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October 10, 2011

Allan H. "Bud" Selig


Q. I see where Jim Crane met with you one-on-one last week.

Q. What came out of that?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I thought the meeting was constructive. And other than that I don't have anything to say about it. It was the first time he and I really spent any time together, and I thought the meeting was constructive. But nothing more than that.

Q. There has been considerable commentary to the effect that with some of the more prominent teams out of the tournament now that there will be a drop in ratings. I wonder if you prefer to see it as the flip side, this is, in fact, indicative of the competitive balance when the top nine payroll teams are involved?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: There's been a lot of conversation, as you know, you and I have had a lot of conversation on that score. And way back when, when I started in this, in 1992 -- it seems like 1892 some days -- but the objective was to provide hope and faith. Those are, as you know, my two favorite terms.
And as the Blue Ribbon Committee found out when they went to work, Senator Mitchell, George Will and Paul Volcker, Rick Levin, the president of Yale, playoff teams then in that period, had won like 5 percent of the games. It was negligible.
So I really regard my job, and our job, to provide as much hope and faith in as many places as possible. I believe the sport is healthier as a result; we know the sport is as healthy as it's ever been.
I don't spend a lot of time, whether it's healthy to have this club out or that club out. But Detroit and Texas and Milwaukee and St. Louis is, I think, a manifestation of that. And they earned it. I mean, St. Louis came from absolutely nowhere and an incredible run, marvelous run.
Detroit had a terrific year, unfortunately, they had a couple of injuries here lately, which is sad.
Texas, of course, had a good year.
I'm satisfied. I really am. I think that having different clubs win is not bad at all. And I'm proud of that.
But, you know, and I really mean this, what's better for ratings is something we just can't worry about. I think I looked at the last two weeks, it's been just miraculous. Produced great ratings, by the way, I might add. But that last Wednesday night of the season, only baseball -- and I've said this before -- could produce something like that.
I listened today, the game here last Friday, people were saying it was the greatest sporting event they had ever seen. Here, I'm talking about. Now, whether that's true or not, but it was tense, it was dramatic.
Has our system worked overall? The answer to your question is yes, and it's worked well.

Q. Is this matchup generating any memories of 1982?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Not that I'm a poor loser, Rick. It's 29 years later and if we had Fingers we win. That's all I can tell you.
But it does, yeah, it's sort of amazing in a way. It was really a terrific World Series in every way. We didn't have Fingers, so I've been -- I've told Robin Yount that a hundred times. He and I have watched all the last four or five games together.
But it does bring back a lot of memories. St. Louis and Milwaukee are two cities that have a lot of the same characteristics and both remarkable baseball towns.
We won the first game of that series 10 to nothing. I thought to myself, I was a little younger in those days, I thought, boy, we're good. This will be okay. But Whitey [Herzog] did a great job. Although to Whitey's credit, I have to tell you, when I saw him in Cooperstown last year after he got in, he said, you're right, if you had Fingers it might have been different. I struck the "might have been," but anyway.
Yeah, it brings back a lot of memories, no question about it.

Q. What can you tell us about the labor negotiations and is there a chance it could be wrapped up by the end of the World Series?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I couldn't give you a timetable, because that's always dangerous. But they've been quiet, thoughtful and constructive. I hope we'll continue on that path.
Far different from the labor negotiations of the '80s, '70s, '90s, stories every day. They were painful. And I remember saying that a lot that this isn't helpful and it isn't healthy. You need to do your work and hopefully you can do it quietly. I think they have. And I give a lot of credit to both parties, Michael Weiner and the Players' Association and Rob Manfred in our group. We have Jerry Reinsdorf and Arte Moreno are part of the negotiating committee.
It's been good. It's really been very good. Very constructive. But we shall see what we shall see.

Q. Have you been able to step aside from the Commissioner duties for a moment and kind of enjoy what the Brewers have done this season in Milwaukee?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, I tell everybody I'm neutral. I don't get a lot of people who go along with that. But I really have been. But I guess I will -- what it's produced, and I am a little surprised myself, it's produced in me a lot of thinking about history.
I was just a kid, 29 years old when I started, which is sort of amazing to me, trying to get a team back after the Braves left. There are people here who remember well. You have no idea how difficult it was.
We had sued baseball, the State and the County had, but obviously the Brewers, and the Brewers were just a team in name.
And then we went for a National League expansion, American League expansion, National League expansion, got turned down by both. I brought the White Sox here back in '68 and '69. And played an exhibition game between the White Sox and the Twins in '67. White Sox were going to lose. We thought we had the White Sox bought. Then came Seattle and Bowie [Kuhn] wanted to keep a team in Seattle. I don't blame him, I would have made the same decision.
That was it. If the Seattle deal, which didn't look like it was going to go until about March 15th of that year, didn't go, we were done. And I knew that it was impossible to keep this group together and people were getting discouraged. It was really a struggle. But mercifully we got it, night of March 31st, 10:15 at night, judge in the bankruptcy court.
I've said to myself none of this would have happened, and you sort of wonder, everybody's life would have been so different, and so many things have changed. And of course, those of you who were here, the battle for Miller Park was legendary. 5:00 in the morning we got a vote that, we won by one vote, and there were other things that happened after that.
So the lesson I've learned here is about patience and tenacity. And then you've got to have some luck. And I'll say this, not because he walked in, but when Wendy [Selig-Prieb] chose an owner, she chose absolutely the right person to own this club in Milwaukee. Nobody knows Milwaukee like I do. And Mark [Attanasio] has done well.
So there have been a lot of things that have happened. And you think back, when I walk into Miller Park, and I think of the nights. And I say there are people here who will remember, you wouldn't have given us a plug nickel. And we kept fighting back and fighting back.
People here have been great. They've been wonderful. They understand, and it's been an amazing history in a way.
But we came really close when the Braves left, in never seeing Major League Baseball again. I'm grateful for that.

Q. Just sort of picking up on that, you've been to some of these games the last couple of weeks. Your impressions of the atmosphere here. I know the people that told you Miller Park didn't need a roof, you can't really find those people anymore.
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: They've disappeared into the night, haven't they?
It's been spectacular. But it has been in a lot of places. I have to say that. We're coming off a great year. Fifth best year in our history. Better than '09, better than '10. All of our other signs are good.
I'm really grateful, I must say to you. Because when this recession started, I was concerned, everybody was concerned. And so I was just looking at all the numbers today and they're really good.
But there were people in the '60s that would tell me Milwaukee can't support Major League Baseball. What are you doing again? My father used to tell me, I saw so and so, that kid of yours must be nuts. He was serious. There were a lot of Milwaukeeans saying that. Forget what they were saying outside.
I used to go to meetings. Speaking of St. Louis, the All-Star Game, I believe in '67, Rick, am I right about that? Was it '66 or '67?

Q. '66.
We were trying to get a team. Litigation had started. And I was there with a couple of people from Milwaukee. It was like we had leprosy. Nobody wanted to talk to us. Nobody wanted to see us. Nobody wanted anything to do with us.
So it's really been, in a great sense, a remarkable story in so many ways.
But we did need a roof, obviously. Mark would not disagree with that. And it's great. People come from all over, all over the middle west, every game will be played. But the feeling in the ballpark was, it's been remarkable.
But when the series shifts to St. Louis, it will be the same thing there. And when the Texas series switches to Detroit, I know how excited they are there. Not so excited when Cruz hit a home run to tie the game, I guess, in the 7th inning. But it's really been a terrific year for us. And it's been a great year for the Brewers.
You know, I often equate, and I told Henry Aaron this today, when he hit a home run here September 23rd, I believe it was, 1957 to win the pennant, as you've often heard me say, that really made an impression upon me, for a lot of reasons; some baseball-wise, some sociological-wise. And I think the Ryan Braun homer here and other things will, for this generation, serve the same. That's one great thing about baseball, it produces certain things that you never forget.

Q. Going back top the idea of the labor negotiations, the idea that there hasn't been a lot of public discussion. Is that an indication there aren't going to be huge changes?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: No, I don't think it's an indication of anything, other than both sides are very constructive and have work to do and understand that trying this in the media is not a good thing.
That was the problem in the '90s. Every day you spent the first half of the day either mad at some reporter for something he wrote or who leaked it to who, did you leak it, no. We're past all that now. It's not reflective of that at all.

Q. What's your reaction to those that talk about expansion of more wild card teams?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Since I'm the guy, I guess, I don't want to be too critical of me. (Laughter.) Yeah, come on, what the hell?
Well, let me start by saying I always enjoy -- you know, I'm a history buff, and you learn history teaches you so much if you look back. When I went to the wild card system in Boston in September of '93 -- and I always give John Harrington a great deal of credit for that, John Harrington and Dave Montgomery were my two faithful guys. They were really smart and understood schedules.
You remember I got killed. I was getting killed for a lot of things. It was brutal. He's ruining the sport, what's he doing, and so on and so forth. And we kept expanding and expanding and expanding, and somebody had to make an adjustment. You couldn't have 30 teams and just keep it at six.
It's worked out, I think everybody would admit, better than anybody could have dreamed. You look back. That's why you don't make decisions based on one year. I know I've heard some people say, look, it's perfect, look what we had this year.
And it is correct. But you don't do it on the basis of one year, you do it on the basis of overall.
I've said to everybody I think 10 out of 30 is fair. I think it will produce the number. I will tell you on my 14-man committee -- Tony La Russa is here today, so he could speak to it -- the vote is 14 to nothing, it's been all the way along. We spent hours talking about it.
So I understand that one particular year it would have hurt And other years it won't hurt. It will be very helpful.
But you have to remember that baseball still has the fewest number of teams and we think statistically studying it as much as we have, and we spend endless hours doing that, that this will be helpful. But we have work to do on it yet. Nothing is cast in stone. And No. 1, it's part of our labor negotiations. So we'll just see how it all plays out.

Q. I was actually going to ask you that exact question. But I did have a labor question. Do you have to get this labor deal done before the off-season begins? Would that cause difficulty if it were not done?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I don't think so, I don't think we're at that point. We'd like to get it done as soon as possible. But I found in labor negotiations -- of which I've been involved in more of them than I care to remember. Although the last, actually two, have been wonderful.
But I always say to Rob, and I've said this to Michael, too, we can't set an arbitrary time limit. Just keep working, make progress, continue to make progress, and I think things will work out well.
You know, in talking about all the reasons for the popularity of the sport, and most of you have been around a long time. One thing we miscalculated on, and I tell Don Fehr this all the time, is the damage the labor, all those things, 1972, '75, '76, '80, '81, '85, '90 -- I can still remember them -- '90, and then finally '94, and the sport, I've often said, was stuck in neutral for 25 years. And that's one of the reasons. It was brutal. It was really brutal. Every two or three years we went back to this.
Marvin [Miller] versus Bowie. You've heard me all say this, but it was like you're too young to remember, Zale versus Graziano. But that's all they did, banging away at each other. The fans got tired of all that, got tired of hearing about it. And I don't blame them.
So 16 years of labor peace has really, really helped us. And that's why we've had the greatest growth in sports history, for that reason. There are a lot of other things we did, but if you can do it in an atmosphere that's constructive.

Q. Someone who watches a lot of games on television and deals with the umpires, what do you think of your broadcast partners using technology to interpret the strike zone on each pitch?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, it's part of the world we live in. They do that in all sports now and different things. I really am not critical of that. If I were them, I guess I'd do the same thing.

Q. How do the umpires feel? Have they mentioned it?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Not to me. I see them a lot. I went in yesterday and had a long talk with them.
I keep asking people how accurate those zones are and I get different answers from different baseball people.
But, a lot of competition out there, a lot of things. So I can't blame them for doing that, I really can't.

Q. I just want to ask you about the Mets. Do you have any concerns about their situation now that the Einhorn deal fell through? Is there anything that you can tell us about the status?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: No, I don't have any concerns. I've talked to Fred [Wilpon] a lot about it and they seem to be making good progress at what they're trying to do. And he feels comfortable with it and I really don't at this point. They've made no demands or anything. They seem to be moving along in the right path.

Q. Do you expect that loan to be paid back soon?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: The loan will be paid back, no question about that.

Q. How soon?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I don't know that. We haven't discussed that, I don't know that. But it will be paid back.

Q. With the idea of expanded postseason, could you do that without realignment?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I'm sorry, I didn't hear.

Q. Adding the extra wild card, could you do that without realignment? And also, could we still have an expanded postseason next year?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, I think you could, but we have a lot of things under discussion, very complex and there's a whole series of different things. I hope we can tie a lot of things together. Because it makes sense that way.
Change comes -- always somewhat difficult -- they always say baseball is a social institution. So it's sort of very difficult to change. How well I found out in the '90s.
Once you've made the change people are very comfortable. It's really interesting. But there are some things that -- there's great support for, but we've got a lot of detail to work out yet, a lot of detail. And they are complicated.

Q. Could you possibly have that as early as next year or is that too quick?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I don't know yet. I think that might be a little optimistic, but I don't know yet.

Q. You went around in court last week with the Dodgers. How important was that victory? There's a hearing at the end of the month.
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Only time will tell. We've done very well in court so far. And it's been a very difficult situation, to say the least. But so far we've done quite well.

Q. Will you testify in court at the end of the month?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: If the judge tells me to be in Wilmington, Delaware, then that's where I'll be, you bet.

Q. You talk about the complex things with realignment. How open would you guys be about 163-game schedule that would provide a truly balanced schedule?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: You want to go up a game?

Q. Go up a game. And every team it would be a completely balanced schedule?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Here's my schedule, genius, right now, and now you're going to make her job even more difficult. By the way, nobody does a better job.
KATY FEENEY: Who's going to get the extra home game? 163, somebody is going to be playing 81, someone is going to be playing 82 home.
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: That's what generally happens when people have ideas about schedules.

Q. Second part of the question is how about standardizing the designated hitter?
Let's get back to schedule. There are a lot of people that would like to play fewer games. I'm not talking about fewer. I'm a traditionalist, I love 154. In fact, years ago, I'm saying 20 years ago, now 25 years ago, I used to think I'll get this and I called a lot of people and I said what about 154? We can figure this out, cold weather, and there were no roofs on stadiums at that time, other than in Toronto. And I thought I really had a lot of support.
We had a Major League meeting a week or two later and I got up and proposed it. I was waiting for a second. Guess what? It died for lack of a second.
The scheduling, as Katy knows, is very difficult. And trying to keep everybody happy is even more difficult.
But let's see what we do on all the other things. I'm not suggesting to you that we'll change the number of games, because a lot of clubs don't want to. Others, surprisingly, there's some interest in it.
When I say we have detail to work out, we have a lot of detail to work out. And we may never change. We may just be at 162. I don't know.
And on the designated-hitter, I'm sorry, well, I've often said it would take a catalytic event, and I don't say that sarcastically. I'm the only one left in the American League now, shows you how old I am, who in December of 1972 at the Plaza Hotel voted for Charlie Finley for the designated-hitter.
The only thing I want to add, so I put history in its perspective, the only thing of Finley's I ever voted for. I voted "no" on 882 other things. It killed me to vote for it. Actually, Dick O'Connell, of the Boston Red Sox, convinced me to do it because we needed more offense.
John Fetzer, who was my mentor, as most of you know, also said, I don't like it. First of all, because of Finley, but that's a whole other story. But we need more offense. We did, and it's worked out.
Bill Giles of the Phillies, who's been in the sport a long time, always says to me, and he's not a controversial guy, but all he says to me, and he said it again a month or so ago, I like a little controversy between the leagues.
So we've done this 39 years. And I'll say it again, it would take some overall big event that maybe would force people to make a decision. But right now the National League guys don't like it. The American League does like it. And that doesn't bother me at all.
Somehow on a great night of irony, that one League has one rule -- and remarkably the fate of western civilization hasn't been changed.

Q. How do you reconcile the expanded playoffs, which you like, with November baseball, which you've come out and said you're absolutely against?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Oh, I reconcile it by starting on October 19th and finishing on the 27th.

Q. That's this year, but if you expand the playoffs, in all likelihood --
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: We can work our way around -- I have faith that somehow we can work our way around it. It depends on how we start the season and how we do things.
Look, I want to repeat again, we have less teams than any other sport in the playoffs. We're not overdoing this. After all -- and I remember the discussion for months leading up to Boston in 1993. I used to say to John Harrington and Dave Montgomery all the time, we have 16 teams. We have the same playoff system now when we had 16, then we had 28, then we went to 30. Well, the system becomes an anachronism. You can't keep doing the same thing as you keep adding teams on.
No. 1, that doesn't promote competition. So you get a wild card club that's won 90, 95 games. And I must say, the arguments that everybody has used, both internally, for the most part externally, are good.
I do think overall, over a long period of time, that adding two extra teams will be a plus. Just as I was sure in 1993 that it would be a plus to the sport. Didn't know how it would work out, but I would now tell you, and I don't think anybody in this room would disagree, it's worked out better than any of us could have imagined.

Q. Is playing into November a worthwhile tradeoff?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I don't know that we're going to play into November. That certainly is not a given.

Q. Does the discussions over collective bargaining in Wisconsin influence how you approach the players, that divisive atmosphere here, has that affected your discussions with the players about a contract?

Q. Why not?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, we have a long history, we have a lot that goes on between the two parties, we have a long history. And we have our own history and our own parts of this sport that guide us. We don't need to let other events influence us in any way, shape, form or manner.
Thank you everybody.

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