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July 11, 2006

Allan H. "Bud" Selig


MODERATOR: Mike in Massachusetts writes, why don't you use the DH at every All-Star Game? This will create an extra spot in each league's starting lineup for a player who deserves it.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you know, we've talked about the use of the DH, but with the expanded rosters to 32, rarely will a pitcher hit. There will be somebody hitting for the pitcher, and since we have 12 pitchers now, the most I think a pitcher -- I think it will be very valuable because people will be hitting in that spot.
MODERATOR: Written by Gordon in Phoenix, Arizona. Is there any chance of reducing the number of interleague games? I'm a White Sox fan and believe it should be, because this would create more games against AL rivals like the Red Sox or Yankees.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I'm the father of interleague play, so interleague play this year drew over 18 percent and more than the regular games. It has set up some of the most intriguing rivalries. That leaves another 144 games for people to play during the season. That's a long journey. And with all due respect, there's enough games within the league. I think that 16 to 18 games has provided so much excitement.
For instance, the Red Sox this year were in Atlanta. Red Sox were in Philly. The Yankees went to Washington and it was a tremendous series. It gives people in other cities a chance to see these teams. That was the objective.
You know, the first two people that talked about it way back when in the '40s were Frank Beck and Hank Greenberg. They wanted it done then and it took a long time. Interleague play has proven to be so successful. And by the way, the Red Sox and Yankees are going to play 19 times this year. They do play enough.
MODERATOR: Ron from Illinois is next this afternoon. This is what Ron has to say: Can you comment on George Mitchell's investigations? Is there a timetable for him to report back to you? When is it likely to be completed? Thank you.
That's from Ron in Illinois.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: I really can't comment. One of the conditions, quite frankly, was that Senator Mitchell will have complete autonomy, can do whatever he wants, can investigate, do whatever he wants. There is no timetable, and as close as he and I are, I absolutely stayed away from it. So they are conducting their investigation, so I can't give you a timetable and I don't believe he could give you a timetable, either.
MODERATOR: Max writes in and says, does Major League baseball plan on keeping the Florida Marlins where they are; is there still a possibility of building a new stadium for them in Miami.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: The answer is we're working very hard in South Florida to get a stadium built for the Marlins. It's a great market. It's a market we should be in. They do need a new ballpark. There's no question about it. They can survive, but I like that market and, you know, it took us 12 and a half years in Minnesota, so I hope we can do it a lot quicker there. I want to stay in South Florida.
MODERATOR: Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig is here. Next from Patrick in Boston. What is the status of reaching a new collective bargaining agreement? The current CBA expires at the end of the year. Do you anticipate any major problems with getting a new deal with the union.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, the Collective Bargaining Agreement is up at the end of this year. Negotiations have already begun. We've had multiple sessions.
All I can tell you is that the relationship between the parties has never been better. I feel very good about where we are. The sport today is more popular than it's ever been. We're going to set another attendance record this year. And I hope -- I think the big difference today, I just told the writers, is that we have labor peace and people don't have to read about owners and players and money and all they can do is hear about the game on the field. And I want to keep it that way.
So I feel good about where we are, and while we have tough issues to negotiate, I hope that we can make a deal.
MODERATOR: So far, you haven't been stumped on any of these questions.
MODERATOR: So far. You're in good shape. Bud Selig is with us.
All right. Deal rights, how far are we from instituting some sort of instant replay, something like football, two appeals a game, and/or, an electronic strike zone?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I'm not a fan of instant replay. In fact, we've spent a lot of time talking about it, but I would tell you that I think instant replay sometimes causes more problems than it solves. The human element in umpiring has always been part of our game and I'm very comfortable with that. I think the umpires have done, for the most part, a very, very good job.
We need to do more of having umpires talk to each other, for instance, on a ball hit down the foul line. Other umpires can help each other out, and they have lately.
But you get into instant replay and you start getting into appeals, and the games will not only take much longer, but I think they will not help the umpires as much as people think.
So I really at this point am opposed to instant replay.
MODERATOR: Let's go back to the e-mails submitted by the fans via MLB.com. Ryan in Santa Barbara writes: Don't you agree that something needs to be done to fix the assignment of All-Stars? I know it's inevitable that deserving players already left off but someone like Travis Hafner in being left off during the All-Star Break is wrong.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Every year, there's some controversy. Shows you how much people care. I'm glad Francisco Liriano is here because that would have been unjust. I think overall the fans have done a terrific job of selecting the players, and they have done a very, very good job and I'm sorry about Travis Hafner because he should have made it. Right now we're up to 32 players per club and every year you're going to have one or two people. I think overall the teams are representative and what they should be.
MODERATOR: Chris writing via MLB.com: How are Major League Baseball and the owners and everyone in the game going to deal with the long-term damage of the steroid problem?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I've talked a lot about that today in other places. Let me just suggest to you, we have the toughest steroid policy now in American sports. Make no mistake about it. We've banned amphetamines. We are looking for a solution to the HGH problem and any other problems that may come out. This major league program is six years old, so it isn't that we just came to this, and I don't think that anybody can say we've ignored it.
As far as or our crisis, well, we're going to set another all-time attendance record this year. We set one last year, and I think it's because our fans understand that we're serious about this, we're dealing with it, and we're dealing with it as effectively as anybody could deal with it under the circumstances.
MODERATOR: Let's grab another e-mail and change the subject for just a moment. Dick writes us via MLB.com: Will any consideration be expanding the Division Series to a seven-game series.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we've talked a lot about that. I've liked the five-game series. It's a little more dramatic. It isn't dramatic when you've played 162 games and you get eliminated in five games. But the thing I always worry about, our playoffs last a long time. If you take them and the first round goes to seven, we're going to play into November and I'm not going to let us play into November because I don't want to be snowed out somewhere and people saying, my goodness, how long did the season last.
So unless people want to talk about shortening the season, which I know they don't, I don't see expanding the first round.
MODERATOR: If you are just joining us this is the Commissioner's Town Hall Chat on MLB.com. We are live vie at worldwide web and we will get back to the e-mails that were submitted by you the fans. This one sent from Roberto in San Francisco: Could a compromise be reached with the union eliminating the designated hitter in the American League in exchange for adding one player to the 25-man roster.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: I don't think so. The American League clubs really like the designated hitter. The National League clubs do not like the designated hitter rule. I've been on both sides of it. I like it. I also like the National League.
I have said to people that I thought it would take some cataclysmic event, some really dramatic event. And what would that be? Maybe more geographical realignment if the time comes.
But I think at this point, a little controversy is good. The National League clubs really dislike it. The American League clubs like it. I think we're going to leave it right there.
MODERATOR: An interesting subject written by Jeremy who writes in: What should the United States and Major League Baseball do in order to be prepared for the next World Baseball Classic?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I think Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves made a very good suggestion. I think at the next Classic in 2009, the clubs ought to report early, United States players, like on February 1st, work out for a couple of weeks, then go to their spring training sites, work out some more. Maybe we delay the Classic a week, a little over a week, have it later in March. Then I think the United States players will be ready to play. I think this year they were not quite as prepared as the other countries were.
MODERATOR: Let's continue with David who writes in: Why not change World Series home-field advantage to the overall winner of interleague play.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you know, you can come up with different ideas on that. But I like what this has done for the All-Star Game. This is the midsummer classic. This is a big, big game for us. This is a game that means a lot. It had lost it's luster. Players didn't seem to care. Players, you know, showed up or didn't, and if they did, they left.
Now what you have, you have real intensity, because the league understands that their league will have a one-game advantage in the World Series. Playing in interleague play, nobody is going to know that. It's a very hard thing to do and say, well, now this game means a lot because if so and so wins and so on and so forth.
I like the All-Star and I like it providing incentive and I think it's the best way to do it.
MODERATOR: Andy in Las Vegas writes: Why don't you raise the pitcher's mound in the ballparks back to the height of the 1960s? Foul territory has been reduced, the fences have been moved in and the baseball is lively. This might resurrect the dismal starting pitching in the Major Leagues. Few teams have four competent starters.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you know, they raised the mound or lowered the mound back in the '60s because pitching was so dominant. Bob Gibson, for instance, had an earned run average in 1968 or 1969 of 1.02.
The ballparks are a little smaller. Foul territories in some parks are a little smaller. That doesn't mean that pitchers cannot be successful. You have a lot of pitchers who have pitched very, very well. The ball is not more lively. You know, people blame the ball early in this season and we did a scientific study. We took the ball to our laboratory up in the University of Massachusetts and they studied ball. Turned out the ball was the same.
Remember, we have 30 teams today. Back in the late '60s, there were only 16 and then they went to 18 and then they went to 20. So pitching has been diluted. People often forget that.
Now, you can blame a lot of things, but if a pitcher can pitch, he can pitch in these circumstances.
MODERATOR: We continue with William who writes us: If the All-Star Game now counts for home field in the World Series, why can players decline invitations? What can you do about this problem and would fines help?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I have said, I think as much as I can say about a player not playing. I don't understand that. The greatest honor that comes to a player is a player who gets voted on to a team by his peers and the fans. He should be honored to be here. There shouldn't even be a doubt about it.
I can't imagine a greater honor for a player than to be selected to play in the All-Star Game being the best at his position. So with all due respect, we only had one player this year that didn't want to do that. It's unfortunate. You know, the one thing we must learn to do in this sport is respect the relationships for our fans who voted by the millions, and I think everybody else is very happy to be here.
At the moment, there isn't anything I can do, but the fact of the matter in the future, I expect every player to come play in the All-Star Game.
MODERATOR: We continue before we get to the comments from the fans here at FanFest, our next e-mail is Steve who writes: If it is definitely proven that a player was using banned performance-enhancing drugs during the time he put up record-breaking numbers, will the records be allowed to stand.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, the answer is I'll decide all that once we have all the information. I don't know who is going to determine that, what people are doing.
I want to say to everybody here today, you know, this sport is a microcosm of society. In the '80s, there was a cocaine problem. In the '50s, '60s, '70s, there was a so-called greenie problem in all sports.
So you can go back on records and try to make excuses and try to determine, well, if they did this or did that, when we're done investigating the past, I'll make a judgment on that score. But I would remind people that this is important that we remember that every generation and every decade has had it's problems.
MODERATOR: Our next e-mail from across the pond, Nigel from Brighton, England submits: My joy at London winning the 2012 Olympics was spoiled when they promptly cut baseball from the Olympic events. Any plans to bring an MLB promotional tour or exhibition games to Europe.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: The answer is yes. I really want to play some games in Europe. I was disappointed, too, with the Olympics, but I think the World Baseball Classic will supersede all that and I really look forward to it.
Yes, I do want to open the season in Europe and play some games in Europe.
MODERATOR: Scott writes from St. Mary's Pennsylvania: Have you and/or MLB owners considered balancing the two leagues to 15 teams each which would result in a balanced schedule for all the teams?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we've thought about it. But I have to tell you that a 15-team league just doesn't work. A very awkward schedule forces us to play interleague play all year. I don't like that. I love the way we play interleague play right now. We're going to leave it at 16 and 14. That creates some problems, no question about that. But overall we have a great schedule right now. And it must be pretty good because we're going to draw over 75 million people this year.
MODERATOR: Sean in Michigan writes: There have been some surprises in the first half that are surprisingly interesting story lines like the Tigers, Roger Clemens' comeback, etc. What is your favorite first-half story of the season?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: The Detroit Tigers. Think about this, three short years ago, they lost 119 games. This is a great story. Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski and Mike Ilitch. This is a great story and here they are on July 11th, first place in the American League Central over the White Sox, World Champion White Sox, a wonderful, wonderful story.

Q. I have a comment about the World Baseball Classic and I'm sure you hear this a lot: The World Baseball Classic, it should be in November, no rain and no snow and also players would not be risking injury.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: With all due respect to the Yankee fan, he's wrong. March is the best time of the year for it. Think about this: If you played it in November, you've got 22 teams that are done on September 30th. So they have got the other eight teams whose players are exhausted, so they have been to bat over 600 times. They're just beat. Every player I talked to has said to me, you can't think of playing in November, and they would be right.
They can adjust in March as I said earlier and I think that's the time to play it.
MODERATOR: Tim in Hinesberg, Vermont writes, I've been coaching little league here in Vermont for over eight years. At the end of each game, both teams lineup, win or lose, shake hands and acknowledge each other. Why is MLB the only major American sport that does not do this either formally, like in the NHL, or informally like in the NBA or NFL.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: I'm not opposed to it at all though most baseball people are because a lot of old baseball people think there's too much fraternization now between the two clubs, drives umpires crazy, people talk standing around, talking, shaking hands before games.
That's something we'll talk about in the future but I must tell you that there are a lot of ballplayers over the years who would not shake hands with somebody on the opposition if their life depended on it.
MODERATOR: Before we go into the crowd, have you noticed the tenor of the e-mails, have you noticed the last few seasons how the tenor of the overall subject matter albeit important issues continue to be on a more positive spin?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: No question about it. Look, the fact is today this sport is more popular than it's ever been, and you can see it just walking around here, this is quite unbelievable.

Q. Regarding the World Baseball Classic, anything in the works about simplifying the complicated tie-breaking system in pool play?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yeah, we need to make some adjustments in that process. I would agree that's a very good question. I think that we've got two and a half years now to do that, and I think we ought to do it because we were in some pretty tense situations.

Q. I was going to ask the commissioner about making it mandatory coming to the All-Star Game if you're not don the DL.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we're going to review that this winter. I happen to think it should be. I said earlier, I believe that a player who is healthy has an obligation to play. But more important than the obligation, should be thrill to be here and to play.

Q. There was an article in USA Today that said if you build a ballpark, the All-Star Game will come. There are teams like the Mets who have not had an All-Star Game since the '60s. What's your opinion on that?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, they are. The competition for All-Star games is unbelievable, and there are a lot of cities that want All-Star games, and we now have 30 cities. So it's tough to keep everybody happy. But we're working on All-Star games for the next four or five years, and we're going to go to places we haven't been for a long time.

Q. Would you consider having the Futures game, say, on a Monday, Home Run Derby on a Tuesday and the All-Star Game on a Wednesday, this way the fans have more exposure? The Futures game is being played during actual games on Sunday and nobody is watching it.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: The interesting part of that when you look at the roster on the Futures game, it's amazing the kind of big league players they are producing.
That's tough because we start the season on Thursday, and it's tough to get players to come in and stay and then have to rush back to get ready for the season. But we will try to maybe have a little more exposure for the Futures game because it is really -- it's been a great showcase for young talent.

Q. Are Mexico and Puerto Rico on the radar screen for new Major League teams?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, the internationalization of this sport is going to be huge in the coming years. We've been in San Juan a lot as you know with the Expos. I think that some day there will be a Major League team in Mexico. I don't know when it will be but we will have internationalization of this sport.

Q. I would like to know, in today's economic climate with baseball, should there not be a basement cap of, say, 60 million, that a team has to spend to be competitive.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, in the last labor negotiation, we proposed a floor and the Players Association was not interested in that. We'll probably propose it again.
But I think the clubs today, I just spent a lot of time talking to writers. You know, there's a lot of mythology that the clubs -- the revenue sharing is huge today, regardless of what anybody says, it's huge, but the clubs are spending the money on players and player development. Some maybe spend it better and more wisely than others, but they are getting the money.
We have proposed a floor and we will propose a floor again.
MODERATOR: The Commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig. One final question, who asks harder questions, the media or the fans?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's a tie. They are pretty tough.
You know what's interesting, the questions raised today, I just spoke at a luncheon with about 300 newspaper people from all over the North American continent and they are pretty similar. In fact, Barry Bloom from Major League Baseball.com follows me around. You know, if I didn't know better, Barry, I would think you were a stalker.
MODERATOR: Well, if you want an exit, we'll formulate one. Thanks a lot for joining us.
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