CultureMonday 04.25.22

What If George W. Bush Had Been MLB Commissioner?

Before he became a two-term president or even ran for Texas governor, George W. Bush was part-owner and General Managing Partner of MLB’s Texas Rangers, in a deal inked this week in 1989.

We now know that the world of baseball almost kept the younger Bush away from following his father’s path to the highest office. In a memoir published in 2019, former MLB commissioner Bud Selig writes that “[h]ad things been different, he could have been the ninth commissioner, not me.” Yes, George W. Bush wasn’t so far from leading Major League Baseball, as opposed to the world’s most powerful country.

In this counterfactual history, the implications for baseball are rich. Bud Selig, after all, presided over the first canceled World Series since 1904, due to a strike. But the much bigger question is what he would not have done for the nation and the world. Would Al Gore, or perhaps Republican primaries runner-up John McCain, have won the presidency instead? How would either of them have reacted to the earth-shaking events of 9/11? It’s hard to believe they would have launched their own baseless invasion of Iraq, which killed many thousands of civilians and led to a power vacuum that ISIS would later exploit.

Of course, it’s also hard to believe that Bush didn’t have his sights set on politics the whole time. When you’re a president’s eldest son, with all the opportunities and expectations that that comes with, there’s only one thing you can really do to beat your old man. Bush himself told Time Magazine in 1989 that he feared voters in Texas could think to themselves: “‘What’s the boy ever done? He could be riding on Daddy’s name.’”

Will and LZ talk about an alternate universe in which George W. Bush stuck to sports, with repercussions on the World Series and performance-enhancing drugs — and of course, on the course of the world at the outset of the 21st century.

The Long Game