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Commissioner Bud Selig Town Hall chat

Commissioner Bud Selig Town Hall chat

Q. Welcome to MLB.com and FanFest in Phoenix, Arizona. It's 2011 and another midsummer tradition continues. It's time for the Commissioner's Town Hall Chat streamed live throughout the world. Everyone please help me welcome Commissioner Bud Selig. Commissioner, Phoenix, the first All Star Game in Phoenix, and it's clear the city I has opened its heart and welcomed baseball with open arms.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: It's been wonderful. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Phoenix, because it's my second home and I'm here a lot in the winter and spring. So when we flew in here last night, for us, it's like coming home. So very happy.

Q. It's been a beautiful welcome here in downtown, unbelievable and as we continue this tradition what started 11 years ago as answering some Internet questions from your offices has evolved into a worldwide distribution of a live event, as FanFest has evolved. That's been quite an evolution.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yes, it has and MLB's evolution has been remarkable, to say the least, and just a joy to watch. And I love doing this. I love talking to fans.


For those of you who remember when I was president of the Brewers and walked around, I would walk County Stadium during every game, and it was fun, frankly. And it's helped me as the Commissioner because I was a fan myself for a long time, still am great fan. But I think I understand how fans feel, and so a lot of the innovations are as a result of this.

So I enjoy doing this. There are a lot of people here, different uniforms. We even have some Brewer fans here I see in various quarters, we have Nationals and Diamondbacks, of course, naturally, who are having by the way a remarkable year, having an absolutely remarkable year.

Q. And it's exciting for Chase Field, they have had the World Baseball Classic and the World Series and now we'll round it out on Tuesday night with the All Star Game.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yeah, it will be a great Home Run Derby tonight, with a different format this year. We have Big Papi, David Ortiz, who is the captain of the American League and we have some Red Sox fans. We have Red Sox fans everywhere, I know that, there's no question about it.

And Prince Fielder of the Brewers is the captain for the National League, and so they have really assembled two really wonderful teams. So I'm really excited about tonight. Tonight should be tremendous and the game itself will be great, and so great to be here in Phoenix, Arizona.

Q. This first question is from Matt, when are we going to see some All Star skills contests, throwing competitions, accuracy, speed contests, just like the NHL does. That would be great.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yeah, and it would be interesting. Of course, we do have some skills now, you'll see the skills of guys hitting balls tonight, maybe out of Maricopa County, but whatever. This is something you want to be a little bit careful. You take your players in the middle of the season, and if you get into throwing contests, speed contests you don't want anybody getting hurt.

And so we have talked a lot about that and it's a good idea, but I have some significant trepidation about that.

Q. And that is the delicate balance in an exhibition.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: It certainly is. Because we have great parity. We have lots of great division races going on, in every division, matter of fact. So you don't want to have our great Midsummer Classic allow players get hurt because of some things we do, so we have to be very careful.

Q. Since All Star is an event voted on by fans, can the break be changed so starting pitchers can pitch? It seems a shame to vote someone in and they can't play for a reason other than injury, this year, perhaps two of the finest starters in baseball won't get a chance to play.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we talked a lot about that, and actually Joe Torre and I talked about it last night at dinner again. We are going to try to figure something else out.

But look, if a pitcher pitches on Sunday, while Tuesday could be his normal throwing day, the most he could pitch is an inning. Again, you don't want to do something with a pitcher that, heaven forbid, he hurts his shoulder or his elbow, so you really have to be careful. You really want to do this.

And so, no, I understand, C.C. Sabathia is having another wonderful year and Justin Verlander, who has overpowered the opponents this year. But if you pitch on a Sunday, and I've talked to a lot of managers about this, it's very tough to put him on a team and know he can pitch maybe an evening at the most.

Q. It would certainly put the managers in a spot.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's true.

Q. As a fan of the traditional National League style game, I think it is the thinking and strategic aspects of our game that separates us from the brutish, overly fast paced sports around the world. Are there any plans to remove or expand the DH?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: None at the moment. I was there in December of 1972 when the American League voted the DH in. The only idea of Charlie Finley's by the way that I ever voted for. I voted against about 11,000 of them, all of which were bad. But we needed more offense at the time. The Brewers were in the American League, and so I got to watch the DH, and of course I've watched a lot of National League games and I really love that part of it, too.

I think the best way it was said to me was when Bill Giles, who is the chairman of the Philadelphia Phillies, not a controversial guy at all; father had been president of the National League and been in baseball all his life. He says, you know, not bad, a little controversy between the leagues on this issue. What I would say to you, it would take some catalytic event, some huge realignment or something like that, to deal with this issue.

But at the moment, the National League clubs love the game the way it's being played. American League clubs love the DH. We are trying to make the necessary adjustments in between. It's hard to believe, but we have been doing this for 39 years now. So I think at the moment, no.

Q. And it's amazing that some things that were just ideas at one point are now traditions.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: You bet. That's true.

Q. Is Major League Baseball going to expand instant replay for calls other than home runs, like calls along the foul lines?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: You know, I have a special committee that has four managers well, three managers now, and Joe Torre, who of course works for me running the on the field baseball operations; Jimmy Leyland of Detroit, Mike Scioscia of the Angels and Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals, three great managers, plus four general managers, four executives and Frank Robinson and George Will. We have discussed a lot of things and I must tell you, in baseball, I find not a great appetite for increasing instant replay.

However, there are some things that we are talking about, and we may make a few more significant adjustments to the instant replay rule, but we are discussing that. They have a lot of on field experience and a lot of executive experience.

Q. What would it take to have the ballparks extend the protective netting to surround the dugouts? Could we have extended netting in place for the 2012 season?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's an age old argument, and discussion. When I ran a club, and you know, every time you see a line drive get hit in the stands, you get very nervous.

Fortunately, the accidents are extremely rare, thank goodness. You do worry about it. The problem with putting netting up all over is that you really obstruct the view of people, and I used to make take surveys of our season ticket customers and I know other clubs do, too, as to whether they would like it or not. That was always overwhelmingly against.

So while you worry, and we have had this horrible heartbreaking tragedy in Texas this week, which is almost beyond human comprehension, quite frankly, I would say no, not at the present time.

Q. Not now, and probably not in 2012 for sure.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: No, definitely not in 2012.

Q. With the NFL and NBA both currently in lockouts, is MLB paying close attention to each labor situation? What can be done so MLB does not it find itself in that same position?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, let me say to you that we were there back in the 90s. And my baseball career, which started in 1970, we had eight work stoppages, and one became more painful than the other, really painful, really, really painful.

So I'm very sensitive; I think of the many things I'm proud of about my Commissioner ship, is that we have had 16 years of labor peace, unprecedented in baseball history, that nobody ever thought this was possible, including me.

So I'm very sensitive to what's going on in the other sports. And we have started our negotiation, and they have been constructive, but it's early, and I hope that continues, because the game has grown so much over the past 18 years. There are many reasons for it, and one can debate the reasons, but labor peace has to be right up there as No. 1 or two.

Q. It seems it creates a collaborative passion for the sport.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Sure, no question about it. And look, fans hate work stoppages, hate team owners arguing with baseball players, and I understand all that. I do. So, so far, so good, and I hope we'll have many more years of labor peace without any interruption.

Q. This next question is from Samuel. What is going to be done about the Los Angeles Dodgers' situation?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, at least we waited until the fifth or sixth question before we got to the Dodgers, so that's good. That should be a moral victory.

You know I have installed Tom Schieffer there, who is a former Texas ranger executive, and former ambassador to Australia, former ambassador to Japan, he's a marvelous person. And John Allen, who was president of the Cincinnati Reds has been there with him. And as everybody knows, Mr. McCourt has filed for bankruptcy, and we are in bankruptcy court in a tough situation with him, and time will tell.

Q. You talked about labor, and this situation; is this the most complex situation you've faced as a Commissioner?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you all look at what's going on: This is complex; Texas was complex. I've had a lot of others, the whole labor situation changing the economic structure of the game was really complex.

So every time I want to question that, when it gets in these difficult situations that keep you up at night, a lot of people will say to me, sometimes kidding, well, that's why you're there, Bud. So I've sort of come to accept that as a way of life.

Q. It becomes the job.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: It is.

Q. This was via Facebook.com/MLB from Tim. Realistically, how far away are we from divisional realignment?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I know that there have been some stories about it lately, which I found to be somewhat not only premature, but I've always had realignment on my mind. I had it in my mind in '96 and '97. Gave the Kansas City Royals six weeks to switch to the National League. David Glass, a very fine owner, decided not to, and so the Milwaukee Brewers switched because the Braves had been there, and were originally a National League time. But I've always had it on my mind, but I've talked to people about it from time to time.

But you asked me, is there anything imminent? No.

Q. What is the latest on the possible relocation to San Jose for the A's franchise?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, the latest is, I have a small committee who has really assessed that whole situation, Oakland, San Francisco, and it is complex. You talk about complex situations; they have done a terrific job. I know there are some people who think it's taken too long and I understand that. I'm willing to accept that. But you make decisions like this; I've always said, you'd better be careful. Better to get it done right than to get it done fast. But we'll make a decision that's based on logic and reason at the proper time.

Q. And this is an issue that's been almost a tradition now to look into, and you guys have carried that on year after year.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: We have.

Q. The cope of the game has obviously expanded and that leads us into our next question, worldwide. Vincenzo from Italy: Will a worldwide MLB draft be implemented next season?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: I hope so. It's part of our labor negotiation. I believe in an international draft. I believe in slotting for free agents.

You know, you use a series of mechanisms to really level the playing field in terms of talent. And we did that starting in the 90s with a lot of different things, and carried on. And where this is important, I've always said we talked about fans before.

In baseball, I used to make this speech when I ran the Brewers, but today I believe it's the most important part of my job and our job: That hope and faith, everywhere, whether it's Phoenix, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, on and on, every club, or as many clubs as possible on April 1 have what I call hope and faith; hope and faith that their team will be competitive.

And so what I would say to you, is that all of these things have worked. We have more competitive balance, or parity, call it whatever you want that ever, ever before. So I believe when we talk about this that I think that it's very important that we provide all of the clubs a level playing field so they have a chance to have hope and faith.

And so I believe in the worldwide draft. I believe in slotting, and, yes, that's part of our labor negotiation.

Q. That's exciting because talking about hope and faith, it would give to players around the world certainly a fair amount of. That?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: You bet.

Q. We of move on to Michael from Springfield. MLB has encouraged fans to suggest players they would like to see participate in the Home Run Derby through online voting. Do you foresee taking this one step further and allowing fans to actually select the participants?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: As I said earlier, we went to a different device this year that we chose David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, who certainly has been a great part of this game, for a long, long time, and a great player, I may add; and Prince Fielder, who is having a great year, and who has had a number of great years.

So nobody can quarrel with Prince Fielder or David Ortiz, and we let them pick their guys, and I think they did a terrific job. I have to say, I think this is the best field we've ever had. And they are different players from different teams. Tonight I think you're going to see some real fireworks, and I know, Big Papi will want to beat Prince's team and Prince will feel the same way about David Ortiz. So this should be terrific. And I couldn't think of two better people to do that.

Q. It was exciting in that sense of school yard baseball.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: You bet.

Q. Let's move on to Bryce from Evergreen. I'm a Colorado Rockies season ticket holder, and I would like to see some of the elite players in the game play when they come to Coors Field. Why can't the DH be used in NL parks and the pitcher hit in AL Parks during Interleague Play.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's a good question and we have talked about that. I want to say, that really is a good question. That is something that we ought to consider, because the National League fans could see the DL and the American League fans will see the game they remember before 1972. I like that suggestion.

Q. So something you would take under advisement?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: You bet, and then some.

Q. Zack from Bakersfield, California has our next question. MLB plays a long season to determine the best teams. The true test of depth and preventing a club from getting hot for two weeks and securing a post season berth. So why would you advocate adding a one or three game playoff series that could throw all of that away for a team in the blink of an eye?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we started you know, I remember when I went to the Wild Card. Oh, people were so upset: Oh, this is terrible; oh, my goodness, gracious, this is all; baseball can't do it. Of course, every other sport had been doing it.

Now, of course, everybody loves the Wild Card, and it's produced some great moments in history. The Angels winning in 2002. The Red Sox coming back from 3 0 to the New York Yankees.

So the Wild Card's worked out great, but we only have eight of 30 teams. That's least number in all sports. If we go to ten, that's ten out of 30, 20 go home. That's not too many; on the contrary, I could make a case for ten; no more than ten, but I could make a case for ten.

Now the question; how many games do you play to determine that. We haven't decided that yet. But I do like ten out of 30. I think that's imminently fair.

Q. And it's still the lowest percentage of any major sport.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: By far.

Q. From Troy: What is MLB doing to improve the quality of its umpiring?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we grade umpires. We view them on electronic analysis of every ball and strike decision. I know Joe Torre is now spending a lot of time, and actually last night when we were having dinner, a couple of umpires walked in. Fortunately both of them have had very good years so, it was an easy meeting.

But we work at it, every day, every game, and I will sit the best nights I have, I can sit and watch all 15 games when I'm home. So I see a lot of things, too.

But we are very mindful of it and I will continue to be mindful of it.

Q. Are you surprised by how much scrutiny that seems to get in general?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Nothing surprises me anymore. But, well, you know, with instant replay and with all of the video and all of the things going on, they are under a lot of pressure, I have to say. There's no question about that.

But no, I'm not surprised, and overall, they have done a remarkable job. But remember, the first hundred pitches of an umpire gets 100% and then he blows a call on (pitch) 101. The worst part was when I ran the Brewers, I was terrible when it came to umpires. So here I am defending them now every day. But overall, they do a very, very good job. There's no question, we pay attention to every game.

Q. During your tenure, you were able to assist in updating nearly all of the stadiums of the previous generation. I put the lifespan of those parks at about 30 years. Is there an expected lifespan that MLB uses to plan for the distant future of these current ballparks?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: I'm very proud of the fact that we have 22 new ballparks, which is amazing. It's absolutely amazing, changed the game, and the ballparks themselves are so good, because they really reflect the area that they are built in, which wasn't true in the 60s, 70s and 80s, to build these round, circular ballparks that I used to kid people a lot; that if the night before, you may have had too much to drink, you woke up the next morning looking at the ballpark, you couldn't tell where you could have been. You could have been in Pittsburgh, you could have been in Cincinnati, St. Louis. They all looked alike and were built alike, Philadelphia. There were about eight of them.

Now, every ballpark is different. We are lucky, because our ballparks reflect the game. Just take Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. This is history. This is they are called cathedrals and they are, and they reflect the area beautifully. The new ballparks do, too, so I'm very proud of that. We'll continue to build ballparks where we have to. Florida is going to start next year with a beautiful new ballpark, and so we have worked our way through this generation pretty well.

Q. And it is amazing, the character in each club now is represented by the building in which they play; beautiful.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Absolutely.

Q. Chuck from Glenville, New York has our next question. I think the World Series home field advantage should be determined by the results of the yearly interleague play. Have you ever considered or discussed this option?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yeah, we have, and I like what we are doing, frankly. And I know that there's some controversy, but I don't understand that.

No. 1, if you took it just on interleague play, I mean, it's exciting the one time where they meet one another really in a meaningful game, this is it. Look, the game, the way we did it for many years, was one year you got it and the next year you got it. And, there was no brainpower there. It was just one year the American League got it and one year the National League got it.

This has added life to the game. Give you the example. In 2002 in Milwaukee, and people think that that's why I did it, and it wasn't. That was the year there was a tie. Players are leaving in the third or fourth inning. There seems to be, what I remembered as a kid growing up, showing you my age here, in 1950, I was in Comiskey Park, the great Ted Williams, left fielder of the Boston Red Sox, maybe the greatest hitter of all time went against the wall in Comiskey Park and broke his elbow. He played all 14 innings, and it was amazing.

So we had to do something that brought the game back. It is the Midsummer Classic. But what do we do? We added this rule.

The next year in Chicago, game tied, home run in the eighth inning, you look at both dugouts, and there they are, every player there, every player on the top step.

I'll never forget in the ninth inning, Rafael Furcal hit a long fly ball that looked like a home run and thought, oh, no, don't tell me, we are going to have another tie. But it was caught at the wall. You could tell players were excited.

And since then, the games have been very competitive. I like that. I like the rule, and as far as I'm concerned, as long as I'm around, the rule stays.

Q. Well, this will be our final one from MLB.com. Kevin W. from Oxford. Is there a possibility of seeing a salary cap in this new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: No. But we have done a lot of economic things that I really have moved the game forward. It's been really helpful. The fact that you're seeing the competitive balance today that you're seeing, think about this.

Pittsburgh has made an amazing comeback. The Cleveland Indians have made a remarkable comeback. Every division has races. We have at least 20 clubs who are still very much in it, and maybe more. We have some teams like Minnesota who are now I think only six games out this morning. So the economic system has changed. It's completely restructured, and you know what it's working.

So we use different mechanisms and devices to provide and do the things that we have to get where we are.

Q. Certainly nobody can argue that it's been a thrilling era in baseball.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: No question. No question about it.

Q. With the recent Buster Posey collision and related injury, there was a lot of discussion within the media regarding the need to protect the catchers, is there anything on Major League Baseball's agenda to do that?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: When that happened, the terrible injury to Buster Posey, I've worried about that and I've seen a lot of collisions since then. But I immediately called Joe Torre, who, after all, caught, when I first knew Joe back in 1960 when he was a catcher with the Milwaukee Braves, and then for a long time. And I know and he said to me, there's no reason to change it, and he went through a long list of reasons why.

Mike Scioscia who was a great catcher for the Dodgers for years said the same thing. Johnny Bench came out and said the same thing. No, I really don't think there's any reason to change the rule. I think everybody's got to be a little bit more mindful, but I'll take the advice from people who have caught for years and they don't think there's any reason to change.

Q. I called my dad this morning, he's 89 years old, I bought him a ticket but he couldn't come today. He had a question. When did you get involved with baseball? When was the time that you really knew that you wanted to get involved?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's I'll tell you as briefly as I can. It was my mother who got me interested in baseball when I was about four years old. My father would go to games just to be, so, that we could be together, but it was my mother who really created a great interest in baseball.

And when I was in college, I really thought I was going to be a history professor. I was coming back to the University of Wisconsin and went in the service and got out. And then the Braves left Milwaukee years later, and took a lot of history four years trying to get a club, and then in 1970 we finally got a team and the history is well known.

So I do go back to Madison, the University, because I'm teaching a class there, and I think back, I never could have envisioned this. But it did happen. But that's how it all happened. It was a long story, which I could add to that, but in the end, I'm going to give my mother credit for creating the interest, because she did.

Q. So we have your mother to thank then I'd say, glad about that.

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about speeding up the tempo of the ballgames. My suggestion to you is to think about enforcing three rules that are already in the rule book. There's a rule in there that allows the umpire to add a strike if the batter takes too long, to add a ball if the pitcher takes too long and to call a balk if the pitcher takes too long to pitch. Is there any real problem with enforcing those rules?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: No, I don't think so. I agree. We talk about that all the time. We may need some other rule changes, but you are right. A lot of hitters will tell me and when I say this, I've said it publically, so I'll say it again.

Hitters get out of the box, ball one. And now they are out and they are adjusting all their equipment, well, hell, they didn't swing, so there's nothing really to adjust, but they do it anyway. And pitchers will kick dirt and walk around and do all those kind of things that they do. But I must tell you that, yeah, we are going tone force the rules and then some. But that's a very good question and your solution a correct one.

Q. Thanks for that one. Before we go, when you first became Commissioner and acting Commissioner, could you have foreseen the growth of this entire week, of the growth of baseball worldwide in the way that it has?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: No, I can't tell you. I sometimes have to stop and pinch myself. In 1992, hard to believe it's 19 years now. The greatest barometer, because the sport today is more popular than it's ever been, by far, by anything that you want to it use, any barometer, any criteria.

And it's gross revenue was 1.2 billion. We were lagging. The sport had hit a period for about 20 years where we were lagging. And this year the gross revenue will be about $7.5 billion. It's had meteoric growth in attendance, television and popularity and everything else. You know, we have changed a lot of things, and been very fortunate. They have worked.

I'm proud of the sport, I really am, in every way.

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