Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig took questions from reporters Wednesday at the RBI World Series in Minneapolis. Here is a partial transcript:
Commissioner Bud Selig: It's very nice to be here. It's hard to believe it's been a year since I've been at this event, which is spectacular.
It's been an eventful few days for me. But other than that, we've had a great season.
Q: How do you perceive the reaction?
Selig: Really good, though I don't know if that plays a great role. ... I often say to the clubs: We're a social institution, and with that goes social responsibilities. And when, years ago we were accused of so-called dragging our feet -- which was a historical myth, by the way, wasn't true.
Our Minor League program is entering its 13th year, and the first time we could deal with a Major League drug-testing program was '02. We didn't because this is a collective bargaining thing, and it's not something the Commissioner can do. And the union, if they were here today, would not argue; they opposed it.
Baseball never had a drug-testing program, despite in the '80s we had a very significant cocaine problem. We had people like Steve Howell, who was suspended seven times. So here we are today with the toughest drug-testing program in American sports. A thorough program, the only sport to test for HGH, with longitudinal testing to make it more sophisticated.
No program is perfect. I wouldn't stand here and tell you it's perfect, but WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] tells us we have the strongest testing in not only sports but America. And if you've read all of their communication the last week or two, I'm very confident. So I don't really look at -- the reaction has been very positive.
But the most important thing to me has been in doing what we've said we'd do 10, 12 years ago. That's the most important thing. And while there's a lot of things in life you wish didn't happen, when they do, of course we are a social institution, and we're going to adjust them. And I think last Monday was a good example of that.
Q: Are you surprised to see players actually back it? I think [Jonny] Gomes said, "I don't want my union dues to pay for A-Rod's defense"?
Selig: I read Jonny Gomes' comments. I read everybody's comments, as we all know. Yeah, the players have been very outspoken, and I don't blame them. Look, I felt badly years ago, and I had players come and tell me -- I had one player, I was telling a group earlier today, one person from the Steroid Era -- he didn't do it, and he mentioned 20 or 21 of his teammates, and I agree with him. We can debate whether we want to call it that or not.
And I can say this here today: Baseball is held -- and this is very important -- to a higher and different standard than everybody else. And so I had some things go on in other places where nobody reacts, but everybody reacts in baseball.
But I'm proud of the players. The players have spoken out, and all the players that are clean. And I said last year we gave 16,000 tests -- 4,200 in the big leagues, the others were in the Minor Leagues. In the big leagues we had seven positives. In the Minor Leagues the whole was 3 percent of 1 percent tested positive. We used a Montreal lab, which is the most sophisticated lab in the world. ... I mean, we've really bolstered everything. And as I said before, nothing is perfect, and I'm not standing here telling you that. But the fact is, I believe we've done everything, and when WADA says you have the best program -- the world's leading drug program -- I'll stand on that.
Q: While A-Rod's appealing this, there's the fact that he can ... affect the pennant race but maybe get the Yankees in the postseason. Are you comfortable with that?
Selig: Look, he has a right to do what he's doing. And so he's doing what he does have the right to do. My own personal thoughts are not relevant on this case, because he has the right to do what he wants to do.
Q: Are you surprised how close the players and the union are? Never used to be that way before.
Selig: Didn't used to be. No, it didn't; you're right. They've come a long way, and we've come a long way. Look, if somebody would've told you way back when. Look, my first year in the sport was 1970, and we had eight work stoppages, and the relationship between the Players Association and us was terrible. There's no other way around it. I've often said when I'm teaching courses that it may have been the worst relationship in the history of labor. I mean, we'd go to war every two or three years.
Now we have 21 years of labor peace. And one of the primary reasons, here we are, with everything that we've done -- revenue has gone through the roof, asset values of franchises, we've got more competitive balance than ever before.
In fact, there's no question about that -- all the revenue sharing. So I feel good about where we are.
But Bart Giamatti used to say to me over and over again: "Baseball's a metaphor for life. You're going to have your ups; you're going to have your downs. Nothing is perfect." And this isn't perfect.
But, I guess, what I'm proud of is, No. 1, 13 players, think about this, this had never happened, accepted the penalty. You know, that's hard to believe. So it's something in life you wish never happened. But nobody can say we've ignored this.
And with all the things I've read -- I do read every player comment and everybody else's comment -- it is true, there was a big debate Monday and Tuesday: Is this a good day or a bad day for baseball? It's not even a question. It was a good day for baseball, because we faced up to the problem. Nobody's hiding from it; nobody swept it under the rug. We did what any social institution should do. And all the players are better. And I want to say it again: I really appreciate the players' comments.
Q: Are the suspensions finally over? Would you be surprised or shocked if somebody else tested positive?
Selig: At this moment, I don't know of any others, and I hope that's the way it stays. It's been a tough period for me. Because I'm very protective of the game and the game itself. And I said it the other day, and I was thinking about it coming up here this morning.
I feel badly in one sense there's so many of a great majority of our players that would have done this well clean, and they don't like being targeted in this, and I don't blame them. I've heard from a number of players. But they're also very supportive of what we've done, and that means a lot. A lot.
Q: Most [of the suspended players] did not fail a drug test. What does that say about the program?
Selig: Since then, we've gone to longitudinal testing. I don't want to get into law and sophistication, but that will pick up a lot of things that didn't [get picked up]. What it means, without getting into detail, it can pick up on testosterone testing in a much more sophisticated way than it did before. I'll let the experts do that.
But I'm very comfortable talking to [doctors in Montreal and California] ... they're very comfortable with what we've done.
And I'll tell you what else I'm very proud of what we've done. I meet with the professional athletic trainers a lot because -- and I know from my days of running the Brewers that the trainer knows as much as anybody in the clubhouse. And yesterday I had two or three of them call me because I had mentioned them in the press release, and they weren't very happy, but I said to them again, and we're about to have another meeting with the team doctors: Are you satisfied? And unequivocally all of them said, "Yes we are. You have no idea how different it is in Major League clubhouses." That's all I need to know. But we have adopted more sophisticated testing, and I think we'll pick up on that; there's no question in my mind.
Q: Any thoughts on adding a punishment to a team as another deterrent?
Selig: Well, it's tough on a team. One of the things I've said before is one of those historical myths that get told so much about how everybody knew, which is just ... I remember that period, '98, '99. Somebody said today this has been going on since the '80s.
Well, if it has, I ran a team and I didn't know a thing. And I've talked to a lot of my players, and everybody denies it. But the fact of the matter is, is what you have here, it's hard to detect, to know which players are doing at all times, but right now in the clubhouses -- when I went to Senator Mitchell to analyze things, and he made many suggestions and said what we should do in the clubhouse, and the clubs have been wonderfully cooperative.
This idea that the clubs might have liked it because of the home run is just sheer nonsense. If I take you back to the attendance in '98 and '99, it went down. I have no idea what people are talking about. Don't get me started on all the things I'm aggravated about, because I am. But look, every owner has been nothing but remarkably cooperative. I've had more calls and congratulations from owners in the last 24, 40 hours. And so I'm comfortable where we are. I'm comfortable. And whether we need tougher penalties, that's something we're going to talk about in the future.
Q: Was it important to do it as a group and make a statement, because public perception is somewhat: Everyone does it, I'm so sick of hearing about these players. A lot of people are really having a negative attitude. Is it important to make a statement that way?
Selig: Well, it worked out that way, and I think it did do good. You had Ryan Braun a couple weeks earlier, and then you had the 12 players yesterday, and you have A-Rod, of course that's a little bit different situation.
I think it was a very powerful message, I do. I don't think there's any question about that. But again, I want to say to you that our program, WADA said the other day, and I'll quote them because they're the gold standard -- when I was in Congress eight years ago getting banged around, that's all I heard was, "Why don't you work with WADA, and what does WADA say?" -- that we are so far advanced over everybody else, and so you can only be critical for us for the players that have done it.
But they've been [suspended] not even failing a test, which makes it even more remarkable. I spent a lot of time talking to our experts, because they really know the field, I don't, and everybody tells me -- the team doctors, I met with them as well as the trainers; they're very comfortable. We banned amphetamines. Think about that. Those of you that have been around a while, amphetamines played a role in this sport for 60 years. And we banned them without anybody asking us to. And I must tell you, the team doctors were the people who talked to me about that. And we banned them because they were very concerned about it.
So, I won't stand here today and tell you it's perfect, but I think there has been no stone left unturned, and there will be no stone left unturned as we move forward.
Q: Are you guys still open to talking to his people to shorten the suspension, but get [Alex Rodriguez] off the field?
Selig: I don't have any comment on that. I did what I thought was right, and that's where we stand.
Q: How concerned are you that the appeals process is going to take away from watching some of these pennant races?
Selig: Well, the only thing I can tell you about that -- the last two weekends have been the biggest two attendance weekends of the year. We're drawing really, it's been really very encouraging, including up here last weekend, I might add.
We've got great races going on in most of the divisions -- it looks like Atlanta is set to run away. But I feel good about where we are, and I think it'll be very exciting.
No, I really don't. We've done what we have to do now, and given our attendance in the last two and three weeks, and even since Monday, we're not concerned. The only thing you want your fans to know is that you're serious about it, you're doing something about it, and you did something about it.
Q: How long were you investigating this?
Selig: Well, I guess since the first of the year, in that area. Maybe a little before.
Q: I wonder if the owners appreciate the great job you've done for them to put baseball where it is today. Like you said, hockey had a strike, basketball had a strike. There have been no strikes, and you've put this thing on the map.
Selig: We didn't realize all those years, from 1970 on, how tough the league was every two or three years. Near the end, it was Don Fehr and me. I told Don one day, 'One thing we can be assured of is nobody is going to feel sorry for either one of us or care whether we're getting banged around.'
And that is true. It's very hard to feel sorry for players, and it's very hard to feel sorry for owners. And that hurt the sport. Now, you've had a lot of years -- it's going to be 21 years, where we can concentrate on the game. And we're lucky. We've had a great new influx of young talent -- amazing young talent coming in. So Bart was right. Just a metaphor for life. We'll work our way through it and have it ready and going to go on to bigger and better things.
Q: Bud, you quote Bart Giamatti often, and you reference him often.
Selig: I do.
Q: It's well known how much stress he was under before he rendered the Pete Rose decision. What's this process been like for you in terms of stress and pressure, and how does it feel now, several days removed?
Selig: That's an interesting thing, because I've been thinking a lot about Bart. The night before he passed away, I talked to him until 1:30 in the morning, and he died early the next morning. He and I were very close. It was very special, and I have to tell you, this has been very special for me. You asked a question, and I've got to give you an honest answer: It's been tough. It's been tough.
Q: What's it been like since Monday? Did you feel any sense of relief?
Selig: Actually last night, I watched a whole bunch of games for the first time that I tried to concentrate on the games. Even watching this great left-hander for the Twins [Andrew Albers], who I thought was Sandy Koufax.
Q: Let's not go that far.
Selig: [Laughs] I was being somewhat facetious.
Q: Citi Field is complete in New York. Next up is Target Field All-Star Game. Anything special -- any other updates -- about this All-Star Game coming here?
Selig: Well, we'll have a lot of things. It's [chief marketing officer] Jacqueline Parkes here, who is a resident genius for all those things. But, what you'll be amazed at, Charlie, is what an event this has become. We'll start on a Thursday; it'll go through the game on Tuesday night. You'll go through FanFest, which people will come from all over the upper Midwest -- all over the Midwest, I hope. You've got games on Sunday, which are wonderful. You've got the Home Run Derby. You have the game itself and so many other events. I have more things. I'm telling you: You will say to me next July, "Wow, you weren't kidding." That's how big it'll be. That's how really big it'll be.
Q: You named the committee to look at diversity in baseball. Can you give us a little bit of a progress report on what that committee has achieved?
Selig: Well, we have Dave Dombrowski, the president of the Tigers. It's great to have the athletic director from Stanford, the baseball coach from Southern University. It's a wonderful group of people, and it's important to me. It's important to me.
You know, Sharon Robinson was here -- Jackie's daughter who works for us. But those who know me know how much '42' made a really lasting impression. Not that I didn't know the whole story. I'd read every book on it. I have talked to Rachel and Sharon a lot about it. But the movie coming out was so profound, and you think of what he did and what it meant. And for some reason, after all, Jackie's success created Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, on and on and on, Willie Stargell.
We could be here all day. Something happened in the late '60s, and we just lost that. Between the RBI [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] program, which ... they've done a brilliant job, we have 22,000 kids playing ball, a lot of kids drafted. We're really making progress today.
But we've got to go further. If nothing else, just you talk about social institutions. Jackie Robinson proved forever how important that is. And you'll see good results as the next few years go by, and that's Dave Dombrowski's charge in that whole committee.