at the dated Coliseum, their home since 1968, which they share with the NFL’s Raiders and where they often draw sparse crowds.
In 2009, Selig appointed a committee to analyze the issues facing the A’s obtaining a new stadium, but no resolution was reached. Meanwhile, the A’s have remained in a battle with the Giants over territorial rights – tied to a potential move by the A’s to San Jose – which has resulted in litigation Selig acknowledged will likely keep the stadium issue unresolved until after he steps down.
“I know there’s been criticism about the length this has taken,” Selig said. “I’m proud of everything we’ve done over the last 22 years, but this is one of those things. As I look back on it, however, it’s (very) complicated.”
Selig declined to get into all the factors complicating a new stadium for the A’s, and said of the territorial rights fight only: “You have two teams that have very dissimilar views.”
He said he was “happy” to see the A’s and city of Oakland officials agree in July to a 10-year lease extension that could keep the A’s at the Coliseum through 2024 but reiterated that ultimately the A’s need a new facility.
New stadiums have played a part in what Selig cited as the most significant outcome of his tenure – the growth and economic reformation of Major League Baseball. MLB has seen unprecedented attendance numbers over the past decade, while revenue sharing has contributed to a run of parity in the sport.
From 1991 to 2000, five teams split nine World Series titles, with the New York Yankees winning four times. The following decade, nine different teams accounted for 10 World Series championships, with Boston the only two-time winners. Selig recalled little happening in the way of revenue sharing when he took over as commissioner and said: “There’s no question that in 1992, disparity had set in.”
Citing current division races involving such lower-budget teams as the A’s, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Selig said: “It’s really good for the sport. The objective of everything we do is to provide hope and faith in as many places as possible.”
Still, Selig acknowledged issues facing baseball, such as pace of games and a decline of African American players in the sport. The former has been an especially hot topic recently, and during the search for Selig’s replacement, which was resolved last week with owners voting to appoint Rob Manfred, MLB’s current chief operating officer, as its new commissioner.
Selig said average time of games is under three hours, but that certain things that slow pace of play aggravate him as well. His example: “A hitter comes to the plate, ball one. Now he gets out of the box and he’s adjusting all his equipment. What the hell? He hasn’t swung. What is he adjusting?”
While a main argument against one of Selig’s final reformations as commissioner – the expansion of instant replay – was that it would lengthen games, Selig argued that hasn’t been the case on average when weighed against the decrease of managers arguing calls on the field. Still, he said, pace of play remains a topic constantly discussed among MLB officials.
“The fact of the matter is the grand old game is doing great,” Selig said. “But we need to address our problems, and we are.”