July 13, 2004
HOUSTON, TEXAS - Town Hall Meeting
THE MODERATOR: Hi, everyone and welcome to the fourth annual chat here with the commissioner. We started this a couple of years ago in Milwaukee and we continued on through Chicago and now we are here in beautiful Houston, Texas, site of the FanFest 2004 and we welcome here on everyone on MLB.com and everyone here in the audience. We've been soliciting questions on MLB.com for the past week or so and taken the most revellent questions and the consistent questions and added them into PowerPoint so the Commissioner will make some answers to and, time permitting, we will open it to the fans out here in the audience. First, I want to introduce the Commissioner of Baseball, Allan H. Bud Selig. Commissioner, welcome.
BUD SELIG: Nice to be here. Thank you. (Applause).
THE MODERATOR: If the game tonight is anything like last night's Home Run Derby, we are in for a whale of a game, aren't we?
BUD SELIG: Last night was really wonderful. I told the media before that there are some days when you are the Commissioner, you sort of wonder why you've done this but yesterday was one of those great days when you had Hank Aaron and Willy Mays, Willie McCovey and Harmon Killibrew and Mike Schmidt and on and on and on, it was a great day, all 14 of them, and then the home run contest, great day for baseball.
THE MODERATOR: Let's get on with the questions. Let's go with the first PowerPoint question.
Q. Are you going to do anything to prevent pitchers from giving intentional walks to Barry Bonds? Fans want to see him hit; David and Marty.
BUD SELIG: Well, the answer is no, because if you start tampering with the rules of the game, they have been the same rules for 120 years, and while we've made a lot of changes in the sport, and I'm proud of all the changes we've made, that's one that you can't take strategy away from a manager or the pitcher and catcher. They believe that they want to walk him and you know that Giants fans feel much differently and I don't blame them. Frankly if Barry Bonds played for me I would feel differently, too. But you can't change rules every time something like this comes up, because you are then really changing the essence of what I believe is the greatest sport in the world.
Q. What has been decided where the Expos will be next year and beyond?
BUD SELIG: The only thing that's been decided is we have five or six very good cities bidding for the Expos. We are going to make a decision this summer. The Expos will have a new home and a new owner from the 2005 baseball season.
Q. I love Interleague play. There's just one thing I'd love to see, you should have the DH in the National League park and the National League rules in the American League park, so the fans of each league could see how the other league plays; Matt from Philadelphia.
BUD SELIG: That's a great question. Of course, I love Interleague play. It's one of the innovations that I've put in the sport and it's worked out so well, but Matt makes a very interesting point that we are going to think about this year. I think, for instance, when an American League team goes into a National League town, the National League fans ought to see their rules; and when the National League teams go in the American League rule, the American League fans ought to remember how the National League rules are played. We're thinking about that. That's a very good question.
Q. I've been a long-time fan of MLB and have seen the MLB Road Show play various exhibitions and regular season games outside of the United States and Canada, any plans to bring an exhibition or regular-season game to England; Mike from England.
BUD SELIG: There are not right now but it's one of my dreams, frankly. We opened the season in Japan; I hope we can play in Europe. We're talking about it, I don't know if as early as next year, but certainly in the next year or two, we want to play some games in Europe and hopefully in England, and so that's something that is very much under consideration. The internationalization of our sport is critical. We have a sport that's so popular around the world, that we need to take baseball, which you know we all think is the greatest game in the world, and take it all over and show people all over the world how really good it is.
Q. I just want to know how the venue for the All-Star Game is selected; Baadal from Boston.
BUD SELIG: Well, the Commissioner makes that decision. There are a lot of cities bidding for All-Star games. I've seen the owner of the Houston Astros, there Drayton McLane over there (applause). I'll tell you how Houston got the game. Houston got the game on sheer persistence. Mr. McLane called me two and three times a day demanding to know when Houston was going to get the game, so you can thank him for that. (Crowd cheering).
Q. Why not add an additional wild-card spot? I think there would be more excitement and the ability to create a wild-card round between the two wild-card winners in each league.
BUD SELIG: That's a good question, because in 1992 when we went to three divisions in the wild-card, I really knew what I wanted to do. I just told the writers that. Last year at this time, I convinced myself that we needed two more wild-card teams, but then we had this wonderful post-season, so dramatic with Boston and the Cubbies, and it just worked out so well that we studied it for next three or four months. We hired mathematicians, we hired people to look at schedules, we did everything. And the more we looked at it, quite frankly, the more we weren't sure that the addition of two teams would help us as much as we thought. So, at the moment, we are going to stick to it. We have a great format right now and we are going to stick to the format that we have.
Q. Would it be possible to put a 20- or 25-second clock on pitchers in order to speed up the game; some of them take entirely too long?
BUD SELIG: A agree, they do take too long. When it comes to the time of the game, I feel very strongly about it. The games take too long, there's no question about it, but we've cut it down, we've made a lot of progress. You'll notice when Greg Maddux pitches or Tom Glavine, those guys will pitch -- sometimes a game takes 2:10, 2:15. On the other hand, the umpires can enforce the rules around the books right now and they do for the most part. We are making progress. I don't want to do any more and change the rules of the game, but I think you'll continue to see the time of the game decrease and that will be a good thing.
Q. Greg from Oslo, Norway asked if players who have been found to use performance-enhancing drugs should have their statistics expunged from Major League Baseball records?
BUD SELIG: I feel very strongly on it. No. 1, we have worked on a much tougher steroid policy. We have agreed and I've spent a lot of time talking to team doctors, physicians, a lot of other people. There's no question that the same very stringent and tough policy we have in the Minor Leagues we ought to have at the Major League level. I think you will be pleased when you see what we have finally come up with. Having said that, I don't want to engage in hypotheticals. There have been a lot of players named who have not been charged with anything, certainly have not been convicted and I think it's been unfair to them. We need to deal with this by really doing and having a very tough drug policy that will finally clean up the steroid issue.
Q. Don from Staten Island asked a question that you would think he might ask. Would you agree that despite the huge salary cap, the huge salaries that the Yankees, have brought baseball to great heights globally?
BUD SELIG: Well, the Yankees have been good for baseball in a lot of ways, there's no question about it. They represent a great history, they represent a great tradition, they represent a lot of really wonderful things, and on the other hand it's my job as a commissioner to make sure that we have an economically level playing field so that the fans here in Houston also have a fighting chance to win. We've made a lot of progress, and the Yankees continue to do very well, and I think that's good. But there's more parity in the sport today than ever before, and that's why you see the sport having the kind of record year that it's having.
Q. Why is the U.S. Olympic team not chock full of the same players we are about to see in the Midsummer Classic? Why is the country with the best baseball talent in the world being represented by a group of Minor Leaguers? Ben from Connecticut.
BUD SELIG: Well, let me tell you first of all, that group of minor leaguers won the Olympic Gold Medal in the year 2000, so they did pretty well. Number two, the problem that we have, we're in-season; we can't stop our season for three weeks. Imagine stopping August 15th of this year to Labor Day while all of the players, our best players, were at the Olympic games; you can't do that. The season ends October 3. It's got to end on October 3, and we're going to have to find another way. We want to stay in the Olympics, we want to be in the Olympics, but we cannot stop our season. That is just not practical.
Q. Shane asks: The two-year experiment of the All-Star Game winner determining home-field advantage for their league's World Series representative concludes with this year's game. Who and when will it be decided if it's been a success and how do you proceed from here?
BUD SELIG: It's been a great success. You'll see a game played tonight with great intensity; there is no question about that. We need to continue our negotiations with the Players Association. But quite frankly, I want to extend this. I think this has been a tremendous rule change, our TV people love it, FOX loves it, our sponsors love it, the game is sold out, the fans overwhelmingly have loved it and you'll see a game played with great intensity tonight. Hopefully we can get that extended with the Players Association.
Q. Why not make the first round of the playoffs seven games, Larry from Saint Cloud, Florida asks. This is a win-win situation for fans, owners, players and sponsors.
BUD SELIG: Well, Larry, we have talked about that. That's fair. The problem that we have is that as it is now, the World Series ends almost in November and I have a thing about going into November; it gets too cold in a lot of places and we're really gambling. So we start the playoffs on October 5th. Some people like the seven-game. I frankly like the five-game. I think there's more intensity, there's more emotion, and you have only five games; somebody better win three quickly. So I'm not sure that isn't more dramatic in a certain sense. But we are thinking about the seventh game in round one.
Q. I am a Royals fan and it's very difficult for Royals fans when they have to trade away their star players because they will not be able to afford them next year. Are there any plans to beef up the revenue-sharing ideas or plans to better equalize the teams in the MLB; Tim.
BUD SELIG: Well, there's a good question, because revenue sharing has grown, from when I took over, $20 million to over $300 million. So I'm going to say to you, Tim, that the Kansas City Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers, on and on and on, revenue sharing is growing. The economic landscape of this sport has changed dramatically and your team will have a chance. I know you're having a difficult and tough year this year but believe me when I tell you, the Royals will have a great opportunity in the future.
Q. Doug from Las Vegas asks: With the wild-card more and more teams have been in the race longer. My idea is to move the trading deadline back to August 15, but no more trades through the waiver wire. Your thoughts?
BUD SELIG: I like it the way it is now. You have it through July 31, you do have waiver deals, you've always had the option to do waiver dealings. I think if a club can work a waiver deal, there's nothing wrong with that; not too many deals take place that way. But I don't really see any reason now. I think the trading rules right now are very helpful; very, very helpful to getting major trades done.
Q. Regarding the new luxury tax, do you think it's going to be effective toward warding off the high salary rosters some teams have? If not, what else can teams do to even up the teams in baseball?
BUD SELIG: I said before the economic landscape of the game is changing, it's changed dramatically, we have only one team over the luxury tax threshold, maybe two, but I think it's either two at the most, but probably only one, and we have work to do yet. But I think we've made a lot of progress. Revenue sharing continues to grow, the tax continues to grow, so I think you're going to find, Andy, that in the next few years of that labor agreement, things will continue to work towards the goals that you've suggested.
THE MODERATOR: Well, that's all of our questions Mr. Selig. We have time for some questions, let's open it up to the fans.
Q. What are your feelings on contracting the Minnesota Twins after they have been so successful, and are there any teams in danger of being contracted?
BUD SELIG: There are not. There are no -- well, let me suggest, I just talked to the media about the same thing. The idea of contraction came from the owners, all 30 of them. I know as the Commissioner, I took a pretty good flogging, particularly up in Minnesota, but the fact of the matter is, that the thing that set off contraction was revenue sharing, the very subject a lot of people have talked about, because if you're a big market club sending money to a team, you have the right to ask what are their revenues, how much are we sending them in revenue sharing, and what are they doing about it? Minneapolis is a wonderful market, Major League market in every way. They need a new ballpark. The Twins say they need a new ballpark, the Vikings say they need a new ballpark; they have just got to address that problem. It's a marvelous market and the Twins have done a great job. But the Twins themselves are the leading advocate for a new ballpark there, and I hope they are going to be successful.
Q. I wanted to ask, Commissioner Selig, hopefully we won't have a recurrence of what happened to the game where we had the extra innings, but what would happen tonight if after nine innings the game were to be tied, if you could just elaborate as to what might happen?
BUD SELIG: There again was a great misunderstanding. Both managers came to me in the 11th inning and said they were out of pitchers. Joe Torre said he had no other pitchers, the Philadelphia pitcher, Padilla was actually hurting and was unable to continue, the home plate umpire said he was unable to continue. We've added to the rosters, everybody understands that this game does count, and we have been headed for that for about ten years. Since '93 when Cito Gaston didn't put Mike Mussina in and he got booed a lot; the managers wanted to get everybody in the game. The objective is to win be, not get everybody in the game. It's an honor to be on the team; everybody won't be in the game. I'm not concerned about that. I think we've solved that problem.
Q. Mr. Commissioner, would you say that your silence on the Pete Rose issue since the beginning of the season in effect says that the door is closed on this situation?
BUD SELIG: The only answer I can give you since I'm the judge in this case and the sole judge, so I'm very sensitive about talking about this case in any way shape form or manner, I said back in January there was no timetable. I think any other comment from me because I am the judge would be inappropriate and unfair to all parties.
Q. Thank you.
BUD SELIG: Thank you.
Q. I'm Dave from Boston. My question is, Mr. Commissioner: What do you think are the two or three biggest changes we'll see in the game of baseball over the next five or ten years?
BUD SELIG: Well, we've had so many changes, and that's fair. The continued internationalization of the game. This game is so popular worldwide, that it's incumbent upon us, quite frankly, to continue to make sure that we're doing that and very aggressive in how we are doing that. The rest of it is just to continue to tweak all of the economics, the things that we've done, to make sure that teams have a great shape -- and the question from Kansas City is a poignant one, we have to make sure that people everywhere, whether it's here in Houston or Detroit or anywhere else believe that they have a fair chance to win.
Q. I'm Jeff, I'm from Houston. Mr. Commissioner, I was just wondering on a personal note, how do you handle all of the criticisms and the stress of being the commissioner in baseball?
BUD SELIG: Well, it's a very fair question. The last six months or nine months, I'm almost afraid to say they have been great. People have been kind, they write very nice things. You know, you go through different periods. You learn to handle it. I've been in baseball all of my adult life, so I think I understand the sport and everything that goes on around it. I knew in the '90s with all of the changes there was going to be a lot of criticism. Criticism in a sport where they don't change much has been difficult. But if you know in your heart you're doing the right thing, you just continue to do that, and fortunately for me, and I'm very, very grateful, the changes have worked out very well, and that's why it's pretty quiet right now and people have been nice. But I don't mind telling you, there have been some very painful periods of my life.
Q. I'm John from Lincoln, Nebraska. Do you think there might be a possibility at any particular time in the future that the American League might actually go back to having pitchers actually batting again?
BUD SELIG: Well, I was there, I've been around long enough. It was the only Charlie Finley idea I ever liked. I voted for it in December of 1972. American League clubs like the designated hitter. I guess the only thing I would say to you is that if we ever get to overall geographical realignment, that would be the one thing because the National League teams will never vote for the designated hitter. That's the one thing that I would get the American League to consider.
Q. Jim from Houston. Do you think there's any chance that you will expand the wild-card from two teams to four?
BUD SELIG: I covered that earlier. Let me say, I thought a year ago that we would, but we've decided after a lot of study for three or four months to stay with what we've got and not go to four clubs.
Q. Pat from Monterrey, Mexico. You said earlier that internationalization was critical for the sport, and our city wants to be the next home of the Expos. The city has a stadium, has the people, we have AAA-level baseball, we have the Caribbean series, summer baseball; what's taking you so long to make a decision for the new home of the Expos?
BUD SELIG: I know Monterrey has made a very impassioned plea for a new ballpark and it's a very good city. We have five or six cities making great presentations, but they have all needed additional time, they all have work to do, including Monterrey. But we will make a decision this summer and hopefully it will be the right one and I'm sure it will be.
Q. Have you taken into account the internationalization issue?
BUD SELIG: We will.
Q. Michael from Peoria. Since you have become commissioner, what are you most proud of?
BUD SELIG: Well, I guess all of the changes. The thing I guess I'm most proud of is the new economic system, revenue sharing and tax, debt service rule. But I love Interleague play and I love the three division, the wild-card, so I guess it's sort of all of the changes I've made, I'm very proud of the way they have worked out.
Q. Charles Conolly. I'm an ex-Yankees batboy. As far as good for baseball, do you think the payroll being so high and acquiring so many free agents, and possibly Randy Johnson, is good for baseball?
BUD SELIG: I think the Yankees are good for baseball. It's my job to create interest in 30 franchises. Are the Yankees playing by the rules? You bet they are, and I have a great amount of admiration for George Steinbrenner and what they have tried to do. But you have to understand that I have to, in a great sense, level the economic playing field. What they are doing is fine. It's up to us to change the rules to counter any problem we have. But have the Yankees been good for baseball over the last 50 or 60 years and now? Yes.
Q. I'm Mike from here in Houston. Mr. Selig, I'm sure you've heard this before, and I know that it kind of slows the game down if used the wrong way, but just the other evening we saw a game where all three of the umpires missed a call, the home run was foul by we don't know how many feet, and they continued showing the replay. But what do you think the chances of bringing instant replay into the game maybe in a crucial part where the game could be overturned because of the instant replay?
BUD SELIG: You know, those situations do happen. Listen, I've watched games for 60 years, but for the most part, the umpires do a brilliant job. They miss very, very few calls. And I must tell you, I don't get any pressure for instant replay from anybody, any side. I would say there's little hope of that happening, and that's good.
Q. I'm Dan from California. One question I have is do you see the Expos out of Montreal within the next year or two?
BUD SELIG: Well, now, I've covered that already, but I'll say it one more time. The Expos will have a new home this sum summer, new site, new ownership.
Q. I'm from Italy. Do you plan to have regular season games in Europe like you do in Japan?
BUD SELIG: We do, and as I said earlier, we are going to do that. I'm very hopeful that in the next year or two we will play some games in Europe, absolutely.
Q. Aaron from Colorado. First off I've been a National League fan all my life and I always will be. My question; when are the American League pitchers going to put a bat in their hand and become, you know -- earn their money like the National League pitchers do?
BUD SELIG: When the American League decides to change the designated hitter rule, and as I said earlier, the American League right now likes the designated hitter rule, and only I think some massive geographical realignment will change that.
Q. My name is Brian and I live in Victoria. My question is: I subscribe to the Major League Baseball Extra Innings Package, and while Victoria is only two hours from Houston, so I understand why the Astros are blacked out, but the Rangers are blacked out, also. Just curious who determines where that is the case because I live like 300 miles from Arlington.
BUD SELIG: We'll have to look into that. That's a fair question, check with our broadcasting and we'll look into that.
Q. Welcome to my hometown of Houston, glad to have you here?
BUD SELIG: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
Q. When is the national pastime going to return to the national capital of Washington, D.C.?
BUD SELIG: Well, you've got a fan over here who applauded, so that's all right. I was there the night they left the nation's capital. I want to tell you that the clubs didn't want to leave, but unfortunately, there was no owner to take over, and that's a very long story. We really wanted to stop Bob Short from leaving but we had no local buyer; therefore, we had to let him leave. Washington and northern Virginia and other sites are potential sites for a team and we'll decide this summer.
Q. Hello, Commissioner. Commissioner Landis, he was basically given carte blanche to do whatever he saw fit for the betterment of the game and the owners gave him that power; do you have that ability and the power to do whatever you see fit at any time?
BUD SELIG: Actually, in January of 2000, the owners gave me in terms of all the economic changes and things, unlimited authority to solve the problems, much more than Kenesaw Mountain Landis ever had. They will expire whenever I'm done, so my successor is going to have to figure that out, but yes, I certainly have the authority to do things that I have to do.
THE MODERATOR: One last question, yesterday you talked about this being a renaissance with the 500 Home Run Club. I think the audience would like to know what you have to say about that.
BUD SELIG: Well, it's a great way to close. We are going to set an all-time attendance record this year. We are going to draw 73 to 75 million people. Television ratings are at an all-time high, local television ratings are an all-time high, radio ratings, any criteria you use, the game, this sport is having an unbelievable year. It's never been this popular before. I'm just grateful the renaissance is really in full bloom, and you'll see attendance numbers the rest of the way -- too many night or Thursday night we'll go over 39 million. Friday or Saturday, we'll go over 40 million for the year, which is stunning in the middle of July, and so I'm very, very grateful for the kind of year we're having. You are today living in the golden era of baseball, and it's just been a tremendous, tremendous season.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Commissioner you answered over 40, 45 questions here. We thank you very much for that. I'm sure the fans appreciate it, too. We'll see you next year in Detroit.
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