07/14/2003 5:21 PM ET
Rapping with the Commissioner
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Commissioner Selig's Internet chat: complete broadcast
CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig conducted a lively Internet question-and-answer session on MLB.com Monday afternoon as a prelude to the evening's All-Star Monday Home Run Derby at U.S. Cellular Field. It was his third annual chat.
Selig appeared in front of an audience that included more than 1,000 fans in the MLB.com area at the John Hancock FanFest at Chicago's McCormick Place. Selig answered 20 questions culled from tens of thousands sent via the Internet from all over the world, and he responded to another seven posed by the appreciative crowd.
After the 25-minute session, Selig spent another 10 minutes standing near the podium to autograph baseballs and souvenirs.
The session was a rousing success.
"A home run," said Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer who was in the party with the Commissioner.
Selig answered a variety of topics and touched on all of the issues that seem to be near and dear to baseball fans everywhere: whether Pete Rose will be reinstated into MLB; whether the Montreal Expos will relocate to Washington, D.C.; whether a baseball World Cup is on the horizon; and whether the current playoffs will include more teams.
There were also some oldies but goodies: whether designated hitters will ever be adopted in the National League or if the position should be abolished altogether; whether players should be obligated to give autographs; whether starting times of major events such as the All-Star Game and World Series could be moved to earlier slots; and whether the Commissioner is in favor of further realignment between the leagues.
In the end, Selig linked the lifespan of the DH to the possible realignment of both leagues into two groups of geographically located teams.
"I would say it's going to take some dramatic event to change this," Selig said. "The National League teams will never go to the DH. The American League teams like the DH. But referring back to an earlier question about realignment, that's the kind of catalytic event it'll take to get rid of the designated hitter."
Of course, baseball is no closer to major realignment than it is to abolishing the DH, which was adopted for the 1973 season. Over time -- even Selig, the former owner of the then-American League Milwaukee Brewers -- has become used to it.
"I'm one of the people who has been around long enough that in 1972, when [then-A's owner] Charlie Finley proposed it and we voted on it and voted it in, I had a lot of reluctance," Selig said. "[But] you get to like the DH after a while. Yet when you see a lot of NL games, you love the old-fashioned game, the way it was meant to be played."
Selig also told fans that MLB continues to study two other questions: where the Expos will wind up if they move and if Rose's lifetime suspension, handed down in 1989 when he admitted betting on sporting events, will be lifted.
Regarding the Expos' future and D.C.'s chances of getting the team, Selig said, "We have a relocation committee studying all the aspects of the Montreal club. It's the last residue of contraction. The Puerto Rican experiment [with the Expos playing 22 games in San Juan this season] has been a wonderful experiment. [Expos manager] Frank Robinson has told me that the players enjoyed it and that he's enjoyed it. We feel very 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. It will continue to be. We haven't set a timetable. I'm sure we'll be discussing the matter a lot during the rest of this summer."
Selig did say he expected the Expos to remain in the NL no matter where the team moves.
In response to a fan from Cincinnati who is in favor of Rose being reinstated, Selig said he plans to make progress on the issue before he eventually retires.
"I'm going to be Commissioner for another 3 1/2, four years, so the answer to that is, yes," Selig said. "Look, we're being very deliberate. [Former Commissioner] Bart Giamatti gave Pete the right to apply for reinstatement, and he has properly done so. And I let it wait a long time. I understand the sensitive feelings on all sides.
"As you well know, there's a lot of people like you, who feel strongly about Pete in a positive way, and 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."
Selig said that he expects a worldwide draft to eventually be adopted. Selig reiterated that MLB intends to play regular season games in Europe and said a World Cup among baseball-playing countries was also inevitable before his term as Commissioner expires.
"Yes, there will be a World Cup and there will be a real World Series winner," Selig said.
He said that the committee analyzing every aspect of baseball as the game moves forward in the 21st century is discussing an expanded playoff format. He also mused that the regular-season schedule would probably have to be shortened from 162 games if the playoffs are expanded.
"I wouldn't want to tell you that we will be adding more Wild Card teams, but we will be considering all the various plans," he said. "If you do add something, you'd have to think about reducing the schedule."
Finally, Selig said, the increased revenue-sharing plan negotiated last summer with the players' union has already had a significant positive impact on the game and there also has been an improvement of competitive balance with teams from small markets such as Kansas City and Montreal vying for the postseason.
When Selig was asked if he still thought last year's small-market, AL Central-winning Twins were an aberration, he said: "It was an aberration then. There's no question that in the 1990s there were huge disparities. For the first time in our history, this labor agreement dealt with those things. There's a lot more revenue sharing. There's a [competitive balance] tax that only one or two teams are [paying]. 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."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.