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San Diego Padres Hall Of Fame Christening Falls Flat

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, far left, turns to see the unveiling of a si...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, far left, turns to see the unveiling of a sign announcing the San Diego Padres were renaming part of Petco Park in honor of the soon-to-retire commissioner, Aug. 26, 2014.

The San Diego Padres boast about being in tune with their boosters. But on naming the team's Hall of Fame after outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig, the Padres took a called third strike.

This, Bud, is for you.

The San Diego Padres' christening of the Selig Hall of Fame Plaza went down like a warm, flat beer.

Bud Selig, Major League Baseball's commissioner for 22 years, stopped by Petco Park on Tuesday. It was part of his leaguewide stadium tour, a farewell lap before turning the MLB controls over to Rob Manfred after the season.

Selig was in great spirits at the Padres' downtown digs. "It's an extraordinary gesture,'' Selig said. "I am very, very grateful.''

He signed autographs, posed for pictures and wore a smile of someone content with his legacy and eager to put his feet up.

But it's Padres fans that are up in arms.

Selig Hall of Fame Plaza?

It's located just inside the Gaslamp Gate, Petco's busiest entrance. It was formerly known as Palm Court Plaza, located on the backside of the Western Metal Supply Co. building.

Ultimately the area will feature the Padres Hall of Fame, but for now it's just an area with a hoisted banner.

And my what a stink it is raising.

On social media sites, the blowback was fierce with many questioning the Padres' motives. The Padres boast about being in tune with their boosters, but on this one they took a called third strike.

"I recognize it's controversial,'' Padres president Mike Dee said Wednesday. "We read all the tweets, the emails and took the phone calls.''

Why the uproar?

Selig's connections to the Padres aren't obvious, Dee said. 

The Padres' brass, in the unveiling ceremony, mentioned the help Selig gave the franchise in the mid-1990s when its future in San Diego was foggy.

"I hope fans understand, without Commissioner Selig I really have questions whether San Diego would be playing here today,'' Dee said.

With Petco Park just on blueprints, the Padres coming off their infamous fire sale and Washington angling for a team, keeping baseball in San Diego was a real concern.

But Selig, as well as Padres fans, kept the faith.

"A lot of people weren't here or weren't old enough or have forgotten what times were like back then,'' Dee said. "He played a crucial role by giving us time, patience, reaffirming his commitment publicly to wanting baseball to work here, to work in markets like San Diego.''

Selig also lent a hand to the current management group when it came aboard.

But Padres fans think Selig and see Jeff Moorad.

It was with Selig's blessing that Moorad was allowed to purchase the team in 2009. He did so on a layaway plan, a scenario not usually embraced by MLB.

During Moorad's stint, the Padres' payroll was low and the pain was high. The cash-strapped Padres — for the most part — struggled in the National League West, outspent and outplayed by their rivals.

Then, at baseball's 2012 winter meetings when Moorad, a former player agent, was to seize control, there was a revolt among other owners. Moorad didn't have the votes and MLB had a mess.

In a potentially sticky situation with the ownership issue possibly headed for court, Selig calmed the waters. 

Selig and Ron Fowler, who was involved with Moorad and is now the team's executive chairman, helped craft a deal that satisfied Moorad's limited partners.

Dee's point is that on two occasions Selig's assistance was significant to the franchise.

So, in part, that's why Selig was honored on Tuesday.

"We are always sensitive to the fans' point of view, but I have absolutely no regret,'' Dee said. "This was the right thing to do. This was a recognition for what this man stood for in baseball and here in San Diego.''

There's also speculation Selig was wooed to advance the team's chances of hosting an All-Star Game. Selig said Petco Park was a "prime candidate" to snag one.

Dee downplayed that notion but did say the Padres now have "a seat at the table'' when bidding for the game.

But that's in the future. The present reveals Padres fans scratching their heads, wondering just what the team was thinking.

"Hopefully they will have an open mind on why this was done,'' Dee said.  

But it's clear this Bud, wasn't for them.

Jay Paris is a San Diego County freelance sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @jparis_sports.

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