Transcript of Commissioner Selig's Town Hall Chat
Commissioner Bud Selig answered fans' questions, submitted online and asked in person, in his 13th annual Town Hall chat, held Tuesday at MLB All-Star FanFest in New York. MLB.com's Jeremy Brisiel moderated.
THE MODERATOR: We are here alongside Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig. I'm JB, and it's time for the Town Hall chat once again. Commissioner, thank you for being with us.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: It's a pleasure to be here today. Been very exciting, and I always enjoy doing this, because I love talking to fans; I have my whole career, and this will be great.
THE MODERATOR: Well, this is an annual tradition now, and this week, it's on a Tuesday, which is great. You've been wildly busy with other media but this event gets to bring you in touch with the fans. It's an interactive thing we've doing here at MLB.com since 2001 when it was just e mails in your office. It's come a fairly long way.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, it's an amazing story what's happened to the whole FAM and MLB.com. It's been one of the greatest success stories of my commissionership, and what I say about it, and I really mean this, not only been a great American business sports story, it's really one of the great business stories in America. I mean, the growth of this, it's stunning. Just being here today and watching all this is just remarkable.
THE MODERATOR: Well, Commissioner, the average fan may not know, MLB.com exists very much because of an idea that you had. So on behalf of all of us that are working here today right here, I want to thank you personally.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you very much, and it's a thing I'm proud of and proud of everything that's gone on.
Nice to see Mr. Bowman is here today. I know this is big because Mr. Bowman doesn't show up often, so when he does, you know you've arrived. (Laughter.) That is true, I concur with that statement.
THE MODERATOR: What we have is the Town Hall Chat, it's the state of baseball in the year 2013. MLB.com has vetted thousands of questions from fans that have submitted via the Internet and we have put them all together.
Before we press on to those questions, I have to say, the Mets are hosting for the first time since '64. It's an incredible thing to see what this week has been like, how the growth has been, how the franchise is doing now, and to see that this is the culmination of all those years.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's right. I remember the 64 All Star Game. In fact, I talked a little bit to Joe Torre. If my memory serves me correctly, Johnny Callison, he hit a home run to win the ballgame 49 years ago. So it's great, just looking around here at FanFest, people all over the place and excitement and it's wonderful.
Last night's Home Run Derby, I'm happy to say our ratings were up over last year, and we won the night. The Home Run Derby was the most watched program on television last night. We are off to a very, very good start.
THE MODERATOR: Another thing that we are pointing to, in addition to winning the night on television, it wins the night in social causes; $529,000, over a half million dollars raised from that Home Run Derby, so it's really one of the remarkable events in media to be such a win/win operation.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Absolutely. I often say, baseball is a social institution we enormous social responsibilities, and so when you can do what we did last night, people having a great time, we are going to leave $5 million here as we go in all our host cities for charitable stuff over the coming years, and I'm proud of that, I'm really very, very proud.
THE MODERATOR: Certainly something baseball continues to do under your stewardship, and I know we are all very happy as fans to see it do good in the world. I think that's a great thing.
As I said, this is a Town Hall, the fans have submitted questions, we have garnered them, they have several themes. Let's see what they want to know.
This is from Loretta: Would you ever consider to moving the World Baseball Classic to after the post season?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: No, and I'll tell you why. The season ends, let's say, September 28, 29. Now you have four to six weeks, four weeks for sure, where teams in the playoffs are playing and now you're down to two teams the last ten or 12 days. You have players who will be out of shape by that time.
I mean, if you really tried to call players back and said, gee, we can all do this No. 1, they are hurt, they are tired, pitchers have pitched a lot of innings. Hitters need time off.
And I know there's some advantages there, but look, there's no perfect time and I know some people really are quarrelsome with doing it in spring training. But I thought it worked great this year and I was really very proud. In the end, everybody, players, management, everybody agrees, that's the best time.
THE MODERATOR: And it's a process that evolved to find the right spot.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Absolutely, it has evolved. You couldn't do it at the end of the year because you probably couldn't find many pitchers who would want to pitch any more, and they really would take a chance. I would have to tell you that I think it's at the right time.
THE MODERATOR: Well, the World Baseball Classic is an international representation of the game and that's a theme that came up.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Oh, it's exciting. That's my great goal is to take the game international.
I know I was at a game in Phoenix, USA versus México on a Friday night. It was 45,000, almost 50,000 people there, the emotion in the ballpark on both sides, and it's really what it should be.
So we're getting there, and it's our great move towards international, and the World Baseball Classic is a very critical part of that.
THE MODERATOR: In that theme, in fact, Richard wands to know: What are the prospects for a U.S./Japan World Series and it happens, what would be the format?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's my ultimate goal. It will happen long after time gone but my ultimate goal is to have a real World Series. Imagine the drama in late October of a USA versus Japan or whomever was in the World Series at that time.
Obviously we have not determined 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.
THE MODERATOR: I think that might be a fairly complex process.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: It will be very complex.
THE MODERATOR: This from Ellis: I was curious from your thoughts on an All Star skills competition. Wouldn't it be cool to see Brett Gardner versus Michael Bourn or Mike Trout versus Bryce Harper in a contest in which they round the bases or even Aroldis Chapman rolling 110 miles per hour throwing to home plate versus other flamethrowers.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: I know other sports do those type of things. I would only be concerned about injuries. I doubt that clubs would want to have their players doing that. It's one thing to come here and play; it's one thing to participate in the home run hitting contest, I think that's great.
But I'm not sure you really want to have them participate in events like this where you do have a chance to get hurt. I like the idea, and I think it would be intriguing in some ways, but if I, as I did, own a club and ran a club for 35 years, I'm not sure I would have wanted Robinson Cano, Yount or Paul Molitor or somebody like that to be engaging in those activities.
THE MODERATOR: Might cause you concern for the rest of the season.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Oh, you bet, you bet.
THE MODERATOR: From Jackson: Has expansion been considered by Major League Baseball? And if so, when is the earliest that a new team could begin play?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: So the answer is, I think at 30 teams, I'm very satisfied. We have had two expansions the last couple of decades, and frankly that's just more than enough right now. So I feel very good at where we are.
THE MODERATOR: We are pretty good on the expansion.
What is your favorite part personally of this All Star week?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I have a lot of them. You know, it's just fun here sitting and watching all the people circulate around. I like the home run hitting contest last night. It was exciting, I must say. Boy, there was some balls hit at the end that were really, really dramatic and very dynamic, but I love the game. I don't know, it's a celebration of baseball in midseason, and I love this celebration.
THE MODERATOR: In terms of the Home Run Derby, the scope of the players, those two rosters, that was a good array of Major League Baseball representation.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Oh, was it ever. Was it ever. Oh, there were some balls hit; it was terrific.
THE MODERATOR: From Miriam: Should there be more parity in teams' payrolls to allow smaller market teams to compete with larger market teams and require teams to spend a minimum amount on payroll?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's a fair question, ten, 15, 20 years ago. We have more competitive balance than ever before; parity, call it whatever you want.
So, let's look at this. Oakland is leading the American League West. In the American League East, we have Tampa, two and a half games out today. Remarkable.
And the American League Central, obviously very competitive. In the National League, you've got Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, St. Louis fighting. You have Atlanta, a smaller market than New York or Philadelphia, leading the National League East; in the West, Arizona leading.
We have never ever had this kind of competitive balance. This is the most competition we've had at every division in the history of our sport.
THE MODERATOR: It's been a thrilling year in this first half, and it's the first half of realignment, as well. How have you enjoyed watching those games play out, some matchups you get to see every week.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Terrific. The schedule has been great, but the weatherman has been unkind to us this year. Hopefully the last half of the year we are going to have a lot better weather.
THE MODERATOR: That's true. From Mike D.: What recourse does a team have to dispute calls after a game?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you know, you can protest a game. They go to our baseball operations department headed by Joe Torre, and he has a chance to he has a chance then; they will review it, and every so often, not very often, they will uphold a protest. But they do; there's a procedure to go through.
THE MODERATOR: There's a process in place.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Oh, no question.
THE MODERATOR: Does MLB plan to institute a clock on pitchers or some other way to speed up the game?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's a good question, because I always worry about time of the game, as opposed to pace of the game. But I would say to you, that the best thing that we can do is the umpires watching pitchers, watching hitters who step out of the box, and they have been pretty good about that.
Frankly, I don't get very many complaints from fans about time of the game. That's more something that you read in the papers or hear about that. But I am sensitive to it and we do work on it.
THE MODERATOR: Now, your points of view as commissioner, do they align with your points of view as a fan? Is that sort of the engine from that, because pace of play, if the fans don't request
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Absolutely, I do. I'm very I talk to a lot of fans, we do a lot of polling, and I'm interested in what they think and why they think it.
THE MODERATOR: How long does your blue rib upon panel need to decide what to do about the Oakland A's?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Right now, we have the City of San Jose has sued Major League Baseball, so until that litigation now is solved, the committee is just going to have to wait till that's done.
So that's the Oakland situation that with San Francisco, it's a tough one; you have different views by different clubs. But, with the City of San Jose suing us, there's nothing we can do. I feel good about where we're at.
THE MODERATOR: This from Frank D.: When will the designated hitter rule either be abolished or extend to all of Major League Baseball?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, 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. I was there, voted for it in 1972. 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 is bad.'
The only thing that may change it some day 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.
THE MODERATOR: And being here with the fans for the entire week, that's certainly a question that's come up multiple times.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: No question.
THE MODERATOR: So we are glad to lay that out.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Always has been and I understand that.
THE MODERATOR: From Gino: How does the MLB keep the middle class family fan with a family coming back to the stadiums?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's another area that I'm sensitive about.
We are family priced and we are going to draw 75 plus million people. You could not do that if you weren't priced our average ticket price last year was $26, which is the lowest in baseball, and lowest of any entertainment. But, clubs all have a lot of different marketing things where families can come on many days for a lot cheaper than that.
I'm proud of our clubs. They are very aggressive; they do these type of things. We should, absolute family entertainment.
So we wouldn't be up into the stunning attendance areas that we are if we are not priced properly, and we are priced properly.
THE MODERATOR: And it's a national pastime and a family game without question.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: You bet.
THE MODERATOR: Bill G. wants to know: One of the classiest moments in sports occurs during the Stanley Cup playoffs when the two teams shake hands at the conclusion of their hard fought series, and it also occurs on every little league field at the conclusion of each and every game. Why does this not happen in Major League Baseball?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I've talked to a lot of people about that. I know they do that at the end of the Stanley Cup. I'm not sure they do that anywhere else.
But our people just feel after a hard fought game, they just would rather not do that or the World Series. Now, there are other ways to did that and I know the public doesn't see it but often times the guy also go to the other team's clubhouse and shake hands and do the things that good sportsmanship requires.
I'm more concerned with people playing the game right and being good sports and doing what you should do, doing the right thing, during the games.
THE MODERATOR: Well, that's sportsmanship within the lines.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: You bets. You bet.
THE MODERATOR: We had a question about class there and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the Wounded Warriors that are VIPs in the front row of this auditorium right now. Big round of applause, please.
Those of us that enjoy baseball freely and safely at home have them to thank for the sacrifice they have made and we appreciate that, thank you, guys.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: I agree with that, and welcome and thank you for all you've done for all of us, believe me, very, very much appreciated.
THE MODERATOR: Baseball has been, again, under your stewardship, really cognizant of what others sacrifice and do and try to incorporate best as possible for the citizens that make it all possible. It's really a phenomenal thing.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: No question about it. We have a program, Welcome Back Veterans, that we have instituted and spent a lot of money and time, and that's the very least we can do, and as an expression of our gratitude for all that you guys have done, so thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Another question from MLB.com. Are there any steps being taken to bring more instant replay into baseball, if so, when and how will it be used? That's from Belal.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yeah, what I have, I have a little committee: Joe Torre, 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.
THE MODERATOR: That's the goal then, 2014 season?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yes, it is.
THE MODERATOR: Wally S. would like to know: Will there ever be a time where the post season goes to four rounds of best of seven series.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, the series all used to be three of five, then we went to the League championship and the World Series, four out of seven.
The problem is timing. We start at the end of September. I have a goal that we want to finish by the end of October, because once we get into November, we have some cities I don't want to get snowed out in and where we'd have to sit for a long time.
So it's really the length of the playoffs. So the first series was three of five and I know some people would like to do four of seven, but it's just a matter of stretching too long. I think we are going to leave it as it is. You know, if you were in all warm weather cities, then it wouldn't matter and you could do that. But it's really a matter of time.
THE MODERATOR: We move on with a city that knows one or two things about cold air. This is from Stephane: Do you think Montréal will ever again have a team in Major League Baseball; thank you, and merry.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, they had one and it was quite successful, and now it's in Washington. We don't have any expansion plans, and there are, I'm happy to say, no teams that really want to move, so we'll just have to see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: A wait and see approach.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I'm happy. We really don't have any teams that want to move, and we certainly under my leadership were not going to have any more expansion.
THE MODERATOR: A good place to be. Richard P. would like to know: I've been a baseball fan since 1947, thank you for your excellent service as commissioner. Why are there so many visits to the mound by both pitching coaches and catchers? Why not allow just one visit by the catcher each interesting?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you know, that's interesting, because that's a way to shorten the game. The problem is, you get into certain situations where a pitcher is in trouble, game on the line, you want to talk to the the catcher wants to talk to him, now the pitching coach maybe sees something in his delivery that he doesn't like, so he wants to go out there.
We limit it to one visit by the pitching coach and a manager, because if he comes out the second time, he's got to take him out.
So it's hard to tell a catcher that he can't really talk to the pitcher. That's part of the game and part of the strategy. But I agree with him that you want to limit it so that the game doesn't dragon.
THE MODERATOR: A reasonable amount of visits.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Some clubs are good, and other clubs the catchers are not as good.
THE MODERATOR: Jerry H. would like to know: Will the All Star Game continue to determine home field advantage for the World Series?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yes. The answer is well, I'll tell you why, and I spoke to the writers about it today. Look, before that, we didn't have a great plan. One year, you got it, the next year I got it, the next year you got it; it wasn't as though we had some brilliant idea.
What this has done is put a lot of verve back into it. Each league determines its own fate by the way it plays in this game tonight, by who pitches well and who hits and who does everything else, and it has brought real excitement back to the All Star Game. And there really is no other way we can do that. So, yeah, I feel good about it. I do.
THE MODERATOR: What was amazing to me was to see how the managers went after those final vote candidates to make a roster move in this game.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: You bet. You bet.
And let me say something else to you about that. What you really have, what you really have is now players care. They want to come. They want to do they want to play. The game has got its verve back again. Guys really want to be here. You'll notice tonight, I mean, this will be one hard fought game. That's the way it's supposed to be.
THE MODERATOR: This from Don. Other than a specific ban by the Commissioner, what steps can be taken to ensure that players who were caught using performance enhancing drugs will not be enshrined in the Hall of Fame?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, you know, the Commissioner doesn't vote on that. That's the Baseball Writers Association of America. I don't have a vote. All I can do is deal with these problems as I am while they are ongoing, and the writers will then be left to make their own judgment.
THE MODERATOR: This is the last submitted question and then we will turn things over to fans here at FanFest. From Don: What specific steps are being taken to improve and ensure the accuracy of the calls made by umpires?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I think the umpires for the most part have done well. And I used to be a guy that bitched about umpires all the time, so what the hell (Laughter.) 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 more the most deal, 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 you once in a while." But overall, the umpiring levels have been pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: It's been an amazing thing, and there you go, folks. That's all the submitted questions, thank you commissioner for that.
We now have a line of fans waiting to ask questions, so let's get to it at Javitz Center in New York City.
Q. I have a question on international expansion. The World Baseball Classic appears to be a big success. I play on two baseball teams that include kids from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan and Korea. It was fun for us to watch and cheer. Would you consider offering an MLB franchise to cities in any of these countries, and in your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons for such an expansion?
THE MODERATOR: That's a well thought out question. So the young man plays with players from all around the world, really, and is curious about MLB franchises and expansion.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's I think my dream some day to have franchises in different locales. 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, Japan and Australia; the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks are going to open up, and 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.
THE MODERATOR: Continues to be a growth sport which is still amazing at this point in its history.
We have another very special fan.
Q. What is your opinion on the outgrowth of youth in the game today with people like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, what does that say about the health of today's game?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's an excellent question. We have, I said today, we have a wonderful wave of new ballplayers.
Everybody always worries as our great stars get older and getting ready to go; you look at Machado and Harper and Mike Trout and you're going to see a lot of them tonight, first time players, amazing, amazing young players.
Machado I saw make a play at third base last week that would have made Brooks Robinson proud. So the young players, Chapman in Cincinnati and others, it's remarkable. The year we are having is so good, because the young players coming on are just brilliant.
Q. As a California educator, I think you're extremely intelligent and I enjoyed listening to you yesterday at the Sirius stage, and you talked about baseball history. I find that fascinating as a public schoolteacher. The 1984 slam dunk contest featured Dr. J and Larry Nance, like other athletes, Pete Rose deserves a second chance. What should Pete Rose do in order to get reinstated in baseball, and what's the current status on that issue for Pete Rose?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: The current status is that it's under advisement as it's been.
I would remind you that it is under and I am the judge, and that's why I'm very sensitive to talk about it.
But you must remember that since 1921 after the Black Sox scandal, there's been a rule in baseball that anyone who gambles on baseball would be suspended for life, and that's what commissioner Bart Giamatti did, but the case is under advisement.
Q. On the steroid ban, are you still thinking about doing that one ban, eliminate it from the game, or are you still going to continue the same thing that you're doing now?
THE MODERATOR: Are you considering a lifetime ban; is that the question? If you're caught, the current suspensions as they are, or a lifetime ban.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, the current suspensions have been negotiated with the Players Association. They are a law until the next negotiation.
Other than that, as I've said several times here today and yesterday, the investigation is thorough, very complete, and when they are completed they will bring me all the information and only then will we begin to try to decide what to do and how.
THE MODERATOR: Excellent questions, certainly not softballs by any means; it's a New York audience.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: That's okay, I never get softballs, anyway, guys, so what the hell, it doesn't matter. (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: To close it out then, are you looking forward to tonight's game? And roster ages 20 to 43, how great is that for an All Star Game.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, it is. You know, you've got the great veterans, great Mariano Rivera, who is the greatest relief pitcher of all time.
And by the way, I want to say this for Mariano; he's been as great off the field as he has been on the field. He's a wonderful, wonderful human being and great for baseball. If you're another club and he comes in in the ninth inning, you don't like him as much, but he's been just marvelous.
All the young players, you saw some of them last night, 1920 years old, Machado and Bryce Harper and so on and so forth. What it says is that the game is vibrant, that you're watching a change now in generation from our younger players to our older players, and I'm proud of the clubs because they have really developed a brilliant set of young players.
THE MODERATOR: Folks, that wraps it up for the 2013 FanFest Town Hall Chat with Commissioner Bud Selig; a big round of applause.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you, I enjoyed it.