Hast thou found any likeness for thy vision?
O gardener of strange flowers, what bud, what bloom,
Hast thou found sown, what gather’d in the gloom?
—Algernon Charles "Greg" Swinburne
So it's another year of All-Star mania. However, this year, Commissioner Derrel McKinley "Bud" Selig has more on his mind then just getting himself gussied up with his best possum-based hair grease a la Paul Wolfowitz in Farenheit 9/11. Two years ago, I almost felt sorry for Err Bud when he wore his best suit and almost had a straight part in his hair to host the All-Star game at the then-new but already much-maligned Miller Park in Milwaukee. Then the Home Run Derby was steeped in the steroid issue and marginalized by labor headlines, and of all things that the players did not set a strike date. The game ends in a tie after both sides run out of pitchers. Selig unduly gets blamed and his pathetically overmatching, shrugging visage is on the front page of every sports section in America the next day.
Of course, my sympathy for him lasted only so long, maybe the remainder of the 2002 All-Star break. Anyway, given that this is an election year, Selig is now getting downright presidential on our asses, which only adds to his loathsomeness.
Aside from handing out awards, Selig was nowhere to be found during the game. Instead the viewer got a shot of George H. and Barbara Bush, looking all desiccated and presidential. Far be it for Fox to give current President Bush a free boost by airing his folks attending the Nation's pastime. But the image of that certain presidentiality (thank god for Florence Henderson) was conveyed to the audience, lending an air of credibility to his Budness when he was in sight.
Also, Selig's campaigning for non-issues like extending the "This Time It Counts" All-Star Game format. Yeah, that was definitely the point when all the good will evaporated, when this irrelevant Band-Aid was proposed as a solution for the tied All-Star Game issue.
And Finally, Czar Bud deigned to sit down with the local yokels to have a Town Hall Meeting.
No, Bud wasn't there to discuss a new stop sign at the corner of Main and Vine. He was there to answer carefully selected questions from a cross section of Selig's America, which is to say those people in Houston who have decided to attend FanFest at 3 PM on a Tuesday and have waited on line to post a question addressed to him. He actually wasn't even there: he answered questions online. Proving that he is truly a man of the people, tres presidential.
Given that a Bud chat session is such an auspicious event, I felt that it deserved a royal Joe Morgan chat treatment. So here goes:
Why is the U.S. Olympic baseball team not chock full of the same players we are about to see in the Midsummer Classic? Why is it that the country with the best baseball talent in the world being represented by a group of minor leaguers? -- Ben from Connecticut
Well, let me tell you first of all, that group of minor leaguers won the Olympic Gold Medal in the year 2000, so they did pretty well.
No. 2, the problem that we have, we're in season. We can't stop our season for three weeks. Imagine stopping Aug. 15 of this year to Labor Day while all of the players, our best players, were at the Olympic games. You can't do that. The season ends Oct. 3. It's got to end on Oct. 3, and we're going to have to find another way.
We want to stay in the Olympics, we want to be in the Olympics, but we cannot stop our season. That is just not practical.
[Mike: I can't really argue with him here. It sounds nice, but major-leaguers in the Olympics is impractical unless they move the Olympic schedule. Besides, I though everyone enjoyed amateurs at the Olympics (by the way their college players, not minor-leaguers).
I don't really care about the Olympic baseball games myself.
(Oops, I'm informed that they changed to minor-leaguers in the last Olympics. Oh well.]
Are you going to do anything to prevent pitchers from giving intentional walks to Barry Bonds? The fans want to see him hit. -- David & Marty
Well, the answer is no, because if you start tampering with the rules of the game, they have been the same rules for 120 years, and while we've made a lot of changes in the sport, and I'm proud of all the changes we've made, that's one that you can't take strategy away from a manager or the pitcher and catcher. They believe that they want to walk him and you know that Giants fans feel much differently and I don't blame them. Frankly if Barry Bonds played for me I would feel differently, too.
But you can't change rules every time something like this comes up, because you are then really changing the essence of what I believe is the greatest sport in the world.
[Mike: 120 years? Ah, no. In 1889 the rule was changed to four balls constituting a base on balls. 120 years ago they were just switching from 7 to 6 balls equal to a walk. It's good that they person who has the biggest influence over the rules knows his history so well.
That said, his answer is correct but his rationale is off base. Besides he has tampered with tons of rules bigger than the intentional walk, which isn't even in the rulebook but falls between the cracks of the rules.
Even with Barry Bonds, intentional walk usage has been falling steadily for years. So why change the rules for one person?
Next, who's to say that it's done anything more than tick Bonds off. The Giants have had their share of success even as opponents have walked Bonds in record-setting numbers.
So why change the rule? Just to please the aesthetic mindset of a few fans?]
What has been decided as far as where the Expos will be next year and beyond? -- Doug from Orlando
The only thing that's been decided is we have five or six very good cities bidding for the Expos. We are going to make a decision this summer. The Expos will have a new home and a new owner from the 2005 baseball season.
[Mike: That's a decision? "We have decided to decide." Bud must come from the Rush school of decision-making: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice" (from "Free Will").
Selig had once said that relocation was coming "in the near future." But that was over two years ago, on January 17, 2002. To quote Mike LaFontaine in A Mighty Wind, "Hey, wha' happened?".]
I love Interleague Play. There is just one thing I would love to see. You should have the DH in the National League park and the National League rules in the American League park. So the fans of each league could see how the other league plays. -- Matt from Philadelphia
That's a great question. Of course, I love Interleague Play. It's one of the innovations that I've put in the sport and it's worked out so well, but Matt makes a very interesting point that we are going to think about this year.
I think, for instance, when an American League team goes into a National League town, the National League fans ought to see their rules and when the National League teams go in the American League rule, the American League fans ought to remember how the National League rules are played. We're thinking about that. That's a very good question.
[Mike: "I love Interleague play"…Why don't you marry it? (Pee Wee Herman, I miss you, you masturbatory, falsetto freak.)
[W]hen an American League team goes into a National League town, the National League fans ought to see their rules: Pronoun trouble. I think he meant the AL's rules, which isn’t what he said. It's a little much like Ox in Stripes though: "The guy on the top bunk has gotta make the guy on bottom bunk's he's gotta make his bunk all the time. See it's in the regulations. See if we were in Gremany I would have to make your's, but we're in Italy and you gotta make mine. It's regulations."
Of course, the visiting team rules should apply, if the idea is to share cultures. "Ooh, look Margery, this Designated Hitter is so exotic!"
If the idea is to make a buck exploiting cross-town rivalries, which it is, then screw the rules, which the did.]
I've been a long time fan of MLB and over recent years having seen the MLB road show play exhibition and regular season games in various countries outside of the US and Canada. Are there any plans to bring either an exhibition or regular season game to England? -- Mike from England
There are not right now but it's one of my dreams, frankly. We opened the season in Japan. I hope we can play in Europe. We're talking about it, I don't know if as early as next year, but certainly in the next year or two, we want to play some games in Europe and hopefully in England, and so that's something that is very much under consideration.
The internationalization of our sport is critical. We have a sport that's so popular around the world, that we need to take baseball, which you know we all think is the greatest game in the world, and take it all over and show people all over the world how really good it is.
[Mike: A.G. Spalding tried that on a s couple of occasions. First, he traveled to jolly ol' England in 1874 and then he followed up during his famous trip around the world 115 years ago. There was even an English league in one of the Reach/Spalding guides late in the nineteenth century.
Bud, these Brits have their own game called cricket that has something to do with Buddy Holly and sticky wickets and we Americans just don't get it either. To quote G.B. Shaw we are "two nations separated by a common language."
Stop trying to be David Stern and start trying to sell the stars, the product you have.]
I just want to know how is the venue for the All-Star Game selected? -- Baadal from Boston
Well, the Commissioner makes that decision. There are a lot of cities bidding for All Star games. I've seen the owner of the Houston Astros, there Drayton McLane over there.
I'll tell you how Houston got the game. Houston got the game on sheer persistence. Mr. McLane called me two and three times a day demanding to know when Houston was going to get the game, so you can thank him for that.
[Mike: So Bud makes all of his decisions based on sheer annoyance. Actually, I was going to guess stupidity so that's a step up.]
Would you agree that despite the huge salary cap the Yanks have brought baseball to great heights globally? -- Don from Staten Island
Well, the Yankees have been good for baseball in a lot of ways, there's no question about it. They represent a great history, they represent a great tradition, they represent a lot of really wonderful things, and on the other hand it's my job as a commissioner to make sure that we have an economically level playing field so that the fans here in Houston also have a fighting chance to win.
We've made a lot of progress, and the Yankees continue to do very well, and I think that's good. But there's more parity in the sport today than ever before, and that's why you see the sport having the kind of record year that it's having.
[Mike: What, the Yankees have their own salary cap?
Bud, first ATFQ. What does this have to do with the Yankees image globally? Second, don't worry about Houston. Worry about the Cincinnati and Kansas Citys. I don't see what the Yankees paying luxury taxes to these teams has done to help them. If there is parity today, it probably has less to do with revenue sharing/luxury taxes and more to do with some cyclical evolution in the game. Look at the Brewers, they are on the dole but cut their payroll by 25% and are having their best season in years.
Selig loves selling parity after the last CBA and was saying the sky was falling before it. One last thing, what record year? (More on this later.)]
The two-year "experiment" of the All-Star Game winner determining home-field advantage for their league's World Series representative concludes with this year's game. Who (and when) will decide if it has been a "success" and how to proceed from here?
-- Shane from Los Angeles
It's been a great success. You'll see a game played tonight with great intensity; there is no question about that. We need to continue our negotiations with the Players Association. But quite frankly, I want to extend this. I think this has been a tremendous rule change. Our TV people love it, FOX loves it, our sponsors love it, the game is sold out, the fans overwhelmingly have loved it and you'll see a game played with great intensity tonight. Hopefully we can get that extended with the Players Association.
[Mike: Come back Shane?
Yeah, there was great intensity, but it lasted less than half an inning. Some of the defensive plays were embarrassing especially on doubleplays. But that didn't stop Selig from declaring victory the next day and starting to campaign for its extension.
Besides, is the game sold out because the winner has homefield in the Series or because the best players in the world are there? But you see where the fans fall in Bud's estimation.]
I am a Royals fan and it is very difficult for Royals fans when they have to trade away their star players because they will not be able to afford them the next year. Are there plans to beef up the revenue sharing idea or plans to better equalize the teams of the MLB? -- Tim
Well, there's a good question, because revenue sharing has grown, from when I took over, $20 million to over $300 million. So I'm going to say to you, Tim, that the Kansas City Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers, on and on and on, revenue sharing is growing. The economic landscape of this sport has changed dramatically and your team will have a chance. I know you're having a difficult and tough year this year but believe me when I tell you, the Royals will have a great opportunity in the future.
[Mike: "There are some who call me... Tim."
Star players in general or Carlos Beltran specifically? They traded Beltran because they were out of the playoff race not vice versa. The Orioles did this last year with Sidney Ponson and then re-signed him in the offseason.
Do I think that the Royals will sign Beltran after the season? No. Do I think they could? Sure. He will make $12-15 a year, but they already were paying him $9 M this year. If you cut the $4M they pay Juan Gonzalez, the $3.25 M for Brian Anderson, the $1.25 to Curt Leksanic, etc., you could very easily cover the difference. The Royals chose to forego attempts to re-sign Beltran to cut payroll. The Royals started the season with a $47.6 M payroll. They will end it about $10 M lower. Why do you think they made the decision?
As far as the Royals outlook, does anyone remember that they were in a pennant race just last year? They were also the favorites to win the division this year? They have been rebuilding, but their young players (Angel Berroa and the pitchers) just went bad this year. They invested in Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago in the offseason. They made bad decisions in retrospect. But they had the freedom to make those decisions because of the young players and that's the point. Bad management will out.]
Since the inception of the Wild Card more and more teams have been in the race longer. My idea is to move the trading deadline back to Aug. 15. However make it a strict date. No more trades through the waiver wire, etc. Your thoughts? --Doug from Las Vegas
I like it the way it is now. You have it through July 31, you do have waiver deals, you've always had the option to do waiver dealings. I think if a club can work a waiver deal, there's nothing wrong with that. Not too many deals take place that way. But I don't really see any reason now. I think the trading rules right now are very helpful -- very, very helpful to getting major trades done.
[Mike: The waiver viability of everyone who could possibly get traded is tested before August. There really is no trade deadline anymore. The only true deadline in August 31, when the playoff rosters are set. Then again, Francisco Rodriguez was culled from the Angels' minor-league system in 2002 by the 60-Day-DL loophole for playoff rosters, but he at least didn't come from another organization.]
Mr. Commissioner, would you say that your silence on the Pete Rose issue since the beginning of the season in effect says that the door is closed on this situation?
The only answer I can give you since I'm the judge in this case and the sole judge, so I'm very sensitive about talking about this case in any way shape, form or manner, I said back in January there was no timetable. I think any other comment from me because I am the judge would be inappropriate and unfair to all parties.
[Mike: Ah, that's a "Yes".]
I'm Jeff, I'm from Houston. Mr. Commissioner, I was just wondering on a personal note, how do you handle all of the criticisms and the stress of being the Commissioner in baseball?
Well, it's a very fair question. The last six months or nine months, I'm almost afraid to say they have been great. People have been kind, they write very nice things. You know, you go through different periods. You learn to handle it. I've been in baseball all of my adult life, so I think I understand the sport and everything that goes on around it.
I knew in the '90s with all of the changes there was going to be a lot of criticism. Criticism in a sport where they don't change much has been difficult. But if you know in your heart you're doing the right thing, you just continue to do that, and fortunately for me, and I'm very, very grateful, the changes have worked out very well, and that's why it's pretty quiet right now and people have been nice. But I don't mind telling you, there have been some very painful periods of my life.
[Mike: Oh, boo hoo. I guess it’s hard to defile the national pastime while trying to rape the players that play it and not get a bit down sometimes.
C'mon, Bud, repeat after me, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like m…well, let's skip that last one."]
Pat from Monterrey, Mexico. You said earlier that internationalization was critical for the sport, and our city wants to be the next home of the Expos. The city has a stadium, has the people, we have AAA level baseball, we have the Caribbean series, summer baseball. What's taking you so long to make a decision for the new home of the Expos?
I know Monterrey has made a very impassioned plea for a new ballpark and it's a very good city. We have five or six cities making great presentations, but they have all needed additional time, they all have work to do, including Monterrey. But we will make a decision this summer and hopefully it will be the right one and I'm sure it will be.
[Mike: ATFQ. What about internationalization?
…and hopefully it will be the right one and I'm sure it will be: that's a great Bush impersonation.
By the way Pat, the Mexican League is far from a Triple-A organization. It's probably higher to high Single-A. The only reason the Mexican League has Triple-A status is because when it was formed in the Forties as a rival to the major leagues (ask Danny Gardella), and Triple-A status went with the compromise.
How many decent players went through the Mexican League? More often, it's where Latin players go after their prime.]
Have you taken into account the internationalization issue?
[Mike: That's a "No". Baseball loves expanding to Japan and Europe but begrudgingly exploits its Latin fan base.]
Michael from Peoria. Since you have become Commissioner, what are you most proud of?
Well, I guess all of the changes. The thing I guess I'm most proud of is the new economic system, revenue sharing and tax debt service rule. But I love Interleague Play and I love the three division, the Wild Card, so I guess it's sort of all of the changes I've made, I'm very proud of the way they have worked out.
[Mike: "I like me! I really like me!"]
Charles Conolly. I'm an ex-Yankees batboy. As far as good for baseball, do you think the payroll being so high and acquiring so many free agents, and possibly Randy Johnson, is good for baseball?
I think the Yankees are good for baseball. It's my job to create interest in 30 franchises. Are the Yankees playing by the rules? You bet they are, and I have a great amount of admiration for George Steinbrenner and what they have tried to do. But you have to understand that I have to, in a great sense, level the economic playing field. What they are doing is fine. It's up to us to change the rules to counter any problem we have.
But have the Yankees been good for baseball over the last 50 or 60 years and now? Yes.
[Mike: I disagree completely with Selig.
First, a high Yankee payroll is great for baseball. They love sucking on the Yankee teat. They remain competitive but they can't win every division. And they haven't won a Series since 2000. They keep the ratings high in the playoffs, but since other teams win the Series, Selig can gush about parity.
Second, have the Yankees been good for baseball over the last 50 or 60 years and now? No, absolutely not. Was the subjugation of the Kansas City A's a good thing? Was it good that the Yankees ignored African-American players for so long? Was it good that the Yankees rented their stadium to the New York Black Yankees while agreeing not to allow any blacks in the majors? No.]
I'm Mike from here in Houston. Mr. Selig, I'm sure you've heard this before, and I know that it kind of slows the game down if used the wrong way, but just the other evening we saw a game where all three of the umpires missed a call, the home run was foul by we don't know how many feet, and they continued showing the replay. But what do you think the chances of bringing instant replay into the game, maybe in a crucial part, where the game could be overturned because of the instant replay?
You know, those situations do happen. Listen, I've watched games for 60 years, but for the most part, the umpires do a brilliant job. They miss very, very few calls. And I must tell you, I don't get any pressure for instant replay from anybody, any side. I would say there's little hope of that happening, and that's good.
[Mike: Baseball has a replay situation. It's called a protest. It worked for George Brett.
The umpires also are encouraged to confer in order to get the call right. From Rule 9.05:
Each umpire team should work out a simple set of signals, so the proper umpire can always right a manifestly wrong decision when convinced he has made an error. If sure you got the play correctly, do not be stampeded by players' appeals to "ask the other man." If not sure, ask one of your associates. Do not carry this to extremes, be alert and get your own plays. But remember! The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don't hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as "being right."
That said, there have been at least two eminently foul balls called home runs this seasonn (the one referred to here, against the Phils and one against the Expos). The umpires are under Selig and he should do what is necessary to ensure it does not happen again. Maybe the time is ripe for installing umps on the left- and right-field line in all games.]
I'm Dan from California. One question I have is do you see the Expos out of Montreal within the next year or two?
Well, now, I've covered that already, but I'll say it one more time. The Expos will have a new home this summer, new site, new ownership.
[Mike: Yeah, in San Juan.]
My name is Brian and I live in Victoria. My question is, I subscribe to the Major League Baseball Extra Innings Package, and while Victoria is only two hours from Houston, so I understand why the Astros are blacked out, but the Rangers are blacked out, also. Just curious who determines where that is the case because I live like 300 miles from Arlington.
We'll have to look into that. That's a fair question, check with our broadcasting and we'll look into that.
[Mike: Wewease Bwian!
Brian has the man who probably has the most influence over the game of baseball today, and this is the question he asks? What, is Bud his cable guy or something? I don't even expect Bud to know something like this. Don't they screen these people?]
Welcome to my hometown of Houston, glad to have you here.
Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
When is the national pastime going to return to the national capital of Washington, D.C.?
Well, you've got a fan over here who applauded, so that's all right. I was there the night they left the nation's capital. I want to tell you that the clubs didn't want to leave, but unfortunately, there was no owner to take over, and that's a very long story. We really wanted to stop Bob Short from leaving but we had no local buyer. Therefore, we had to let him leave.
Washington and northern Virginia and other sites are potential sites for a team and we'll decide this summer.
[Mike: Yeah, that's the way to do it. Sucker punch the guy: Welcome him that hit him with the hard questions. Was that Geraldo posing that question?
But, c'mon, Bud, are you so naďve? They didn’t want to leave? So why didn’t they just stay? Washington is a big city? The both wanted to go to new wide-open markets: Minneaplos and Dallas-Ft. Worth. Baseball has engineered moves to keep teams in certain cities. Why didn't the Giants, White Sox, and probably a half-dozen teams move to St. Pete? The Giants even had a deal worked out. MLB nixed it. Why did they allow the Senators to move?
Well, Minneapolis was one of the proposed Continental Baseball League cities. They were formed as a rival league set to play in 1960. They were willing to respect organized balls existing markets and contracts, but MLB went on the offensive. But finally fearing the loss of their antitrust exemption, they caved and allowed expansion for the first time. So that's why the first team moved. The second was to exploit a new, growing market.]
Hello, Commissioner. Commissioner Landis, he was basically given carte blanche to do whatever he saw fit for the betterment of the game and the owners gave him that power. Do you have that ability and the power to do whatever you see fit at any time?
Actually, in January of 2000, the owners gave me in terms of all the economic changes and things, unlimited authority to solve the problems, much more than Kenesaw Mountain Landis ever had. They will expire whenever I'm done, so my successor is going to have to figure that out, but yes, I certainly have the authority to do things that I have to do.
[Mike: Two things: First, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. O, that's rich! You're a crack-up Buddy boy. Oh, my sides.
Landis was a monster the owners created. He was installed to clean up the game after the Black Sox scandal. Then he became too big to reign back in. No other commissioner has had or could have the power that he had, Bud's self-aggrandizing aside. The owners may allow Bud to lead them, but that's not the same thing. If he does some things that enough of the owners don't like, they'll tell him to go pound sand in a second.
Second, was it good that Landis was given that much power? He supported baseball's segregation. He opposed developing farm systems, instead making many players free agents, who he thought we hidden in the minors. He buried the Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb scandals. He allowed for no dissenting voice and ignored new ideas and markets.
Here's the bottom line: average attendance in his first year was 7,391.31 per game. When he died in 1944, it was 7,063.40. And if you say the war affected it, in 1940 the average per game was 7,947.80, a slight improvement. The highest average during his reign was 8,210.91 but the low was 4,966.58. Within ten years of his death baseball had doubled the highest average recorded during his term.]
One last question, yesterday you talked about this being a renaissance with the 500 Home Run Club. I think the audience would like to know what you have to say about that.
Well, it's a great way to close. We are going to set an all time attendance record this year. We are going to draw 73 to 75 million people. Television ratings are at an all time high, local television ratings are an all time high, radio ratings, any criteria you use, the game, this sport is having an unbelievable year. It's never been this popular before. I'm just grateful the renaissance is really in full bloom, and you'll see attendance numbers the rest of the way too many night or Thursday night we'll go over 39 million. Friday or Saturday, we'll go over 40 million for the year, which is stunning in the middle of July, and so I'm very, very grateful for the kind of year we're having.
You are today living in the golden era of baseball, and it's just been a tremendous, tremendous season.
[Mike: Yeah, despite what Selig has done to the game, its greatness shines through.
First, ATFQ. What "renaissance with the 500 Home Run Club"? A number of people (including Mike Schmidt just the other day) deride the growth of the 500-HR club as something that cheapens it.
Anyway, Bud chose to give his State of the Union Address, and got it wrong. Baseball is set to break the all-time attendance record. That's true. If you project out the totals so far to an 81-game home schedule for each team, you get a total of 72,813,872, not quite "73 to 75 million people", but close. It would be slightly ahead of 2001's total of 72,581,101.
But any criteria you use…, ignoring the grammatical error, is just not defensible. There are 30 teams now. Of course, there would be higher attendance. If you compare the per-game attendance today to the past, you get a different answer. The average in 2004 is a very respectable 30,061.20. However, that would still be lower than the pre-strike figures. The all-time high was in 1994: 31,256.26. 1993 is next at 30,964.27. This year's total would be third, ahead of 2001 (29,881.06). But baseball has not yet fully recovered from the 1994 strike.
How does that criterion grab you, Bud?]
Why not add an additional Wild Card spot? I think there would be more excitement and the ability to create a Wild Card round between the two Wild Card winners in each league. -- Trev from Houston
That's a good question, because in 1992 when we went to three divisions in the Wild Card, I really knew what I wanted to do. I just told the writers that. Last year at this time, I convinced myself that we needed two more Wild Card teams, but then we had this wonderful post season, so dramatic with Boston and the Cubbies, and it just worked out so well that we studied it for next three or four months.
We hired mathematicians, we hired people to look at schedules, we did everything. And the more we looked at it, quite frankly, the more we weren't sure that the addition of two teams would help us as much as we thought. So, at the moment, we are going to stick to it. We have a great format right now and we are going to stick to the format that we have.
[Mike: Yeah, that was a great World Series with the Cubbies and the Saux. Incredible! Actually, so incredible that it never happened.
What do they have to do with the wild card? OK, Boston got in with the wild card, but the Cubs won their division. Besides, the one wild card he did not mention, the Marlins, won the World Series. Remember them? They knocked out the Cubs with the help of Steve "Do the" Bartman. The Red Sox lost to the Yankees. Did you even watch the playoffs last year, Bud, or just read the propaganda on it?
And what of these "studies" conducted by so-called "mathematicians" and schedule-looking-at-er people? It reminds of the interchange at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, when Indy brings back the Ark of the Covenant but is prevented from studying it. He is told, "We have top men working on it now." Towit he responds derisively, "Who?" and is simply told, "Top... men." Did Bud subcontract to Stephen Hawking to solve this Gordian Knot of a mystery? (My friend Mike said it was his nephew Ely.)
The real answer is that Bud would love to expand the playoffs but because of the inherent limitations in a summer outdoor sport he cannot. He could shorten the schedule or add the now anachronistic doubleheader back to the schedule, but they would affect the bottom line.]
Why not make the first round of the playoffs seven games? This is a win/win situation for fans, owners and players and sponsors. -- Larry from Saint Cloud, Florida
Well, Larry, we have talked about that. That's fair. The problem that we have is that as it is now, the World Series ends almost in November and I have a thing about going into November. It gets too cold in a lot of places and we're really gambling. So we start the playoffs on Oct. 5. Some people like the seven game. I frankly like the five game. I think there's more intensity, there's more emotion, and you have only five games. Somebody better win three quickly.
So I'm not sure that isn't more dramatic in a certain sense. But we are thinking about the seventh game in round one.
[Mike: Bull, pure and simple. He does at least pay lip service to the scheduling issue. However, the playoffs have so much time, so many off-days built into them, that they could very easily add two extra games in the first round. But then they wouldn't be able to feature the games the way that the network likes, and remember who Bud considers his most important constituency?
Oh, and "Somebody better win three quickly" sums up the problem with a 5-game series quite succinctly. It's too bad that Err Bud using it to argue the other side.]
Would it be possible to put a 20- or 25-second clock on pitchers in order to speed up the game? Some of them take entirely too long.
-- Hershman from Pennsylvania
A agree, they do take too long. When it comes to the time of the game, I feel very strongly about it. The games take too long, there's no question about it, but we've cut it down, we've made a lot of progress. You'll notice when Greg Maddux pitches or Tom Glavine, those guys will pitch sometimes a game takes 2:10, 2:15. On the other hand, the umpires can enforce the rules around the books right now and they do for the most part.
We are making progress. I don't want to do any more and change the rules of the game, but I think you'll continue to see the time of the game decrease and that will be a good thing.
[Mike: Ah, Bud—ooh this is uncomfortable—they already have that. Rule 8.04:
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 20 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call "Ball." The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
It's more than a rule "around the books". It's an honest-to-goodness rule.
It's rarely called, but if umpires upheld it more and denied batters "time" after each pitch, that would do the trick. And who do they report to again, Bud?]
Should players who have been found to have used performance enhancing drugs have their statistics expunged from official Major League Baseball records? -- Brad from Oslo, Norway
I feel very strongly on it. No. 1, we have worked on a much tougher steroid policy. We have agreed and I've spent a lot of time talking to team doctors, physicians, a lot of other people. There's no question that the same very stringent and tough policy we have in the Minor Leagues we ought to have at the Major League level. I think you will be pleased when you see what we have finally come up with.
Having said that, I don't want to engage in hypotheticals. There have been a lot of players named who have not been charged with anything, certainly have not been convicted and I think it's been unfair to them. We need to deal with this by really doing and having a very tough drug policy that will finally clean up the steroid issue.
[Mike: Oh, boy. Here we go again. Bud have the cajones to nip this in the, well, bud.
No, they are not going to expunge the records no more than they go back in time and replay the games. Whatever a batter does effects the statistical record: his team's offense and the other team's defense, as well as the individual stats for the opposing pitcher and fielders. What are supposed to do, remove all traces that the player ever existed or just leave an unbalanced statistical record?
Besides, where do we draw the line? A player is found using steroids on July 15, 2004. How do we know he used them on April 15, 2004, or even June 15, 2004, let alone July 15, 2003 or before? To quote Graham Chapman, "Ok, Stop it. It's much too silly."]
What are your feelings on contracting the Minnesota Twins after they have been so successful, and are there any teams in danger of being contracted?
There are not. There are no -- well, let me suggest, I just talked to the media about the same thing.
The idea of contraction came from the owners, all 30 of them. I know as the Commissioner, I took a pretty good flogging, particularly up in Minnesota, but the fact of the matter is, that the thing that set off contraction was revenue sharing, the very subject a lot of people have talked about, because if you're a big market club sending money to a team, you have the right to ask what are their revenues, how much are we sending them in revenue sharing, and what are they doing about it?
Minneapolis is a wonderful market, Major League market in every way. They need a new ballpark. The Twins say they need a new ballpark, the Vikings say they need a new ballpark; they have just got to address that problem. It's a marvelous market and the Twins have done a great job. But the Twins themselves are the leading advocate for a new ballpark there, and I hope they are going to be successful.
[Mike: Of course, they can't be contracted now, but you can't take credit for that, Bud, can you, you loathsome creature?
In the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players won that concession. The CBA says that no teams can be contracted from now through the end of the 2006 season. However, the owners may contract by two teams prior to 2007 if they decide to do so by July 1, 2006.
Besides, there weren't 30 owners then. There were just 29, because of the abandonment of the Expos. Actually that was the impetus for contraction. Free up the Montreal market for re-conquering in a few years (they do have $3.5 M people up there after all). Bud had just engineered the sale of the Boston and Florida franchises to his cronies, the previous owners of Florida and Montreal respectively. The Boston sale was actually not to the highest bid, and the Florida transfer allowed Jeffrey Loria and MLB to jettison his minority owners. So the orphaned Expos were ready to euthanize.
The only problem was who would have to go with them so that MLB would maintain an even number of teams to facilitate scheduling. The answer came when Carl Pohlad, the richest owner in baseball, decided that he had tired of his plaything, the Twins, and there having to play in a second-rate stadium. It probably didn't hurt that Bud and Pohlad had disobeyed their own rules when the banker Pohlad floated a short-term loan to Selig. So as easy as you could say "quid pro quo" , Bud was all set to contract two teams.
However, he decided not to announce the teams but rather to leak the short list to scare those cities into granted lucrative stadium deals to the teams concerned. This was nixed in the courts very quickly since the dopey Twins forgot that they had a stadium lease that they needed to fulfil.
But note how Bud only discusses the need for a new stadium here. The Metrodome is barely twenty years old. There's no need for a new stadium. The Twins would like a new state-of-the-art, baseball-only stadium because they generate more revenue and the ultra-rich Pohlad is too cheap to pay for it.
Regarding the new "luxury tax," do you think it has been effective toward warding off those high salary rosters some teams have? If not, what else can the MLB do to even up the teams in today's baseball? --Andy from Boston
I said before the economic landscape of the game is changing, it's changed dramatically, we have only one team over the luxury tax threshold, maybe two, but I think it's either two at the most, but probably only one, and we have work to do yet.
But I think we've made a lot of progress. Revenue sharing continues to grow, the tax continues to grow, so I think you're going to find, Andy, that in the next few years of that labor agreement, things will continue to work towards the goals that you've suggested.
[Mike: More great propaganda.
Is there any proof that the tax does anything but act as a salary cap (except for the laudable Yankees)? The Sox did not get A-Rod because they couldn't fit him under the "cap". They tried to rework his contract to fit him in, but the union rightly nixed that.
Look at teams like Milwaukee who cut payroll while receiving welfare and tell me that revenue sharing/luxury taxes are working.
The truth is that it all but legalized near collusion. Teams are wary to add even needed talent if it means that it will affect their welfare payments. The marginal returns are lessened. It also doesn’t hurt that players are being non-tendered at a ridiculous pace, thereby creating a glut of free agents, which in turn creates a buyer's market.
This is what Bill Veeck suggested when free agency was first introduced by the courts: make every player a free agent. But the established owners got scared and the players benefited. Well, the owners are not scared any longer.]
I wanted to ask, Commissioner Selig, hopefully we won't have a recurrence of what happened to the game where we had the extra innings, but what would happen tonight if after nine innings the game were to be tied, if you could just elaborate as to what might happen?
There again was a great misunderstanding. Both managers came to me in the 11th inning and said they were out of pitchers. Joe Torre said he had no other pitchers, the Philadelphia pitcher, Padilla was actually hurting and was unable to continue, the home plate umpire said he was unable to continue.
We've added to the rosters, everybody understands that this game does count, and we have been headed for that for about 10 years. Since '93 when Cito Gaston didn't put Mike Mussina in and he got booed a lot, the managers wanted to get everybody in the game. The objective is to win, not get everybody in the game.
It's an honor to be on the team. Everybody won't be in the game. I'm not concerned about that. I think we've solved that problem.
[Mike: Wait a second, extra innings are free baseball. What's better than free baseball? Does anyone remember that tied All-Star game, the game itself, not the outcome? It was a great game, well played on both sides. Remember Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds? It was definitely preferable to the lopsided 9-4 mess the other night. This year's game held the average fan's interest for less than an inning.
Ok, now to Bud's explanation of the 2002 game: Padilla wasn't hurting. He pitched four days after the game and lasted 7.1 innings. As a matter of fact he pitched two scoreless innings allowing just one walk and no hits. It was just that the managers were reluctant to have a pitcher go more than two innings. Witness what NL manager Bob Brenly said at the time, "I saved a starting pitcher, and we extended him as far as we were going to." No mention of injury.
And this story that the umpire declared Padilla unfit to continue is a) pure confabulation and b) just a plain ludicrous statement. An ump said this, not a trainer? First, what does an ump know about pitching injuries? Second, why would he care? This isn't boxing where the ref can stop the fight if one participant is unable to continue. It's not the ump's job, and Bud should know that since they work for him.
As far as expanding the playoff roster, again he is taking credit for something the players won from the owners and their rep Bud Selig. Bud's big solution to the tied ballgame problem, instead of having the cajones to say that it was great game and it didn't matter who won, was to make it "count" by determining the World Series homefield advantage. The players conceded this but only if the rosters could be expanded to 32 men. Bud taking credit for it is like U.S. Steel taking credit for the five-day work week.
Finally, his comments on the Gaston-Mussina situation are completely irrelevant. No one was angry that Gaston had not used all of his pitchers including Mussina. The issue was that Gaston had singled out the only Oriole to be a non-participant even though the game was in Baltimore. The home fans had no one to cheer for. They didn't care that he didn't use his all of his pitchers. They wanted to see the hometown guy. The implication was that Gaston had allowed the divisional rivalry weight into his decision not to use the only Oriole player. But nice try, throw enough B.S. and some of it will stick.]
I'm Dave from Boston. My question is, Mr. Commissioner, what do you think are the two or three biggest changes we'll see in the game of baseball over the next five or 10 years?
Well, we've had so many changes, and that's fair. The continued internationalization of the game. This game is so popular worldwide, that it's incumbent upon us, quite frankly, to continue to make sure that we're doing that and very aggressive in how we are doing that.
The rest of it is just to continue to tweak all of the economics, the things that we've done, to make sure that teams have a great shape and the question from Kansas City is a poignant one, we have to make sure that people everywhere, whether it's here in Houston or Detroit or anywhere else believe that they have a fair chance to win.
[Mike: Is that "the game". All Bud is concerned with is making a buck. Isn't he a fan of the game as well? Couldn’t he have answered the return of four-man rotations or the evolution of the closer breaking from the Dennis Eckersley model or that Red Sox fans will stop whining? No, because his concern is the do-re-mi money. Remember where the fans come in the list of his constituency?]
I'm John from Lincoln, Nebraska. Do you think there might be a possibility at any particular time in the future that the American League might actually go back to having pitchers actually batting again?
Well, I was there, I've been around long enough. It was the only Charlie Finley idea I ever liked. I voted for it in December of 1972.
American League clubs like the designated hitter. I guess the only thing I would say to you is that if we ever get to overall geographical realignment, that would be the one thing because the National League teams will never vote for the designated hitter. That's the one thing that I would get the American League to consider.
[Mike: Lincoln? I'm going down to Cowtown. The cow's a friend to me
Lives beneath the ocean and that's where I will be Beneath the waves, the waves. And that's where I will be. I'm gonna see the cow beneath the sea… Sorry.
John, you may want to actually bring that sentence in actually to a tailor to trim a bit of the "actually"'s.
It was the only Charlie Finley idea I ever liked. Yuck Yuck Yuck. Still bitter about Finley's failure to pay Catfish Hunter's insurance annuity thereby opening the door to free agency, huh, Bud?
Geographic realignment? Who brought that up? Oh, it's just another stupid Bud project that he's going to try to push down our throats. Forget about all the traditions and rivalries that have developed over the years. He's just concerned with reducing traveling costs. Bud would squeeze a penny to get all its worth.
Besides fans turn out in big numbers to see the Yanks play the Met and the White Sox play the Cubbies. Why have that just for a few games a year? Stick them in the same division, and milk that cow a good 20 times a season. Disgraceful.
As far as the DH is concerned, Bill James showed that it increases strategic possibilities although it eliminates the pat strategies like bunting the pitching with a man on first and less than two outs. You know, those plays that everyone in the stadium knows is coming. Not to mention that pitchers don't hit in the minors and don't care to hit. I find the non-DH game more aesthetically pleasing in the ideal as well, but in the real world, it just doesn't make sense.
Oh, and the AL may not be the ones you have to placate to get rid of the DH. It’s the players, who would be foregoing a good 14 starting jobs. How d you plan to compensate them, by expanding the All-Star rosters and than taking credit for it?]
Aaron from Colorado. First off I've been a National League fan all my life and I always will be. My question -- when are the American League pitchers going to put a bat in their hand and become, you know, earn their money like the National League pitchers do?
When the American League decides to change the designated hitter rule, and as I said earlier, the American League right now likes the designated hitter rule, and only I think some massive geographical realignment will change that.
[Mike: Aaron from Colorado? Aaron Ledesma? Never mind.
Oh boy, he's really pushing this realignment crapola. I guess it's never too early to start campaigning for the next CBA. God bless, Bud.]
Moderator: Mr. Commissioner you answered over 40, 45 questions here. We thank you very much for that. I'm sure the fans appreciate it, too. We'll see you next year in Detroit.
[Mike: Actually there were 35, but who's counting.
Detroit? No, not Detroit! Actually, "next year in Detroit" is the fitting end to our seder with Selig.