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October 28, 2011

Allan H. "Bud" Selig


COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I've got a lot to say, actually. No, I really don't, but I would like to start out by -- often times I meet with you guys, and it's always about something either controversial or -- and I say that obviously not pejoratively in any sense of the word, because that's part of this job, and I couldn't help but think last night, my friend Bart Giamatti used to always say to me, "baseball is a metaphor for life," and I would like to begin -- if you'll just give me five minutes or so, and then you can ask whatever you want, to talk about the sport.
I would not be ashamed to tell you that last night in the 11th inning after everything that went, I said to a couple of people, "I'm really proud tonight to be the Commissioner of a sport that can produce what just happened."
But it isn't only last night; since September, Labor Day really, we had an incredible month of September. Topped off by September 28th, which everybody said you can't replicate that. Well, I worried about that. You couldn't have written a script with a game in Baltimore and a game in Tampa all happening within three minutes.
And so I worried about the Postseason. For those of you in the room who know me well, and that's a lot of you, I worry about a lot of things. But I've been in this sport for well over 40 years now, 45 to be exact, and I've just never seen anything like it. We played 38 of our 41 postseason games, 19 of 20 in the Division Series, amazing; tonight we see the first seven-game World Series since '02, Giants and the Angels, and it surprises me it's only the fifth seven-game World Series in the last 22 Fall Classics. It seems like more than that.
So here you play Spring Training, 162-game season, month of postseason, it all comes down to tonight. I said to my wife on the way over, "This is the one time all year you can say there's no tomorrow."
By night's end we'll have either our 10th different champion in 11 years, which is unmatched by any other sport. I always hear about, oh, baseball doesn't have this, baseball doesn't do this, baseball's economic doesn't do this. We have parity like we've never had before. Or we're going to have a completion of a historic run by the Cardinals. I remember when the Cardinals were in Milwaukee in late August and we were 10 1/2 out, and Tony came up to see me, and I congratulated him on his great year, "We're not done." And he wasn't kidding.
So last night was the 13th one-run game of the postseason. Last night something else happened, and it's something that's important to me because I always view as, again, many of you who have covered me, the sociological value of what we do, how this binds generations together, how this does nothing else, but it takes a moment like this to understand that. Joe Buck yesterday when he said, "We'll see you tomorrow night," of course brought back his father's great call in the 1991 World Series. Think about that. There was so much emotion. We watched it again today. Joe has had to watch it a couple -- we watched it again just to hear it again.
And it's unique to our game. I guess that's where all this has often proven to me. I made notes this afternoon. The World Series has been great. David Freese, if you wrote a story like that, a guy gets traded, comes back to his hometown, he's a hero. If you sent that in the script, it would get thrown back in your face. And Mike Napoli doing as well as he's doing.
Somebody said on television, baseball has had a coming-out party since Labor Day. I don't think so. I think it's always there. I've said to all of you over and over and over, and I believe it, of course it's the greatest game in the world; I believe that. I've believed it since I was five years old.
But it's produced for this country really a remarkable chain of events. I had more calls today from people on my cell phone -- briefly, they said, "This will take ten seconds, we know you're busy." They were right, of course. But last night was -- I don't even know how to describe it, owners calling, friends of mine, some media people frankly from out East. It really made us proud.
I mean, 21 -- I know there's been a lot of conversation about ratings. Some of it, in my opinion, you'll have to permit sarcasm, which happens to me about every six minutes or so, was misinformed. Fifth-best year we've ever had, 73 1/2 million, which even a decade, 15 years ago you couldn't have even thought of. Revenues rising to all-time highs. Remember, baseball produces regional television, whether it's YES or NESN or SNY, the Cardinal Network. Tremendous.
So people can make out of anything a national television rating anything you want, but last night, FOX's biggest night in six months, beat the competition, 21 million people. Got up to 25 million viewers. Most watched World Series game without either the Yankees or Red Sox since '02, well ahead of last year. Not only the highest rated show last night, but FOX'S fifth win in six nights, and it had been incredible.
I know people want to make different things out of it, but I will say to all of you what I've said to people: We already have more people bidding on our national contract than ever before in our history.
So the people who want to talk about it, FOX sold out, more than sold out. And so I guess you guys cover me all the time, have heard me say the game has never been more popular. There isn't any doubt about that, any criteria you want to use, it's more popular than ever before. But it's impact is greater than it's ever been, and there's no question about that.
And so whether you take the Minor Leagues and throw in the 120 million, 125 million people who are watching baseball games, or all the other things that go on, this has been a proud moment for the great game of baseball.
After last night and all the other things that have happened in the last two months, it's been really special.

Q. To get back to the controversy, are you optimistic that you'll be able to reach an agreement with Frank McCourt that would allow you to sell the Dodgers?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, good for you, it only took one damn question to get to Frank McCourt. (Laughter). If my wife wasn't here... (laughter).
We're in litigation, as I've told you on a myriad of occasions. I understand the question, and we'll just keep working. That's all. There's nothing more I can say, nothing more I should say. But as all of you understand, once litigation arises -- I don't like to be restrained on any subject, especially today, but that's all I can say.

Q. How much did the long drawn-out talks between the Red Sox and the Cubs test your patience? And did you talk to those teams about getting something done with Theo?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, I don't know if testing patience is right. Obviously I talked to both parties a lot, all parties involved. And you know, I am sensitive during the playoffs and World Series that nothing should take away from it. Fortunately nothing has, despite the fact there's been a lot of conversation. I thought in the end it was okay. It really was all right. Everybody tried. It's now done. We've moved on. They have until November 1st, which I guess is Tuesday, before this comes to me, and if I had to guess today, it'll be another thing that I have to deal with on November 1st.
But no, I think, in the end -- look, I've said this before: From the Cubs' standpoint, they've done very well, and I know how much it means to Tom Ricketts and all the Cubs fans, and believe me, nobody understands the history of the Cubs any better than I do. And the Red Sox, I said back in '02, a lot of criticism from certain political figures who had no clue, of course, what they were talking about, but it didn't bother them, I guess, that Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner and John Henry were the right people to own that team, and everybody acknowledged years later it was right. They're the right people to bring the Red Sox back to -- and they will. They already have Ben Cherington. They've done what they have to do. So given the fact that other than the fact that it occurred during the postseason, but I think we worked around that pretty well. I'm quite satisfied.

Q. Following up on the Red Sox question or tangential Red Sox question, are you in favor of a ban on alcohol in clubhouses, and if not, why not?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Yeah, this has been a question that's been around for a long time, and as somebody who comes out of a background having run a team for a long time, I think those are individual decisions at a club. Look, I'm very concerned. I'm always concerned about image, I'm concerned about what people do. I believe that clubs know their own people best, and while I'm not happy about some of the things that have occurred, I think each club, and they now know it and frankly we have meetings in Milwaukee, fall meetings in November, and it's a subject I'll talk to them about. But I think each club has to make their own decision, and should, but make it sensitively and use common sense.

Q. Building on this positive World Series, how confident are you that you'll be announcing a new collective bargaining agreement by the time free agency starts next week?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, our conversations have been -- meeting today, must be having a long meeting because Rob Manfred is two hours overdue. Look, they've been quiet, they've been thoughtful, they've been constructive, both sides. And given where we used to be, given where -- you've heard me say that, Marvin and Bowie used to stand in the middle of the ring like Zale-Graziano and just bang at each other, you guys are all too young to remember that, and just bang at each other. We've come a long way, and this is what I like.
Nobody could have conceived, starting with me, that 16 years ago we'd have labor peace. You just couldn't -- you had labor in '72, '75, '76, '80, '81, '85, '90. You couldn't have conceived of it. What I think in retrospect that I really have come to understand is how badly that hurt us. So I will give Michael Wiener and Rob Manfred a lot of credit. There's a lot of work to be done yet, so I won't do that, but the talks have been constructive and very thoughtful. Very thoughtful.

Q. Two quickies: Will the free-agent period start as usual tonight? And secondly, what are the projected numbers --
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I think, you know, I can't answer that question. I think it's Saturday night, 24 hours. But that's something they'll determine.

Q. Is that an offshoot of the continued negotiations?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, it's the subject of a lot of conversation.

Q. And then secondly, you mentioned the continued growth economically of the sport. We were at $7 billion last year. Is it going to increase --
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, it'll increase this year. We don't know how much yet because there will be a lot of stuff to come in yet. It will. That's what I say, when you make the case about where we are, and you always hear these gloom and doomers about baseball is this and baseball is that, and then of course you have seven or eight weeks now and you see the other side of the coin, but we're doing fine.

Q. Where do you classify yourself, what you saw last night in this World Series in general historically? And then secondly I want to ask you about tonight's tornado relief initiative, coming off the first four games what you did.
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, you know, it's always hard to go back. I thought about that last night, all the great games that I've seen, and whether or not the first three or four innings was well played or not is irrelevant. It certainly was one of the most exciting, best games I've ever seen. Whether I'd rank it number one or not is -- you could rank that. I know how people feel. It was breathtaking. It was absolutely -- the last three innings were breathtaking. It has been a marvelous World Series capped off by Game 6, and we'll see what happens tonight. I don't mind telling you, just to get up this morning and hear people say, "It's Game 7 of the World Series" is a thrill.
I know Jacqueline Parkes sitting over there. I know we've worked with them, and sometimes it seems, well... but we are a social institution, and it isn't that we should be doing these things, we ought to be privileged, and are privileged to doing it. So we are working with them in great detail.

Q. Have the Mets paid you back yet?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Have the Mets paid me back personally? Do they owe me something? (Laughter).
No, but we're doing fine with the Mets. I don't have any concerns about the Mets, as I think I've told you before. They're working on an alternative financing plan, and they seem to be very encouraged and I'm encouraged. I do have a lot of worries today, but frankly I'm happy to say the Mets are not one of them.

Q. As you mentioned, free agency starts in about -- Saturday. There's a certain guy on the Cardinals' locker room that's going to become a pretty big free agent. I know Major League Baseball doesn't have a lot, if any, influence, but if you had your druthers, would a guy like Albert Pujols stay with the team?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, I've said this before: I think Rick and I have had this conversation. And look, Albert has to go and do what he does. I happen to believe as a traditionalist, and as somebody who believes in all these things, I hope it can be worked out. I hope Albert stays in St. Louis, I really do. But that's his judgment to make, but I hope that Albert Pujols will stay in St. Louis, I do.

Q. Going back to your meeting with Tony La Russa in Milwaukee when he came there 10 1/2 games back, how do you value judge how they've been able to get from there to here, and down 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs, they keep having elimination games and keep winning? Is there a parallel to that?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, you know, it's been amazing. When you think back, and a lot of things had to happen, Atlanta was way out ahead, and they were certainly -- when you think back to what has gone on here, it's amazing. First, right after Labor Day, they were 10 1/2 behind Milwaukee, and they made a real run at them, a real run at them. Remarkable.
Then the Brewers got hot, and so now they make a run at the wild card, with almost no margin for error, almost no margin for error, and they did that.
And now they go to Philadelphia, where I had guessed all year that the National League would be represented by the Philadelphia Phillies. Great pitching staff, marvelous starters, I mean, just -- and they win. Carpenter pitches this brilliant game.
And then they take on the Brewers, who have beaten them, and you think, well -- and here they are. And you know, the games in the World Series are -- you say it, it sounds trite, I know. But this is a club that doesn't know when they're beaten. They just keep fighting back.
I mean, last night was -- it was amazing to me. First time, second time, I mean, it went on and on and on. He's done one hell of a job here. And by the way, I want to say this about Texas: So has Ron Washington. This is a club that hasn't lost two games since I guess early in August or mid-August or something like that, and they've been just remarkable. These two clubs, both extremely well run. Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels, and I want to say that, because really, it's great. You have this great comeback by the Cardinals, but you also have a Texas club that's there and deserves to be there.

Q. Mike Scioscia and the members of your on-field committee have been urging you to tighten the postseason schedule, which you have done this year. Have you had a chance to talk to the members of your committee during this postseason? Do they feel and do you feel that there's any direct correlation between the quality of play in this postseason and the long series we've had?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: Well, I've talked to a lot of them. I don't know that they're going to -- I like this. I must say, you know how I feel about November.
By the way, aren't you all glad we didn't play Wednesday night, by the way? (Laughter).
I told you there would be a little sarcasm every so often, so here we are on October 28th.
You know, I don't know that. We'll have a meeting shortly, and that will be -- but I like the tightened schedule anyway. And I do think -- you can have an off-day here and there, but the tightening up really has been helpful, and we've avoided November and done okay. That's a question that we'll deal with.

Q. Joe Torre said the other day that he didn't anticipate any wholesale changes in instant replay but that it still would be looked at. Do you see the need for any tweaks at all?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: I read Joe's comments, who's over there to defend himself, but he doesn't have to here. I agree with him, of course. We'll do some minor things, talk about things. He said the other day, which is absolutely correct. We'll always look at things, we'll look at what we do. We've made a lot more changes than I would have guessed 18, 19 years ago when I started in a lot of things.
But you know how I feel about the pace of the game, and surprisingly they all do, too. That committee has been great, and I talked to a lot of baseball people, a lot of managers, a lot of general managers. And look, fair, foul, down the line, things like that, there's things we can do, but we'll continue to discuss that.

Q. If we take you at your word, you're winding down your tenure here. Is there a mechanism in place to find your successor? And when would that process start?
COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG: There isn't a mechanism in place, but it's something that I've thought a lot about and we'll continue to talk about it. I know it's a year from December 31st, and there are some people on both sides of the room, starting with my wife, I'm happy or sad to say, but she's somewhat skeptical. I'm trying to be kind to others in the room. So on that happy note, we'll continue to look at things. But there isn't at the present time.
If not, thank you very much, and let's hope Game 7 replicates at least closely Game 6.

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