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Selig talks with fans, media
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07/13/2004  6:19 PM ET
Selig talks with fans, media
Answers wide range of questions in back-to-back chats
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Commissioner Bud Selig talked about relocating the Expos and the current All-Star Game format among other things in chats Tuesday afternoon. (Gregory Bull/AP)
HOUSTON -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig regaled fans and the media in back-to-back sessions Tuesday on the eve of the 75th All-Star Game at downtown Minute Maid Park.

The Commissioner, appearing live on MLB.com via streaming video for the first time during his annual Town Hall, answered 15 questions filed by e-mail and another 18 from members of the FanFest audience, which numbered in the hundreds. Earlier Selig addressed assembled reporters from the Baseball Writers Association of America for the second consecutive season at its yearly All-Star Game meeting.

The Town Hall was Selig's fourth and has become a lively affair. This year, Selig answered questions ranging from the state of baseball to relocation of the Montreal Expos to expanding the playoffs to his position on the current All-Star Game format and improving the sport's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. As Selig has been saying for months now, he considers the past two seasons since MLB and the players association signed its historic Basic Agreement to be a renaissance for the sport.

"We're going to set an all-time attendance record this year," Selig said, wrapping up his 30-minute chat session. "Television ratings are at an all-time high. By any criteria you use, the game is having an unbelievable year. It's never been this popular before. I'm just grateful that the renaissance is in full bloom."

Selig told the writers and fans that a new site and owner for the Expos would be determined by the end of the summer. To punctuate that point, he told several writers during a side conversation that the Expos were finished in Puerto Rico, where they have played 22 of their "home" games the last two seasons, finishing up in San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium just prior to the break.

"It was a good thing for us, but we're done there," Selig said, giving further indication that the Expos would be moved to one of five U.S. communities in time for next season.

Though Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia seem to have the inside track, Selig said that no community has been eliminated and that there would be no weeding down process before the actual announcement of the decision.

When asked by one fan at the Town Hall when the national pastime would be returning to the Nation's Capital, Selig reminisced about the day the second Senators franchise played its last game at RFK Stadium in 1971.

"I was there the night they left the nation's capital," Selig said. "I can tell you the club didn't want to leave, but there was no owner to take over. We'd tried to keep Bob Short from going, but there was no local buyer. Northern Virginia and Washington are potential sites and we're going to decide this summer."

Selig told baseball writers that he is in favor of permanently giving the winning league in the All-Star Game home-field advantage in the World Series. The two-year experiment ended with Tuesday night's game and it will be revisited by the union again this offseason. Selig was told that some players wanted to link best regular-season record to home-field advantage and then he was asked if the format was open to negotiations.

"Not in my estimation," he said. "I was told the exact opposite by some of the players, by the way. Last year, for the first time in a decade, the ratings increased near the end of the game after years of it continuing to spiral downward. Our fans like it, our sponsors like it, our broadcast partners like it. What should I tell them, that they can't have what they want? I'm not going to do that anymore. I don't have the guts to tell our customers that they can't have what they want."

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.

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