Bud Selig and the Astros: (Not) A Love Story

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Bud Selig officially retires today after 22 years as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Houston Astros fans can rejoice!

No doubt about it, Bud’s legacy goes beyond a single team. He presided over the expansion era which brought in the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays. He expanded the baseball playoff system twice (1995 and 2012). In 2002, he infamously let an All-Star game end in a tie, and then the following year he turned the Midsummer Classic into a competitive event by granting home-field advantage for the World Series to the winning league. There was the labor strike in 1994 and subsequent cancellation of the World Series. He also sat quietly during the steroid-injected home run era of the 90s and then castigated the users after revelations of PED abuse emerged. Mr. Selig has a mixed legacy, which is not unusual for such a long career.

However, for the Houston Astros, Bud Selig has been a thorn in their side.

2005: Keep the Roof Open

Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; General aerial view of the Minute Maid Park. The venue is the home facility of the Houston Astros. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

During the magical 2005 run to the World Series, the Houston Astros parlayed their retractable roof into a raucous home-field advantage. With the Minute Maid Park roof closed, the fans would whoop, holler, clap, bang, or do whatever they could to create a disorienting cacophony for opposing teams. During that season, Houston was 36-17 with the roof closed and 15-11 with it open. It was clearly a part of the winning formula.

“It’s our field, and it works for our advantage with the loudness of the crowd…Chicago had their advantage there — cold, windy” -Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt

However, before Game 3 of the World Series was played in Houston, Mr. Commissioner and the league front office told the Houston ownership that the roof had to remain open because the weather would allow for it. While opening the roof did not technically take away home-field advantage, the move significantly diminished one aspect of playing in front of the home crowd. The players were miffed.

This is not to say that that alone caused the Astros to lose both games in Houston. But in the search for “fairness” and “not giving teams a competitive advantage” (what’s the point of playing in front of the home crowd?), the Astros got screwed. Thanks, Mr. Selig!

2008: Hurricane Ike

The Houston Astros were in the midst of another playoff chase in September 2008. Only 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for a Wild Card berth, the Astros were to play the Chicago Cubs in a three game series at Minute Maid Park. That’s when Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast, bringing heavy rain and wind and destruction all over Houston.

Initially, the first two games were postponed in the hopes that they could eventually play them since Minute Maid Park withstood the storm. But leave it to Bud to move the games…to Miller Park in Milwaukee. This was in spite of several other sites including Minnesota, Atlanta, and Cincinnati being considered.

"“Give credit to the commissioner. He hammered it out”–Drayton McLane, Astros owner"

This was outrageous! Any person with any geographic knowledge of the United States knows that Milwaukee is a heckuva lot closer to Chicago (approximately 92 miles) than it is to Houston (1172 miles). While Drayton McLane praised Bud, Astros players (and fans) were steamed. A series that should’ve been relocated to a neutral site had essentially become a home series for the Cubs. Not only that, but it was being played in Milwaukee of all places, where Bud used to own the franchise (just a little suspicious, right?).

Houston lost both games in Milwaukee and the Astros’ playoff expectations died with them. Thanks again, Mr. Commissioner!

2013: The Move to the American League

For many Houston fans, this is the biggest slight from Selig’s reign. The Astros had ALWAYS been a National League club, ever since the team’s inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962. In 2011, after Jim Crane submitted a winning bid for the team, everything looked peachy. Then the commish stepped in and strong-armed the new owner into moving the club to the American League starting in 2013, for the sake of improving travel (to the West Coast!?) and fairer scheduling. In fact, Bud Selig would not approve the sale until Jim Crane agreed.

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The deal was so awful and handled so poorly, that even former players like Lance Berkman spoke out against what many perceived as extortion.

For many folks, this was an affront. Part of the reason each league had unbalanced numbers was because Selig allowed his esteemed Brewers to move from the AL to the NL in 1997, supposedly in order to allow interleague play to have a smoother schedule. Certainly there were several opportunities to fix this non-issue, like when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals, or when the Diamondbacks were created, but it was forced upon the Astros. For Mr. Selig, this was “the only logical choice“; for Houston, it was an outrage. FIFTY seasons of history and tradition ground to a halt thanks to the whims of an overbearing and heavy-handed commissioner. Thanks for nothing, Commissioner Selig!

It’s been a long 22 years for Allan H. “Bud” Selig. He may have done some good things for the entire league, but Houston Astros’ fans (and possibly the franchise) won’t miss him. His willingness to serve his own interests at the expense of our team left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. Hopefully incoming commissioner Rob Manfred will have a better relationship with our beloved ball club.

From deep in the heart of Texas: Adios, Bud!

Next: The Astros Need a New Nickname

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