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In the eyes of outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig, the reformation of baseball's economic system -- which has allowed franchises such as the Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals to flourish -- stands as the biggest accomplishment of his 22-year stint.

The construction of 22 major league ballparks during that time -- a tidy average of one a season -- ranks high on his list, too.

The Athletics, who hosted Selig on Tuesday during the latest stop in his tenure-ending tour of every stadium, are at opposite sides of those achievements.

As a small-market team dwarfed in reach and popularity by the neighboring San Francisco Giants, the A's have been able to succeed, thanks in no small measure to the revenue-sharing program Selig initiated against staunch resistance from several owners.

"I remember all the fights over competitive balance. Oh, man, it was brutal, back in the '80s and '90s," Selig said in a 34-minute question-and-answer session with reporters.

"The other day all three National League divisions were tied, and now you have Kansas City moving ahead of Detroit, Oakland battling, Milwaukee battling, teams that in the '90s and early 2000s had no chance."

The A's, who perennially rank near the bottom in attendance, have made the playoffs seven times since 2000 and entered Tuesday's action with the second-best record in the majors.

But they remain stuck at the outdated and much-maligned Coliseum, where they recently signed a 10-year lease extension, even though they'd much rather move to San Jose and build a ballpark there.

The Athletics' relocation efforts have been blocked by the Giants, who claim territorial rights to the south bay and steadfastly refuse to give up the prosperous region, from where they generate a significant part of their revenue. In June 2013, San Jose filed suit against Major League Baseball for standing in the way of the Athletics' relocation, which Selig said has only further slowed their search for a new home.

In March 2009, Selig appointed a three-person committee to study the stadium situation, but it has never made a public recommendation. Selig most recently threw his weight behind the A's in their lease negotiations and supported the idea of them building a new stadium at the Coliseum site.

So while Selig's work has paved the way for clubs such as the A's to have a realistic chance against big-market opponents such as the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers -- both of whom Oakland edged out for the AL West crown the last two seasons -- he hasn't been able to grant them what they really want: the opportunity to turn from revenue-sharing receivers to payers with a move to a modern facility in a wealthier market.

That, like the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and players' widespread use of performance-enhancing substances under his watch, will be part of Selig's legacy.

"This is always something I wanted to get resolved before I leave office, which is another 5½ or six months," Selig said.

"If it were easy, just like if it were easy in Tampa, then I would have been 24 out of 24 (in new ballparks). I have hopes in both places.

"But do I wish it had been solved? Of course I do, and I understand people's frustrations."

Selig was peppered with queries about the A's stadium situation during his gathering with the media.

With team co-owner and longtime friend Lew Wolff sitting beside him, the outgoing commissioner reiterated his belief that the A's need a new ballpark. He has referred to the Coliseum -- notorious for its sewage overflows -- as "a pit."

But he was short on solutions.

Told that some of the A's fans blame him for the current situation, Selig said, "I didn't create the stadium, nor did I create the controversy.

"I'm the one sitting in the middle of it. ... I'd like to resolve the issue like we did everywhere else, but this is unique in that you have two teams that have very dissimilar opinions."

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August 20, 2014


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