Selig answers fans' questions at Town Hall
Commissioner touches on international play, replay and more at All-Star FanFest
NEW YORK -- Commissioner Bud Selig covered a wide array of topics during his annual live Town Hall Meeting on the MLB.com stage at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest Tuesday. Some 25 questions were submitted through MLB.com or asked by fans at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Several touched on the idea of baseball going international. Selig talked about the logistics which prevents the World Baseball Classic from being played sometime other than Spring Training and envisioned a day when the World Series is played against a team from outside North America.
"That's my ultimate goal," Selig said. "It will happen long after I'm gone, but my ultimate goal is to have a real World Series. Imagine the drama in late October of a USA vs. Japan or whomever was in the World Series at that time.
"Obviously, we have not determined a format yet, but I have talked to the Japanese commissioner, and I know that he thinks it's a great idea. So I feel good about that. That is the ultimate goal, but many details to be worked out."
Later, asked by a fan about the possibility of establishing Major League franchises around the world, he expanded on the subject.
"My dream is to some day to have franchises in different locales," he said. "Air travel will have to be a little more sophisticated, but that's why we are doing everything internationally.
"We are going to open the season in Australia next year; the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks are going to open up, and we want to open up in Europe. We are really getting around now, and that's important. We are going to do everything to take this sport international to as many places as possible."
Given all the speculation surrounding the Biogenesis investigation, one fan asked the Commissioner what he could do to assure that players who test positive for performance-enhancing substances are never elected to the Hall of Fame. He pointed out that eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America are responsible for that vote.
Another wondered about the possibility of lifetime bans for players guilty of a first offense. "The current [penalties] have been negotiated with the Players Association. They are a law until the next negotiation," he said.
Some of the other subjects Selig discussed included:
• The possibility that the designated hitter will either be abolished or adapted by both leagues: "What I would say to you about that, the National League clubs, of course, don't like it. American League clubs love it. What I believe is that it's now 41 years old. A little controversy between the leagues is really not all bad. My friend, Bill Giles, who is the chairman of the Philadelphia Phillies, always says that to me, 'Oh, controversy isn't bad.' The only thing that may change it someday is if we have a lot more geographical realignment, which is not on the horizon now. And if you have that, that could be an event that forces the DH either to come in totally or to go out, but at the moment, we are not going to change it."
• Expanded instant replay: "I have a little committee: [former big league managers] Joe Torre and Tony La Russa and John Schuerholz, the president of the Atlanta Braves and one of the great baseball executives over the last 35, 40 years. They are studying it, and they are going to make recommendations to me shortly.
"They have spent an enormous amount of time on this project, and so I feel very good about where that is and we'll have some form of instant-replay recommendations and hopefully for the 2014 season."
• Keeping baseball affordable for families: "That's another area that I'm sensitive about," he said. "We are family priced and we are going to draw 75 plus million people. You could not do that if you weren't priced [fairly]. Our average ticket price last year was $26, which is the lowest in (professional sports). But, clubs all have a lot of different marketing things where families can come on many days for a lot cheaper than that.
• Improving the quality of umpiring: "I think the umpires for the most part have done well," he said. "When I ran a club, if a call went against me, I was mad. My language was bad, and I was mad all the way around.
"But for the most part, I feel they do a great job. We have electronic devices that grade umpires on every call behind home plate and they do remarkably well, I want to tell you, really, they do very well. We use replay on home-run balls and other things now, and I think that's good. And as I said, we are going to look at additional replay, but overall, we really have done very well. You know, Joe Torre says it best I think, 'Life isn't perfect; the umpire is going to miss a call every once in a while.' But overall, the umpiring levels have been pretty good."