The last week of the 2013 baseball season will go down as one of the most entertaining in recent memory. The Tampa Bay Rays, the Cleveland Indians, and the Texas Rangers (my favorite) combined to win 19 of their final 21 scheduled games, as all three teams battled for the final two playoff spots in the American League. The three clubs nearly created the first three-way tie in big league history, but the Indians finished one game ahead of the Rays and Rangers.
Last night Tampa Bay defeated Texas in a play-in game for the final American League wild-card spot, setting up a one-game playoff between the Rays and Indians on Wednesday. The winner of that game will advance to the American League Division Series on Friday. Confusing? A little. Exciting? Absolutely.
I wasn’t supportive of the new playoff format when Major League Baseball announced it in early 2012, but it’s growing on me: It extended my team’s season both years, even though the Rangers failed to turn the opportunities into deep playoff runs.
Expanding the postseason is only one of the ways MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has helped transform the game in his two decades at the helm of the sport. Last week he announced he would retire at the beginning of 2015, leading many to reminisce on the lasting marks he left on the game: interleague play, more teams in the league, expanded playoffs, the World Baseball Classic, and an 18-year stretch of labor peace since the 1994-95 strike.
As I read and listened to reporters list Selig’s accomplishments, I never doubted that the inevitable “but” was forthcoming. Even mlb.com’s own story about Selig’s retirement addressed the steroids issue, although it was painted as a positive that baseball now has enacted some of the toughest drug testing standards in sports.
Selig wasn’t afraid to take bold action in myriad ways, yet his protracted inaction on one issue hangs a huge “but” onto his tenure as baseball’s ninth commissioner. He will never be able to shed the label of presiding over the Steroids Era.
Selig’s story brings to mind a string of Israelite leaders: After years of faithful service, God wouldn’t allow Moses to enter the Promised Land, “because you broke faith with me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh …” (Deuteronomy 32:51).
In 1 Kings 15:5 we learn that King David, a man after God’s own heart, “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”
King Asa “did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2), but after 38 years of solid leadership, he stubbornly “did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians” for his diseased feet—and he died (2 Chronicles 16:12-13).
I could go on. History is littered with people who accomplished much and couldn’t avoid a significant “but” tagged onto their epitaph. May the story of Bud Selig be a reminder to us all.
“… let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Listen to J.C. Derrick's profile of Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis on The World and Everything in It: