SETH EVERETT: As the All Star Game approaches, it is time for the Town Hall Meeting with Commissioner Bud Selig. I'm SETH EVERETT with MLB.com in my eighth season. We have done this for at least five years. Commissioner, first of all, good afternoon. You're in New York City. I think they're putting on quite a show. COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you know, I told writers this noon that when you award All Star Games, you always have expectations, and I did. But I regard this as part of my job, you go on from day to day, week to week. But this one has been, since we got here Sunday, this one has been remarkable. This is stunning. The excitement in New York, the level of participation at every event is just huge, and this is this means a lot to me because, I don't mind telling a story that I told on David Letterman last night, but I'll tell you. My first appearance in Yankee Stadium, my mother brought me here on July 30th, 1949, on my 15th birthday. I was a big Joe DiMaggio fan, a big Yankee fan. This is a great thrill for me.
Of course I've been there many times since, and it's now 59 years later. But there's something tonight, for those of you who are going to be at the game and, obviously, the rest of you will be watching, it will be very dramatic. The pregame and everything else will I think produce a lot of emotions tonight. This has been a great -- this is a celebration, walking in here today, boy, it's been remarkably well attended. Q. It is quite a celebration. You have been quoted in the past as saying that's what the All Star Game is meant to be, a celebration of baseball. How much of that is combined with the sentimentality of being here in July and Yankee Stadium closing its doors? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Both. No question this is baseball's way of saying good bye to Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will do that in the next two and a half months over and over again, but it's really a great thrill. Just think about this stadium for a minute... 1923, the House that Ruth Built, through the eras of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, on to the present. They all are great football games pro and college heavyweight championship fights, the Pope came here, many Presidents have come here. This is the most famous sports cathedral in the world, and it is being honored the way it should be honored. Q. This Town Hall Chat originated after 2002 with the mindset that as good as things may go in the game, there are always going to be issues that confront the game, and it is not only our duty at MLB.com but it's your duty as the Commissioner to let the fans know you are aware of the issues of the game. We have compiled e mails of the hundreds, if not thousands of e mails that came in. You said you would answer 253, is that the total? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, if I am, we better cancel the game tonight because I'll still be sitting here answering questions. We'll do the best we can for the next whatever. SETH EVERETT: We'll see how far we can go. Our first e mail comes from Jerry, who writes us from New Jersey, who says where does Major League Baseball stand with instant replay? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Where it stands, I have not been a proponent of instant replay, as everybody knows. However, I have said to our people that we ought to study it in the most limited form, and that is, on home runs fair or foul, as well as home runs around -- the new parks are tough for Umpires. Standing in the infield, running out, the ball is 300 feet away, it's very difficult. So we are no decision has been made, I want to say that very carefully, but we are studying it. If there is instant replay, it will be in a limited form. We are making progress on that issue. Q. You are not going to do it in 2008? COMMISSIONER SELIG: I am not. Q. Our next e mail, would you consider determining home field in the World Series based upon interleague records? For example, the league with more wins gets the home field advantage? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we just talked about that again. Let me tell you, look, I love the way we do it now. Number one, broadcast partners like it. That's good. That's good for baseball. That's good for baseball fans. I like it. Look, when you have a World Series, let's say this type of event, you have New York and Chicago. You need six or seven or 8,000 hotel rooms. You can't call in a city on October 20th, and say, "Hey, we got to have 8,000 hotel rooms." There's just nothing practical. It's just silly. Now, beforehand, we had a rule where you got the game one year and you got the game next year. There was nothing scientific about it. The game had lost its luster, players didn't want to play, managers didn't want to manage. The whole thing, I had a lot of former players, Ron Santo and Hank Aaron come to mind immediately. Both speak to me and said, when we played, we'd run the other guy over, we wanted to win the game. Since then, this game is now played with intensity, managed. Last year, it went right to the last pitch. If I remember, Aaron Rowland flyed out with the bases loaded in the top half of the ninth inning. It was a wonderful game. So right now you're going to see intensity tonight that is wonderful. So when Ben Sheets comes to the mound for the National League and pitching -- I got two Brewer fans sitting over there, so I have to give them a little plug -- when Ben Sheets comes and takes the mound and Lee from Cleveland who's having a magnificent year for the American League, this ballpark will be electric with excitement. This is the thrill of a lifetime for these people. And because the game means something. We didn't have a better system before. SETH EVERETT: So it's more so to give the greater value to the All Star Game as opposed to demeaning the interleague records? COMMISSIONER SELIG: The interleague record is, how exciting is that. I had a writer say that to me today. Let's say it's 70 60, nobody would know that. Then when it was all over... This, at least the fan can watch the game knowing that his or her league will be affected by what happens on the field. I like the idea. And we'll do this for another four years. SETH EVERETT: Let's go to our next e mail from Nick who writes us, Commissioner, what is delaying the sale of the Chicago Cubs, and will you give Mark Cuban a fair opportunity to purchase the team? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, there's not really a delay. The Cubs are now handling this, have been handling it. We approve groups, including Mr. Cuban, then they are in the process of making bids. They will come back, probably have a second round of bidding, and then they bring somebody to me, and I take it on to the owners. And so we have to approve each owner. But, frankly, the Cubs have been controlling the process, and it's gone a little slower. But I'm satisfied that they're working hard now towards resolution. As far as Mark Cuban, there's seven or eight groups, and he's going to get from them, because they're the ones controlling it right now, the same treatment that everybody else gets. SETH EVERETT: Our next e mail, Joe who writes us from Philadelphia, what kind of programing can we expect on the new MLB Channel and when can we expect it to launch? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, the MLB Channel will start next January in 50 million households. It's gonna be for those who love baseball, a remarkable channel. Our history will be on it. There will be games on it. There will be different programs for all the teams. It is going to be, for a baseball fan, just a delight for them. The programing will be something they won't see elsewhere. When the games are on, I think there will be 26 games on, they won't see those anywhere else. And it's really, it's going to be just spectacular. I'm excited about it because for somebody who loves the history of the game as much as I do, and plus all the current information, current stuff, they'll have people from every team on all the time, they will know what's going on in this sport on a daily basis. SETH EVERETT: Again, these e mails are coming to you from the fans, who e mailed us at MLB.com. This is the Town Hall Chat with the Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig. Erin writes us, How do you feel about the current state of the MLB draft, and what would you like to change or improve for the future? COMMISSIONER SELIG: I like the draft. You know, the draft gives the clubs a chance. When the big league clubs went to the drafts in 1965, it was to equalize talent. So this year, as a result of all the young players coming in the game, think about this, we're having a great season. Actually, baseball is having its greatest season. One of the reasons is more teams are competitive. Tampa has done a brilliant job. Milwaukee has done a great job, with all the young draft choices they've had over the years. That's the meaning of the draft. So we like it a lot. I think the draft is great. I want to make sure the draft continues as a fair vehicle for all the clubs, and I'm satisfied with the state of the draft as it is now. SETH EVERETT: You think it's directly connected to the competitive balance? COMMISSIONER SELIG: We have more competitive balance or parity than we've ever had in our history, and you bet. The draft is one of the great. The draft and revenue sharing are the two big ones. SETH EVERETT: Our next question, Eric writes us and says, Commissioner, regarding the designated hitter, does it concern you that there are different rules in each league? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I used to think that, but my friend Bill Giles of the Phillies whose dad was President of the National League for years, Bill is not a confrontational or controversial type of guy at all, but he said to me, you know, it's good in a way, a little debate between the two leagues doesn't hurt. When the American League -- I was in the American League as the President of the Milwaukee club in 1972. When we voted on it, the only thing from Charlie Finley, frankly, that I liked, we needed more offense, and we voted for it, and it worked great. I mean, I have to say it's worked great. The National League doesn't like it, but that's fine. American League plays a little different brand of baseball than the National League. But I like it. So other than some catalytic event occurring, I think that's the way it's going to stay. I think, look, the game has grown like it never has. We're going to set another attendance record. So I guess I have to say our fans accepted it pretty well. SETH EVERETT: This is a question that comes up during these Town Hall Chats. It's not something regularly debated. COMMISSIONER SELIG: Hasn't been debated for at least 25 to 30 years. SETH EVERETT: We'll make sure we cross it off next year's list. Our next e mail says, Commissioner, do you foresee a Major League Baseball team relocating in the next five to ten years. COMMISSIONER SELIG: I do not. I'm happy to say we have a wonderful new wave of ballparks, about 19 of them now. In Florida we're very close, there's a little litigation going on that we hope to resolve. Oakland is looking for a ballpark, and they're making great progress. Tampa is in the process of it. Once we get those done, we're done. Everybody has a new ballpark, and I'll be glad, because I've been in the middle of a lot of controversies. Every ballpark is painful, but in the end, once they're built, and you're so happy you did it. I know many a city that I've been in where they had a lot of controversy about it, they now say, "What were we arguing about? This is the best thing we ever did." We're sitting in a city right now that's going to have two brand new ballparks next year that are going to be spectacular. You know, the new Yankee Stadium will look more like the old Yankee Stadium than even the one that they're in right now. And that's a great thing. And the Mets' new stadium will look a lot like my favorite old ballpark, Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, there it is. There will be a lot of great memories for those of us who care. SETH EVERETT: You had said a couple years ago stadiums were essential to the success of the sport. I remember talking in 2002, there were about nine to twelve stadiums that needed to be built. COMMISSIONER SELIG: Right. SETH EVERETT: The idea that you would see, in your tenure, that list completed, how much of a goal of that is yours? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, it was a goal, and we spent a lot of time, a lot of energy. Minnesota was tough, and that's going up now for 2010. It's going to be a great thrill. No stadium deal is easy. But in the end, if your city and community really care about the team, then the team cares about the community. It's a two way street that you have to be very sensitive about. It's the right thing to do. So for all those people in Minnesota, through all that debate, that team is theirs now for the next two or three generations and on and on and on. In Milwaukee we had a great debate in Wisconsin, it was painful, but now there's no more debate. The Brewers are there for the next 50 or 60 years. And that's all you try to do. You try to anchor a club in the community, and then be great community citizens. I'm very proud of our clubs. SETH EVERETT: Will be interesting to see what happens in Tampa Bay and Florida as well. Our next e mail from Tim in Hicksville, New York. Commissioner Selig, although it is not entirely up to you, will Barry Bonds have a mark on his career due to the steroids issue? COMMISSIONER SELIG: I haven't made any decisions on those things, but I would tell you that when you start dealing in asterisks and you start trying to change records, you really are opening up Pandora's Box. I don't have any plans to do that because I don't think it's pragmatic. I don't think it's really a practical possibility, because you'd have to note everything that went on and everybody that participated. And I'm just proud that we've corrected our problem, we've moved on, and we've done well. So I'm not going to worry about it. SETH EVERETT: These stories continue to permeate the media. As you have said, there has been no reflection on attendance figures whatsoever. COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, more importantly than that, somebody asked me that the other day, here's what I believe. The fan -- and I was a fan myself for a long time -- I think I understand people. We have the toughest testing program in America, in sports. We've banned amphetamines, we're funding a study for human growth hormone. Our Minor League program is eight years old. All those great stars you see in baseball today -- Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, on and on and on -- all have been tested for the last eight years. So our fan understands we care; more importantly, we did something about it. SETH EVERETT: We have to mention Josh Hamilton put on quite a show last night. COMMISSIONER SELIG: You know, that is one of the great stories. Josh had to be suspended from baseball on many occasions, and he fought his way back. And I must confess to you that in the middle of his home run assault last night, that was just... that is one wonderful story. It just shows what somebody can do and how baseball can be so good if you use it in the right way. He fought his way back from below the depths of despair, and he is going to be one great baseball player. SETH EVERETT: He deserved that ovation that he got last night. COMMISSIONER SELIG: Goodness gracious, he got not one, but ten of them. SETH EVERETT: We continue with our Town Hall Chat. Our next e mail comes from Sandy who writes us from the United Kingdom. Commissioner, does Major League Baseball have any plans to hold regular season games or even just exhibition games in the UK at any time in the near future? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I do want to go to Europe. You know, we're undergoing a very intense international process. We played two games in Beijing, China in March. Then we opened the season in Tokyo, which was terrific, the World Champion Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. Terrific series. We have the World Baseball Classic next year. There's a lot of interest in Europe and in England, so I hope we can -- frankly, I hope to play some games over there. Q. Jeffrey in Missouri writes: What is the status of having the blackout territories redrawn in order to allow people like me, who live more than six hours from a city with an MLB team, from having games blacked out? COMMISSIONER SELIG: We're looking at that. You know, I get more mail on that, I think, and I get more mail on that than I do on anything else. And we're looking at the broadcast territories. We're going to try to redefine them this winter. If there are glitches and are people that should get games, then we're going to try to do that. It's in our best interest to try to take care of it, and we will. SETH EVERETT: We find people want to see their team. As much as they like the state of the League, they want to see their team. COMMISSIONER SELIG: And they should. SETH EVERETT: Why would you not want to continue the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, home of baseball, where every person and player involved in baseball wants to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. COMMISSIONER SELIG: It isn't a question we don't want to; we want to. The problem we have is on scheduling. We have a tough schedule. We've complicated it with interleague play, we've complicated it with a series of other things. We start now -- this year we started March 31st -- and we'll end right at the end of September. It's very difficult. Remember, we have a lot of rules with the union about playing. You can't play more than 20 days. So, quite frankly, it was getting to be a real problem for us to find two teams that we could work out in our schedule. So it isn't that we don't want to go there; I'm sure I'm going to be up there for the Hall of Fame, and I'm sure I'll hear it. Again, it isn't that we don't want to do it, it's just become an impossibility. SETH EVERETT: Our next e mail, Doug writes us and says, Has Major League Baseball determined where the 2011 and 2013 All Star Games will be held. COMMISSIONER SELIG: Not yet. That's a good question because I've been spending a lot of time thinking about that. I would say that we'll have an announcement on '11, '12 and '13 in the coming months. SETH EVERETT: Not right here today? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Not right here today. SETH EVERETT: We tried. COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you tried. You struck out, but you tried (laughter). SETH EVERETT: Story of my life. COMMISSIONER SELIG: I hope not. SETH EVERETT: Carson in Pompano, Florida, says, What do you think of the great upstart story of the Tampa Bay Rays? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yes, I think this has been a wonderful story. What I do when I'm home in Milwaukee during the year and not traveling is I watch on my satellite about 15 games, and I enjoy it. It's fun. I start after we're done with dinner and sometimes go to one o'clock in the morning. I've watched a lot of Tampa games. They're really so excited down there. So I feel a very I'm thrilled for them. I know they've had a tough week, but they're very young, they're very talented and they'll come back. SETH EVERETT: Brian in Toronto, Canada says, Has the League given consideration to extending the current five game Division Series to seven games? COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we've talked a lot about it, and for those teams who are going to get in the playoffs this year, especially the ones that lose, they'll grumble about it, and I understand. There's something about a five game series I like. The problem is time. I want to be done by November 1st. We've played some World Series games lately in cold weather cities that get awfully cold in late October. Playing baseball in November doesn't make sense. As I say to the clubs, if you want to extend the first round of the playoffs, then you're going to have to play less games. Well, they don't want to play less games. And so I like a five gamer in a way. I know some people think seven is fair, which we play of course later on. But what I would tell you, the five games, there's an intensity because you know that every game is so meaningful. And I've seen it up close. And, you know, if we had time, we probably would go to seven. I'm not sure that I don't like in the first round five better anyway. SETH EVERETT: It always seems like the complaints on the five game series would come from the teams that would lose the five game series, not a generality. COMMISSIONER SELIG: That you can count on. The winning teams never complain. SETH EVERETT: Let's get another e mail here for the commissioner, Bud Selig, our last one of the afternoon. Jose writes us and says, Commissioner, what are your expectations for the 2009 World Baseball Classic? COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's a great question, because I'm really proud of our -- it's going to be huge. We have 16 countries coming. We could have a lot more. It was huge in 2006. It will be stunning next March. I think all of you who are fans will enjoy it immensely. The countries are so excited, and it's the way we're galvanizing interest around the world. And so as big as it was in '06, it's going to be much bigger next year. I wish people could see, like when I was there for the Boston Oakland series in Tokyo, the interest in that series was unbelievable. It was remarkable. You almost had to see it to believe it. Players walking down the streets, creating traffic jams and stuff. I mean, it was really great. And so the sport is so popular around the world that the World Baseball Classic will be the vehicle that we use to make it even more popular. SETH EVERETT: Well, Commissioner Selig, we have no more e mails for this edition of the Town Hall Chat. I do want to ask you if there's any final thing you'd like to say to the fans not only in New York but people watching on MLB.com. COMMISSIONER SELIG: I appreciate everybody's great interest, your support. Support has been remarkable. When I say that this sport is more popular than ever before, I mean it, and it's because of our fans. You know, one of the great thrills for me is watching games and the intensity of fans in the ballpark and how much they love their teams and their support. I always used to say when I ran the Brewers, the great thrill was when you were ahead in the ninth inning and there's two outs in the ninth and everybody in that ballpark is up and cheering, boy, that is just one really great moment. And so I want to thank everybody, and thank all of you for coming. It's a pleasure. SETH EVERETT: Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig. We tackle these issues every day on the All Star, and we appreciate you coming. That's the Commissioner, Bud Selig. My name is Seth Everett. This has been the Town Hall Chat. We will continue with more programming culminating with the 2008 All Star Game.