Bud Selig Town Hall chat transcript
Commissioner fields questions from fans prior to All-Star Game
THE MODERATOR: The Commissioner every year during the All-Star Game addresses questions from you, the fans and you've had a chance to e-mail questions on MLB.com throughout the week. We had an outpouring of questions about a variety of topics, so first, Bud, welcome to the show.
BUD SELIG: Nice to be with you. Glad to be here. This is our sixth year, I guess, very good.
THE MODERATOR: And I wanted to ask you, how much of the All-Star week do you get to take a chance to have a good time? Do you get to enjoy the festivities or is this a big business trip for you.
BUD SELIG: I don't know if "enjoy" is the right word. It's been very hectic. This morning I've already been out since 10 o'clock at the Willie Mays, Dedicated Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club at Hunter's Point which was a wonderful, wonderful experience. Then I met the media for about an hour and just did another show and now I'm here.
I guess I'll start to relax a little bit tonight once we start playing the ballgame. That's my greatest area of relaxation now, just watching baseball games. I'm looking forward to tonight. The thing that worries me, I looked at the lineups today of both leagues. I'd hate to be the pitcher -- a great pitcher is starting but I'd hate to be a pitcher facing that lineup.
THE MODERATOR: Before we get to the e-mails, the idea of bringing the game to San Francisco, and the only reason why I say that, we had gone through such a long time of having AL city followed by NL city and last year we did this very show in Pittsburgh.
BUD SELIG: I tell what you we did, I'm going to alternate it in the future because I think it's fair. I love the "This Time It Counts" and I'm sure we'll get into it at some point. But it's only fair to both leagues. Pittsburgh needed to have the game last year and San Francisco wanted it this year and next year it's Yankee Stadium New York and then after that it's St. Louis and then we'll alternate American and National.
Q. Commissioner, I've heard you talk about today being the golden age of baseball; can you explain what you mean by that?
BUD SELIG: I have. The golden age or golden era of baseball, as of Sunday baseball had drawn at the Major League level, 41,600,000 people. That's four to five percent ahead of last year which was the record year. The Minor Leagues are going to set an all time attendance record.
Back to the Major Leagues for a minute, we will draw well in excess of 76 million people. We are at numbers nobody ever dreamed possible. The television ratings are terrific for all of the local clubs, FOX's ratings are up, ESPN's ratings are up. There's no question by any criteria used, this sport is more popular today than it's ever been. And when you in October see what we drew for the season, people will be stunned.
Q. From Josh in Illinois, he writes: Commissioner, some people have suggested making the World Series a best of nine series. How seriously are you considering this, and do you think it would happen?
BUD SELIG: Well, they have. I know Scott Boras has made that suggestion. Right now, we have a long post season, and there are some people that would like to take the first round 3 to 5 and make it 5 to 7 but we are going to end up on November 1st and I'm satisfied quite frankly that seven games the system is working.
I just got done saying, the sport's never been more popular. People love the Wild Card. I remember all of the abuse I took about the Wild Card 13 years ago and now everybody loves it, of course.
So the question being now, do you want to increase anything, and the answer is no. Seven game World Series is great, and I read the other day, and it made me feel good, Derek Jeter said, "Seven games is long enough. That's a great series." I agree with Derek. That's right.
Q. So players can give you advice?
BUD SELIG: I do. I really listen to a lot of people before I make meaningful decisions, including fans, because often teams, they have the best grasp or best feel for the situation.
Q. John writes: Commissioner, why not use the designated hitter in every All-Star Game; there really any reason to have a pitcher bat or have to use a pinch hitter every time?
BUD SELIG: That's something we've talked a lot about and I think we'll review that. I think John is right here. I think that the use of the DH probably will get some more people in the game, and so I think that that's the objective here, each club desperately trying to win now because it gives them a home field advantage in the World Series. There's something to be said for that and we'll take a look at that.
Q. From Slovenia: Mr. Selig, for the good of the game, baseball needs a salary cap; when do you think we'll see one; in my lifetime? I'm 60 years old.
BUD SELIG: Well, we won't see one in my commissionership, I'll say that, but I'm happy with our economic system.
I think people sometimes feel that a cap does more than it really does. Look, what did we try to prove back in the '90s? You want to increase parity, you wanted to give a lot of teams a chance to win; Detroit has come back; Cleveland has come back; Milwaukee has come back; Minnesota is still playing well. We have more competitive balance or parity than ever before. Why? Because of our economic system. Because we do have revenue sharing, we do have a luxury tax, we do have all of these things that work now.
So I'm very happy with our economic system. I think it's working beautifully.
Q. From William: Each year it seems the post season goes later and later, bringing foul weather into the equation for the most important games of the year. Are you at all concerned about this trend, and if so, what can be done about it?
BUD SELIG: Well, I'm always concerned about it, and I've often said that I would never want to see us play in November, and if the series goes seven games, that we're going to play on November 1st.
But look, we had the rounds of playoffs. We're doing everything we can. The season ends September 30th. I think October will be a spectacular month. And you know, oftentimes, I just told the writers, too; I'm sort of an amateur meteorologist, the weather often in late October is good, if not better than it is in early to mid October. So I'm not overly concerned about that. It depends on who gets in the World Series. But we could have teams frankly playing in warm weather sites where there is no issues.
THE MODERATOR: Did that e-mail come after the snow out?
BUD SELIG: No question, no weather can be worse baseball weather than in April this year, it was brutal.
Q. Chris writes: Is there any chance in the future to see two expansion teams to even out the teams?
BUD SELIG: No. We've had enough expansion. We had expansion in '93. We had expansion in '98, and I think baseball has expanded now. At least as long as I'm commissioner, I think any further expansion I think would hurt the sport, as a matter of fact, considerably.
Q. Jeff in Wisconsin writes: Commissioner, I would like to ask you to explain why you think giving the team from the All-Star Game winning league is still a good idea? The team that works hard all year to earn the best record in baseball should not in my opinion be potentially penalized because their league's All-Stars lost one game.
BUD SELIG: It's a great rule, and I'll tell you why. We can't wait until September 30th or October 1st to determine where the World Series is going to be played. You have thousands of hotel rooms to book and a lot of other things and right now we take a chance. But at least you know it's going to be in a league and our people can work on that.
The fact of the matter and I've told people that don't understand the reason we went to this rule is because in 1993 when Cito Gaston who was the Toronto manager, in Baltimore didn't put Mussina on, and he got booed, badly. It was ugly.
Then the managers started using everybody. They felt they had to get everybody in the game. The game lost it's intensity. I had players who would talk to me, I remember I called Ron Santos one day after Ron had had some surgery and we had a long talk as we normally do. But he said something that was interesting. He said, "They don't play the All-Star Game like we used to play it. I know there's Interleague Play, I know there's all of these other things. These guys are gone in the fourth inning. They don't want to play."
Now, what do you see? Players stay right to the end of the game. The intensity has been tremendous. Nobody declining you remember there was a period, nobody wanted to come and everybody had an excuse; somebody needed to get a haircut or he needed to do that; he didn't want to play.
Now they want to play, because it means something. That was the objective. The objective was to restore the intensity to the game. So when you go to the game tonight, you're going to see a game that both teams want to win.
Q. How long do you plan to continue as commissioner; will you stay on longer and do you have any specific goals for the end of your term?
BUD SELIG: There are an increasing number of people who seem to believe that, but I will be done on December 31, 2009, and will have served for 17 years, which will be a long time, so I really do intend to retire at that point. But I want to really internationalize the sport even more.
In this country we're doing great, new ballparks, both New York teams, Kansas City Minnesota are going to redo their ballpark. It's going to be spectacular. We're doing extremely well and I have some huge attendance number goals.
But now the sport is so popular here, we need to bring it worldwide, and we're going to do that. So the next World Baseball Classic, we want to play some games in China, we want to play some games in Japan again next year, and this sport is growing now at a point that I think long after I'm gone, people will not recognize how really unbelievably popular it is.
Q. Dan writes: Commissioner, how is Major League Baseball going to handle the potential Barry Bonds record home run, and are you going to attend?
BUD SELIG: You know, I've said this over and over again. I haven't made a decision on that score, and won't until what I consider to be the appropriate time. The Giants will handle it anyway they want, and I certainly have no problem with that at all and I'll make a decision on that situation when I think it's appropriate.
Q. Jack writes: When do you anticipate receiving George Mitchell's final report on the steroid investigation and what is baseball doing regarding the use of human growth hormone, which I've heard is very difficult to detect?
BUD SELIG: The Mitchell investigation is ongoing. I haven't given the senator any time frame. They are interviewing thousands of people, going from club to club and talking to a lot of people.
Let me go back over the steroid thing. We have the toughest steroid testing program in American sports today. The minor league program is seven years old. So nobody can say we ignored it. We've banned amphetamines which have been around for 80 to 100 years.
I just had 15 team doctors and six trainers in my office on June 18th, and we had Dr. Catlin, who was the leading expert on all of this who is trying to develop a test for human growth hormone, as well as from our two Olympic lads. They are very proud of our program. They believe that our program is as close to gold standard as it can be. They are satisfied that we have really made progress. They live with these players. They know, they are medical experts, they know what they are doing. So I'm very confident about that.
My great frustration is on the human growth hormone, there's no question about that, and I feel frustrated, but there is no test. There is no test. No one has a test. The National Football League has joined us in the in our testing program at UCLA where with Dr. Catlin and I hope that Dr. Catlin will find a suitable test in the near future.
Q. From Sydney Australia: What are your plans for continuing the globalization of the sport and will there be games abroad in the future?
BUD SELIG: There will be. Next year we hope we can play in China. I believe we'll play in Tokyo again. But baseball is getting so popular all around the world. There's a new baseball league in Israel now. I'm very confident that even by 2009 when we get to the World Baseball Classic, you will be shocked at how popular the sport is everywhere. It is just exploding all over the world.
Q. Brenda writes: Commissioner, I was happy to see the Draft was finally televised this year. What were your impressions and will it be an annual event?
BUD SELIG: I enjoyed doing it immensely and it will be an annual event. Baseball draft, very meaningful. That's where the great stars come from and we will televise it.
Q. John says: What steps are you willing to recommend to the owners to reduce the financial disparity and spending on talent by some clubs which is promoting an imbalance of parity in this game?
BUD SELIG: Well, I think that's incorrect. We have more parity than ever before. This sport's never had that much parity. And the fact of the matter is that Detroit, which lost 119 games three or four years ago, won the pennant last year and has a wonderful team this year; Cleveland has now come back and Milwaukee is leading the National League Central. You're seeing parity all over the place here.
We're going to have 350 million of revenue sharing this year. We have a tax on payrolls. One of my frustrations is, I don't think people understand how much the economics of the sport have changed. They have changed dramatically.
Q. You've always used the phrase "competitive balance" as well as parity.
BUD SELIG: I do. I like competitive balance better because I think it really shows as a sport how much competitive balance we have between the teams. We have 30 teams, and I really think what we've done that's what we set out to do has improved that remarkably.
Q. Mike in Massachusetts writes: Commissioner, would you be in favor of adding another Wild Card team and creating a first round bye for the team with the best record? This is coming from a Red Sox fan who owes the greatest sport moment of his life to the Wild Card.
BUD SELIG: That's right. The Wild Card has worked out great. I love the Wild Card since I'm the father of the thing.
I don't know that we've talked about adding it, but you know what, the system is working so well right now, I just don't think we want to increase it at this point in time.
Q. Mr. Commissioner, what is the latest on getting baseball back into the Olympics in the year 2012?
BUD SELIG: You know, we've done very well internationally. The problem with the Olympics, not that we don't want to be in it, but we can't stop the season in the middle of the season for two or three weeks in August or we would be playing baseball end of December. It's just a practical matter that has kept us from going into the Olympics, and we certainly have great desire to be there. But imagine telling all of our fans on August 15th, we'll see you Labor Day; that would not go over very well.
THE MODERATOR: That's our final e-mail of the afternoon. I guess the final question will be I guess we'll see you in 2008 in New York City.
BUD SELIG: Next year, happy to do it.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.