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Commissioner's Internet Chat
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07/14/2003  3:00 PM ET 
Commissioner's Internet Chat
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Commissioner Selig's Internet chat: complete broadcast Free

COMMISSIONER SELIG: A question from Ricky from New York: Why does every team have to have a representative in the All-Star Game?

Because I believe that every Major League franchise deserves to be represented in a game like this. And to start ignoring certain franchises, I think would be very harmful, not only to that franchise, but to the game. So we have increased the rosters to 32 people, and now that we are up to 32, it's not asking too much for every club to have at least one representative.

Question from Jeffrey in Fresno, California, says why don't players and managers select the entire All-Star roster, then let the fans vote for the starters?

I think the fans have done a remarkable job voting, and this year we had the players in a sort of second layer or second tier, and I think it's been great. I think the combination of the players voting on top of the fans who vote for the starters has been terrific. And quite frankly, the All-Star Game is a game where there should be fan involvement and there should be a lot of fan involvement, so I like the way it is.

Jim from Milwaukee: Interleague Play is great, but wouldn't it work better with a balanced schedule rather than an unbalanced schedule?

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Well, I appreciate the Interleague Play comment. Interleague Play was spectacular as people in Chicago know this year, not only the Cubs and the Sox, but the Cubs and the Yankees. Interleague Play drew well and produced in Chicago the highest television ratings for the team since the inception of the Cubs and Sox series and the highest television ratings of the season, not only here but in most places.

The reason we went to an unbalanced schedule is that once we went to divisional play, if you're a team, for instance, like the Cubs, you need to play more games in your division than out of your division. If you're playing a balanced schedule, frankly, you play more games out of your division than in your division. First question somebody can ask then is, well, why did you go to divisional play? A divisional championship should be awarded because you beat the teams in your own division, and so the Cubs should play the Cardinals more and Houston more and Pittsburgh more and Cincinnati more and Milwaukee more.

The same thing with the White Sox. They are going to have to now -- they are going to have to catch Kansas City, and they are even with Minnesota or half a game apart. They should play those teams more. That was the idea going into divisional play.

Lopez from Loraine, Ohio: Do you think this revenue-sharing plan is working?

The answer is yes. I think the last August 30th labor agreement is historic. I think that people will understand as the years go on how really wonderfully helpful revenue sharing has been.

When I first took over in 1992, there was $20 million of revenue sharing for the entire industry. Today it's $258 to $260 million dollars. It's going to go over $300 million, and believe me, the economic landscape of this sport is being changed. And yes, the revenue-sharing plan is working.

Brett from Las Cruces, New Mexico: I was just wondering how much you are considering making a World Cup for baseball? I think it will be a great idea and it will get more people excited about baseball all across the world.

We are very serious about a World Cup. I hope before my commissionership is over we will have a World Cup. We were just debating now on the logistics with the Players Association. They have been wonderfully, wonderfully helpful, and yes, there will be a World Cup and we'll have a true World Series winner.

Paul from Lewiston, Maine: Has Major League Baseball considered expanding the postseason by adding another Wild Card or two? And if so, might the length of the regular season be reduced from 162 games to 154 or fewer?

I want to say that Paul must have been in my office lately because that is an absolutely great question. We have this marketing committee, that you know when we went to three divisions and a Wild Card, there was a lot of criticism. It has worked out great. We are going to have two unbelievable Wild Card races this year, and now I think that we'll consider all of the options. I would not want to tell you that we are going to add more Wild Card teams, but I do think that we will consider all of the various plans. Al Leiter of the New York Mets has made some suggestions. There are other plans out there.

So the answer is, we will consider various options, but be very cautious as we move forward. If you do add something, you would have to think about reducing the schedule, so Paul, that is an outstanding question.

Dan from San Diego: What is the status of the worldwide draft concept?

The status is that we have a committee of both the Players Association and the clubs looking at that. I happen to like the worldwide draft. There's a lot of feelings about it, but I think now, given the players and given everything that we have so many players coming from so many countries that I do think we are going to have to get into something like a worldwide draft.

David: Mr. Selig, have you considered a manager's challenge for close plays, that way the game could be enjoyed more without managers or players arguing the call and being thrown out of the game.

Well, I really like the system the way it is, even though we do have a lot of very spirited arguments and we do have a lot of other things.

I think the umpires do a marvelous job, and I don't think a manager is going to challenge a decision unless he really believes the decision should be challenged.

Bob from Arlington, Texas, the home of the Texas Rangers: What is your No. 1 concern about the state of baseball today and how would you rate the game's popularity?

Well, I don't know if concern is the right word, but we are very seriously reviewing all of our marketing aspects. We have a chance ... I keep saying to people, this is our moment in history. We have labor peace, we have a system now that we've addressed because of last August 30th. There is not the same grumbling going on. The game itself is as popular as it's ever been. Despite everything you've ever heard, we are at 38 million in attendance right now. Our television ratings are outstanding, overdrawing people like we have never done, except for the last four or five years, and I feel very good about the game. We are going to try to do things that make it even more popular.

I think you are about to see baseball enter into a remarkable renaissance of popularity.

Bill from Washington, D.C.: When will MLB be back in the nation's capital?

Well, that's a fair question coming from you. We have a relocation committee that is studying all of the aspects of the Montreal club. It's in the last residue of contraction. We have worked out ... the Puerto Rican experiment has been a wonderful experiment. Frank Robinson has told me that the players enjoyed it and he's enjoyed it. I feel really good about that experiment, but, we need to seriously consider what we do with the Montreal club. The relocation committee has been involved in a lot of work. They will continue to be. We have not set a timetable but I'm sure we will be discussing the matter a lot during the rest of this summer.

John from Green Bay, Wisconsin: Where is realignment on baseball's radar screen?

Well, I happen to be a believer in realignment. We had realignment the last time in '97 and only the Milwaukee Brewers got realigned, went to the National League. But I believe in the geographical rivalries. I would like to see more realignment. But frankly we are going to look at all of our postseason play, our schedule and other things, and then eventually I hope I can get more realignment.

Eddie from New York: What, if anything, is going to be done to force smaller market teams to spend the increased revenue teams are deriving from the most recent labor agreement on players?

Eddie, let me tell you, that's one of the great myths. We did a study and showed it to all of the clubs. Last year, the small market teams received $44 million in revenue sharing and spent $77 million. The clubs are spending more than they are taking in on revenue sharing.

And so, I can tell you today, and we monitor this closely, every team is spending it's money that they get from revenue sharing on their players. I think you're seeing the results.

Look, you saw the Anaheim Angels in the World Series last year. Without revenue sharing from 1996, they can't keep their players, and you've got the Kansas City Royals doing very well now. You're beginning to see the results of all of the work we've done, and believe me, the playing field is being leveled.

Danny from California: Could there ever be an International All-Star Game format with the USA versus the World?

Well, yes, there could be. I'd rather now, however, Danny, concentrate on a World Cup. I think that the World Cup is a more useful format. I love the All-Star Game format that we have and I think we ought to continue that.

Jonathan from Columbus, Ohio: For a long time now, the American League has employed the position of designated hitter. Would you like to see the DH abolished or would you prefer it to be added to the National League?

Well, I'm one of the few people who have been around long enough that in 1972, when Charlie Finley proposed it and we voted on it and voted it in, I must say, I had a lot of reluctance.

You get to like the DH after a while, and yet, when you see a lot of National League games, you love the old-fashioned game the way it was meant to be played. I would say it's going to take some dramatic event to change this. The National League teams will never go to the DH. The American League teams like the DH, but I believe to an earlier question about realignment, if you ever go to realignment, that's the kind of catalytic event that it will take to get rid of the designated hitter.

Ben from Brussels, Belgium: Will baseball think about expanding into Europe?

Well, I don't know about expanding, but we really do want to internationalize our sport. We are hoping to go back to Japan to open up. It was unfortunately cancelled this year, and frankly we hope to be playing in Europe as early as next year, if not, certainly the year after. But we do hope to bring Major League Baseball to Europe within the next year or two.

Parker from Ocean Springs, Mississippi: Is there any possibility of sending the Expos franchise to the American League after relocation, and in effect balancing out the number of teams in each league?

Well, you know, Parker, that's a good question, because we've talked about 15 and 15 a lot. But frankly, 15 and 15 forces us to play Interleague Play every day and has a lot of other schedule problems that we don't like particularly. So the answer to your question is, I think that the Expo franchise will probably stay in the National League in one form or another.

Paul from Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Will fans ever get the chance to vote for pitchers?

Well, I like the player voting this year. The fans, of course, do vote for the position players, as we said earlier. But I like the way they did it, and the managers ought to have the right to select some of their players, pitchers, because they have to figure out how to use them.

Paul, I like the way we did it this year. We've had some changes in the rosters. As a matter of fact, I know there was some people unhappy. It will never be perfect. We'll never get everybody in the fans want. We wound up with Dontrelle Willis in the game, and as of about an hour ago we have now wound up with Roger Clemens in the game. (Applause).

Mike from Pontiac, Illinois: What is being done to prevent steroid use in the Major Leagues? This problem affects everyone in baseball because it could taint modern records.

Well, as you know, we tested this year for the first time as part of the historic labor agreement of last August 30th. I think that we have dealt with the problem. Of course, as you know, I've banned steroids in the Minor Leagues, so I guess you now know how I feel about that. But we are testing. We are in the process of testing, and I think we have begun to make some considerable progress, and I know the players, too, are very, very sensitive about that.

Amy from Tampa: Is there a league policy on autographs at the ballpark? Do you believe all players should spend some time signing autographs for kids each day?

Well, I ran a franchise for almost 30 years. I don't think anybody had a closer relationship with their fans than I did. Amy, we don't have a policy. Clubs should reach out to their fans on a daily basis. Players should reach out on a daily basis. We should do as much of it as humanly possible. I know players have a ... I know the players want to prepare for games. You don't want to intervene in that process in any way. But, the one thing we need to do is to continue to reach out so we have the [synergy] between fans and our players. And much of that comes in signing autographs and doing it, quite frankly, in a very cheery and sensitive manner.

Frank from Throop, Pennsylvania: Have you thought about adding a roster spot to the All-Star Team for a player who has contributed a great amount to the game? An all-time great like Roger Clemens could make the All-Star Team in his final season.

Well, let me be very candid about it: It bothered me a lot that Roger Clemens wasn't on the team. Roger Clemens is going to the Hall of Fame. His 300th victory this year when he struck out his 4,000th hitter in the same game is a magnificent achievement. You know, Barry Zito could not make the game, but anyway, I'm happy to tell you, I wasn't forced into that because Roger Clemens will be in Chicago to pitch in the game tomorrow night.

That's the last question. We're going to take some questions [from the audience].

Q. I'm from Cincinnati, and I'm sure you've probably heard this before, but I'm all for Pete Rose getting into the Hall of Fame. Are you ready to make some progress on that before you resign your commission?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I'm going to be, for another three and a half, almost four years, so the answer so that is yes. We are being very deliberative. Bart Giamatti gave Pete the right to apply for reinstatement and he has properly done so. And I let it wait a long time.

And I understand the sensitive feelings on all sides, as you well know. There are a lot of people like you who feel strongly about Pete in a positive way and there are a lot of people who feel strongly the other way but I'm going to do what I think is right. He deserves to be seriously considered, and that's what's happening right now.

Q. What will happen if the game tomorrow night will end, also, in a tie?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I don't make predictions, and last year and the night was a very ... somebody asked me earlier this morning about it. I said, I've been in this game 40 years; it was the longest, saddest night of my life.

It isn't going to end in a tie. We have taken all of the necessary steps. We were headed for a tie ... I'd say since 1993 when Mike Mussina didn't get in the game and Cito Gaston, the manager got booed. Managers felt they had to get everybody in the game. That's not the way the game was played and that's not the way the game was meant to be played.

There were a lot of players over there who never got in the game, and that's why some people want to be critical of this new format, it gives it meaning. It reenergizes a great game.

We are in the right city. Art Ward, when he founded the game in 1933 said it was a midsummer classic. You are going to see a game played with intensity tomorrow, and unless there's something I don't know now, the one thing I think you don't have to worry about is what you asked me about.

Q. I was wondering, it seems like in baseball, statistics, fans cling to them a little bit more and the sport revolves around them a little more. It seems like especially the home run numbers are getting a little skewed. I know athletes are getting bigger and stronger, but with the new ballparks that have been built and are going to be built, do you have any system where the teams have to clear with you the specs of the stadiums; do you have a minimum dimension set up?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: We do have minimums they have to clear with us. But I want to tell you the thing I like about that ... yes, they have minimums.

And no park ... there are parks that are home run friendly. There were always parks. I love the distinctive features of parks. One of the things going to Wrigley Field, which I have been doing now for almost 60 years, it's a marvelous experience. It has its own shape, it has its own design. You go back to Ebbets Field, you go back to the Polo Grounds and the old parks. Now you have Camden Yards. You have Pac Bell. Every one has it's own unique and indigenous characteristics.

Yes, some of them are a little more homer friendly than others but that was always the case. Are any of them absurd? Absolutely not. But we do have to clear them.

One more answer, you've got Fenway Park, the Green Monster, it's one of the most famous sports citadels in the world, but its 315-foot Green Monster makes it unique. It's like the ivy on the Wrigley Field walls.

Q. I was wondering whether there are any major considerations for bringing an All-Star Game to Comerica Park?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, we are going to have some announcements in the next couple of weeks. As you know, Detroit has applied for it and they are a very prime candidate and they are doing well.

Q. Last year you said the Minnesota Twins winning was an aberration because of their small market but this year the Royals are competing and so are the Marlins and Pittsburgh has a little bit of a chance. Do you really think it is an aberration or can the small market teams compete on a big scale?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Yes, it was an aberration, then. But since last August 30th, since the new labor agreement, piled on top of ... what people seem not to understand, because those teams would be the ones that would complain the loudest, the Minnesotas, the Kansas Cities, the Pittsburghs, they didn't have a chance. There's no question, in the 90s, there was huge disparity. For the first time in our history, this labor agreement dealt with all of those things.

As I said before, there's a lot more revenue sharing, there's a tax on payrolls that only one or two teams are now above; you can guess who the one or two teams are. There are other rules that really make the landscape of the game fair. So, yes, you're beginning to see the first manifestations of this very, very historic labor agreement.

Q. I wanted to ask if it would ever be possible to move a lot of the major starting times such as the World Series and All-Star games earlier so that more kids and people like my younger sister could watch games and stay up for the whole thing?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, tomorrow the game will start early, as you know. And I'm sensitive to that. Look, I grew up on afternoon World Series games.

The problems that we have is that the longer the game goes, the bigger the rating, and you have to be sensitive to your broadcast partners. Having said that, though, we are working on trying to get not only earlier starting times but to really, you know, try to get some games in that time period, because we understand it is in our best interests. I just wish we could do more of that.

But we have begun to move the starting times up. We will continue to move the starting times up, and again, be very sensitive to that and hopefully that we can even do better than that.

Q. Just wondering how all of the Cuban defectors and all of the people from other countries always seem to end up with the Yankees and why are they not going into the Draft and ending up with Tampa Bay or Kansas City?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, that's a good question. That gets back to do I really think there's disparity. That's what all the small market teams say. We are proposing a worldwide draft. We have tried in every way to level the playing field so that when there is a good player from Japan or wherever, that the clubs have a very, very fair chance at that. We have a committee working on the worldwide draft as I said and I hope that that's one way to solve that problem, and I believe that it is.

Q. I'd like to know, you being right next to National Pro Fastpitch here, what Major League Baseball's relationship is with the women that are going to be playing this game?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you. It's a very good relationship. We have partnered with them. We are doing a lot with them. It's a game that is growing just exponentially, and we will continue to be very much involved in and help them, because frankly, it's all baseball and it's all to everyone's benefit and we will continue. I know it is ... the sport is just exploding all over, and I'm very happy about that.

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