Bud Selig’s farewell tour stopped at PNC Park Tuesday as Major League Baseball’s commissioner took the opportunity to laud the Pirates as the poster team for competitive balance.
“This is maybe as dramatic evidence of anything of how this sport has changed,” Selig said in a news conference before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. “How we’ve dealt with our problems and, quite frankly, how we’ve solved our problems, we have come a long way.”
Selig said he got goosebumps watching the Pirates compete in the playoffs and credits revenue-sharing along with what he called a series of “mechanisms” along the way that have allowed more than the very richest teams to compete for a World Series title.
“Three divisions had a tie the other day. All three in the National League,” Selig said. “I couldn’t have written a script like that. I couldn’t have dreamed it. … It has worked tremendously in Pittsburgh. The Pirates organization deserves a lot of credit.”
Pirates owner Bob Nutting, who was in attendance, said he couldn’t help but reflect on how things have changed for his team as Selig spoke. Nutting is part of the committee that will select Selig’s successor.
“Absolutely tremendous progress has been made, and Pittsburgh has been one of the many beneficiaries of re-leveling the baseball field,” Nutting said. “Certainly, there’s much more competitive balance than there was 10 or 15 years ago. We need to continue those opportunities. Fundamentally in Pittsburgh our job is going to be to take the resources we have and maximize their impact on the field. … And as Bud said, there’s much more to be done.”
Selig touched on several subjects, including the labor peace baseball has enjoyed, his satisfaction with expanded instant replay and his disinterest in moving the non-waiver trade deadline deeper into August to counteract fewer sellers in the market.
Manager Clint Hurdle said if he had Selig’s ear for a moment, he would take the chance to thank him.
“Thank you for your service. I can’t even imagine the challenges that come with that job,” Hurdle said. “You look at expansion, the playoffs, the wild card, how the game’s moved globally, economically and financially. You look at this franchise, where this franchise was at one time and how it’s been able to hang on.
“And it takes more guys than Bud. I think he’s done a very fantastic job, really, overall in pushing this game forward, forward, making sure the newest generation is involved and engaged. Keeping the oldest generation involved and engaged, as well.”
Snider in, Marte out
Hurdle gave Starling Marte the night off, but said his health is fine. Travis Snider got the start in left field and hit from the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
“Manager’s decision,” Hurdle said. “Snider’s had some at-bats. I’ve been trying to get the bench guys some at-bats periodically after the break to get them some at-bats to keep them fresh and moving.”
Trust the key ingredient
Rumors swirled Tuesday as the July 31 trade deadline crept closer, a phenomenon Hurdle said no longer distracts his team.
“I think as our clubhouse has grown and matured, them understanding the game and the way the game works, understanding the organization’s position, what’s practical, realistic and what might not be, our group out there has a very good touch and feel for this time and year,” Hurdle said.
“It can be a distraction if you let it become a distraction. … Our guys have a real good feel. And I think we’ve developed trust. The ownership’s trust and [general manager Neal Huntington’s] trust of the players.”
It’s Ike’s time
Ike Davis historically has been more productive in the second half of the season, and his manager knows it.
“In Ike’s case, there’s been second halves that have been very productive for him,” Hurdle said. “So you speak to what was the mindset then? We went out [Tuesday] and worked on one little thing. He’s going to get a couple games here to go out there and get some at-bats. There’s always, at least, that feeling of confidence.”
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.