Let’s be honest. Sports’ commissioners are the worst. They cancel games, change rules, and suspend players. They can, however, help their sport too. In honor of David Stern’s impending retirement, here are the definitive commissioner power rankings, working from the worst to the best:

4) Bud Selig, MLB: If you’ve ever read anything I have ever written about baseball, you know that I abhor Bud Selig. He has done so many horrible things to baseball, he should be arrested for murder…of baseball.

Let’s start with PEDs. Baseball’s image was forever tarnished by steroid use in the 1990s. What did Selig do? Nothing. Now, 14 years after Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s Home Run Race*, players are still testing positive. Since Selig’s only punishment for a positive test is a 50 game suspension and players’ contracts are fully guaranteed, there is no reason why a player wouldn’t cheat to hit 60 home runs, get a $100 million deal, and then sit on their couch while they’re getting paid. Whether it’s a lifetime ban, loss of a year (or more)’s pay, or an increased suspension, the MLB needs to get their act together on the PED issue. Oh, wait, thanks to our Bud, there are several other issues the MLB needs to deal with.

You know the saying, “Pictures are worth 1,000 words”? The runner was called out on this play. Do you need any more proof that the lack of replay in the MLB is embarrassing?

There are tons of ways to expand the use of instant replay in the MLB. Heck–it can be expanded so much that there don’t even need to be umpires anymore. If you’ve watched TBS’ coverage of the MLB playoffs, you would have noticed that half a second after the catcher caught the ball, the pitch’s location was shown on the lower right of the screen. How many times was the pitch clearly a ball but called a strike? How about calling hits fair or foul? Or runners safe or out? The lack of instant replay use in the MLB has gotten embarrassing.

Basketball has a huge young fan base. So does football. Baseball? I’m pretty sure I’m the only baseball fan under 30. In a world with millions of distractions, baseball has gotten painstakingly boring. It is blatantly clear that some rule changes to make the game more exciting need to be made before baseball goes extinct. Here are my suggestions:

  • Pitch Clock: How much time does a pitcher hold the ball before he pitches? By allowing pitchers to pick up the rosin bag, shake their heads no to the catcher’s sign, and staring down the batter, Bud Selig is making games last at least an extra 30 minutes. My suggestion is to add a pitch clock. Using this, pitchers would have 5 seconds to begin their wind up. If they took too long, there would be an automatic walk.
  • Shorter Mid-Inning Time: How long can it possibly take for players to jog into their dugouts, then back onto the field?
  • Pitch Minimum: Instead of having one pitcher pitch to a batter, then another pitcher pitch to the next, and so on, why not make pitchers throw 12 pitches or face 2 batters (which ever comes first) before they can be replaced?

Throughout his entire tenure as MLB commissioner, Selig has always let the players’ union win. He’s continually allowed players to get $100 million guaranteed, the Yankees’ and Dodgers’ to have $50 million more than all the other teams, and he’s let high school seniors get paid $14 million. There’s a reason why every league except the MLB has had a lockout in the past few years. The MLB created a new collective bargaining agreement quickly and quietly, because unlike other commissioners, Bud Selig won’t fight the players’ association for changes that are in the best interests of baseball.

Bud must go!

3) Gary Bettman, NHL: Things were finally looking good for the NHL. The league was more popular than ever. Young stars like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin finally gave the league some marketable stars. The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers gave fans teams to root for. The Stanley Cup featured a team from the number one and number two media markets (NY & LA). When the Kings beat the Devils, the NHL received lots of attention. Living in LA, I couldn’t walk five feet before seeing some Kings’ gear. Then, the CBA expired, the NHL refused to compromise, and now, the NHL season is in jeopardy of getting cancelled.

Bettman and Selig are polar opposites when it comes to their handling of the players. Selig has no backbone. Bettman is all backbone. In 2004, Bettman locked out the players for the entire ’04-’05 season. It looks like this season is going to have the same fate.

It isn’t just lockouts that have led to Bettman’s ruining of the NHL. Throughout the 1990s, he over-expanded the league to 30 teams. Now, there is not enough talent for all 30 teams to be competitive. The expansion has also resulted in some extremely unsuccessful teams. The Phoenix Coyotes (hockey should not be played in the desert!) filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and it took 3 years for the NHL to find a team (as of this writing, the sale is in its final stages, but for a meager amount of money). The New York Islanders are in the largest media market in North America, yet they have the 2nd worst attendance in the league.

I will give Gary Bettman this though: moving the Islanders to Brooklyn is genius.

2) Roger Goodell, NFL: There is no question that the NFL is in a better place now than it was when Goodell took office in 2007. The league is more popular than ever. He has made the NFL Draft an event unlike any other professional draft. Unlike Bettman or Selig, Goodell is clear and swift with his penalties.

Goodell made a colossal mistake with the whole replacement ref fiasco. How one could not realize the importance of the normal refs and then not recognize the negative impact on games and the league’s image is a mystery to me. Goodell really botched this one.

The biggest reason Goodell isn’t number one on this list is concussions. With the league being sued by former players, and more reports being released about the danger of concussions, the NFL has a huge problem on its hands. While it may not affect the league right now or even five years from now, the NFL may be in trouble in 10-15 years. Take my football team for example: last season, my team had 42 players on it. This year? 21. Why is the team half the size as it was last year? Many kids say that their parents wouldn’t let them play because of concussions. Some people said theydidn’t want to risk getting concussions. What has Goodell done about the issue? He changed a few rules, which haven’t helped. Unless you want a considerably worse talent pool in 15 years than you have now, Mr. Goodell, I’d consider doing a little more than tweaking the rulebook.

David Stern made basketball a business.

1) David Stern, NBA: David Stern took over the NBA in 1984. Under Stern, basketball turned from a game into a business. Players were more than just players, they became global icons, with Air Jordan leading the way. Stern transformed the game from an American game to a global one. Beginning with the Dream Team in 1992, the NBA began to appeal to a global audience, which in turn greatly increased the talent pool. Without Stern’s leadership, players like Serge Ibaka, Yao Ming, and the Gasol brothers would have never played basketball.

While he’s had some bumps in the road, Stern is continuing to guide The Association as the savviest league in the world. Marketing young superstars like Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Anthony “The Brow” Davis, staying up-to-date with the latest social media craze, and creating a cultural icon in the Brooklyn Nets are just a few examples. From Magic and Larry to MJ to Shaq to LeBron, the NBA has always evolved when needed from which we all benefit.

When Stern retires in 2014, the NBA will be heading into uncharted waters, this time without Stern commanding the ship.

Some leagues thrive because of their commissioners and others fail. David Stern better watch it. When I’m running him out of the top spot as greatest commissioner ever by saving baseball from the disastrous Bud Selig Era and reclaiming the title of “America’s National Pastime,” he will only be able to watch.

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