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A SPANISH INQUISITION: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig

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SarahSpain

Sports reporter, sarcastic smartass, music lover, funny gal.

Today's guest for "A Spanish Inquisition" is the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison, in his 17 years as commissioner Selig has overseen some of the biggest changes to the game in the history of baseball.
 
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SARAH SPAIN: Thanks so much for giving me some of your time, especially during this busy postseason. I'll make this brief and get right to the questions. Is there any thought of shortening the MLB season or reducing the amount of rest days between postseason games so the playoffs and World Series aren't potentially played in snow, rain or freezing temperatures?


COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's a long, complicated issue, but let me try, Sarah, to give you the best answer that I can. No...I believe--if I had my choice, I would have gone back to 154 games, which is the way it used to be. However, the clubs have no interest in that--and I understand that, there's a lot of revenue per game and they--particularly the big market clubs--don't wanna give it up. 

 

As for the postseason, we started a week late this year because of the World Baseball Classic, so we won't have to confront that for four more years. The problem that you have when you do a postseason schedule is that you don't know how long the series are gonna be. You have to plan for five game series and then seven game series. And so, unfortunately, while the playoffs have been fabulous this year and the television ratings have been fabulous, in truth, it's the shorter series that's caused the delays. But when you're planning six months ago, you don't know how long they're gonna be.

So I've looked at weather...and as much as I hate going in November, the difference in the two weeks in New York and Philadelphia--in LA, there's none, obviously--was two degrees. And I can tell you that I've studied the weather, temperatures, all of that, back to 1970 now and we've played games in the same kind of weather the last 40 years. A bunch of this is just the media making more out of it than they should.


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SPAIN: Speaking of media, there's been a lot of discussion about perceived umpire errors and inconsistencies this postseason. MLB has introduced replays for home run calls but you've said you have no interest in expanding the use of replay. With new additions to broadcasts like ESPN's "K-zone" and countless video angles to track fair or foul balls these days, how can the league expect fans to accept calls that are proven to be wrong just moments later via replay?

 

SELIG: Because look, baseball is a game of pace. You can't sit every inning, or every half-inning, or every three innings, waiting for calls to be made. As it is now, I worry about the pace of the game. So, anybody who thinks--look, I noticed Mike Scioscia the other day, who is a very bright guy and a person I have enormous respect for, said it very well as a manager, "I'm not interested in more replay." It's just wrong, all it does is--you can't have a pitcher standing on the mound, Sarah, every inning or two if there's a disputed call, for three or four minutes while they're out looking at this thing.

 

Look, we need to improve umpiring. The umpires today really for the most part do a remarkable job. Unfortunately, we've had a series of bad calls here, but we do electronically monitor all the ball and strike calls now, so we know. And by the way, umpires do a 97 to 98% job; they're doing remarkably well.

 

So the answer to your question is, yes, I understand every time there's a bad call it sets the media off but am I concerned enough to begin inserting the instant replay? No, absolutely not.

 

SPAIN: You recently spoke with Mike & Mike of ESPN and defended what people perceive as a lack of parity in the league with a series of stats proving how many different clubs have found success in recent years. You also recognized that the small market teams have a smaller window for success--maybe one great year--while the larger market teams consistently win. While revenue sharing aims to keep all teams competitive, does MLB need to adopt a true salary cap system in  order to increase parity?

 

SELIG: I don't think so. We have more parity than ever before, we have certainly more parity than ever before. We've had 20 of the 30 teams that have made the playoffs in the last five years, which is remarkable. Even this year, with all the complaining, Colorado made it, Minnesota made it, St. Louis made it. Now they got bumped off, but that...you know, that doesn't necessarily have to happen.

 

But I think we do have to tweak things--I wanna use that word carefully--in the 2011 labor negotiations. And our revenue sharing, to make sure that we continue to have parity.

 
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SPAIN: You've defended the Pirates organization despite the fact that they've continued to trade away their top talent and they continue to turn a profit despite posting their 17th consecutive losing season this year. If you were in charge of that club, what would you do to turn it around?

 

SELIG: Well, lemme ask you a question. The NFL this year--everybody is grumbling about all the bad teams. The Rams, the Lions, who have been bad for twenty years. They have complete revenue sharing. You understand the point I'm making?

 

What about Oakland? What about Jacksonville? You could go on and on. What about Detroit, who hasn't made a playoff now in I don't know how many years?

 

Well they have complete revenue sharing. We have more parity. Look, Pittsburgh is building, finally, the right way, through their farm system. They're spending a fortune on talent. I have every confidence that they're doing the right thing.

 

SPAIN: What would you tell a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Why should they bother to renew their season tickets?

 

SELIG: Because [the Pirates] were very aggressive in their last two drafts. They've signed every one of their players. They've spent a lot of money. Their players are being very highly rated right now and, within a year or two, you're going to see some very dramatic results in Pittsburgh.

 

SPAIN: In your term as commissioner, you've overseen the introduction of the wild card, Interleague Play, revenue sharing, a 400 percent increase in the league's revenue, record breaking attendance--what are you most proud of?

 

SELIG: I guess everything. Mainly the economic changes, revenue sharing. When I took over there wasn't a nickel of revenue sharing, not a nickel. And this year there will be 450 million dollars worth. So, the whole change of the luxury tax, the debt service rules. I'm proud of the changes like the wild card, Interleague Play--we've done more in the last 17 years than ever in the history of baseball. But I guess the economic overhaul of the sport is the thing I'm proudest of.


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SPAIN: Keeping in mind all of those positive developments but not ignoring the fact that people have been critical of your handling of the steroid scandal, your affiliation with the Brewers, the '94 strike, even your salary--what do you think your legacy will be when your time as commissioner is done?

 

SELIG: You know I'm a history major, as a young man I wanted to be a history professor, so I'll let the historians do that. But the game has never been more popular. And let me say on the steroid thing, baseball never had a drug testing program. We went through the cocaine era of the '80s, we went through the amphetamine era of the '50s, '60s and '70s. Today we have the toughest system of testing in American sports, we banned amphetamines and cleaned the sport up. You asked--well that's one of the things I'm really proud of. No commissioner before me could get a drug-testing program.

 

SPAIN: So if a player like Alex Rodriguez can continue to play baseball and be eligible for the Hall of Fame despite testing positive for steroids, but Pete Rose is banned for life because of gambling, that essentially proclaims gambling as the bigger sin in baseball. Do you agree that gambling on the games of other teams is more detrimental to the game of baseball than cheating to give yourself an advantage in your own games?

 

SELIG: Gambling is the worst thing we can do. Gambling is far worse than any other. We've had a major league rule since 1920 about gambling. And so, every player, manager, coach who comes into baseball--from the day they can get in--knows about the gambling rule. The steroids, well we didn't have a steroid policy 'til 2002 because it's a collectively bargained labor agreement and the fact of the matter is that we've now penalized players and so on and so forth. But let us not--that is not a good comparison.

 
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SPAIN: Mark Cuban recently said that if there were a way for steroids to be beneficial to players but not have long-term negative health effects, they could be useful for recovering from injuries and that they aren't necessarily a bad thing. Do you think a time will come when certain steroid use will be allowed in the league and considered beneficial?

 

SELIG: No I don't and Mark Cuban is not correct. I have the leading experts on steroids in America and that is not the basis of my information. I do not agree with Mark Cuban.

 

SPAIN: People were critical of the wild card when it was introduced, but now are almost uniformly in favor of it. Do you think public opinion will eventually cause you to reevaluate the decision to have the All Star game decide home field advantage for the World Series or do you think at some point people will come around to the idea?

 

SELIG: They have already. We do a lot of polling and frankly, it's a huge, huge number of people in favor of it. Yes, there are some people against it, but I don't worry. Look, I've had to do the things I think are right. Attendance is at all-time highs, we're doing amazingly well, the only important thing to me is our fans like it.


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SPAIN: Because a major talent like Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman will inevitably go to the highest bidder rather than entering some sort of international draft, the scales continue to tip towards the wealthiest teams. You recently told Mike & Mike that you have no doubt MLB will adopt slotting and an international draft, and will also regulate rookie signing salaries--how soon do you expect that to happen?

 

SELIG: The 2011 labor negotiations.

 

SPAIN: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently rejected Rush Limbaugh's bid to buy the Rams. If a polarizing figure like Limbaugh wanted to purchase an MLB team, do you think the league would allow it?

 

SELIG: I never deal in hypotheticals, Sarah. [Laughs] I'll let my very dear friend Roger Goodell worry about that one. I just don't deal in hypotheticals.

 

SPAIN: I know you're a Milwaukee guy, but do you have it within your power to rig the league and get the Cubs a World Series win before your term ends in 2012? We could really use the help.


SELIG: I have a lot of power, but I don't have that much.

 

SPAIN: I don't think anybody does. Not even God.

 

SELIG: You're right about that one. [Laughs]


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Someday, Ronnie.


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2 Comments

Evan said:

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Sarah this was a great read and very interesting. Really good interview with The Commish!

Harrison said:

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Great questions, great interview, terrible responses from Selig. He just has such a lack of perspective. He seems to be overly concerned with the money aspect and not the human aspect of the game. maybe i just disagree with him on the steroid issue and for it to be used for healing. i mean, these are people. those healing methods are used in common practice so why does it ruin the integrity of the game. Also, that nonsense about gambling being the worst thing you can do to the game above PEDs is absurd. I'm for drugs for healing but there's no way players that actually take them to cheat is worse than gambling.

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