Selig 'grateful' for baseball's popularity
Revenues remain static; KC likely for 2012 All-Star Game
CHICAGO -- The last Major League Baseball ownership meeting of the year ended on an optimistic note on Thursday as the clubs headed into the free-agent signing season.Commissioner Bud Selig addressed an economic report given to the owners at their joint session on Thursday morning, telling them that though final figures are not in, gross revenue remained at $6.5 billion even though attendance was down 6.5 percent. Lost revenue from the attendance shortfall was offset, in part, by the Jan. 1 launch of MLB Network. "I told them, and I really do believe this, that given the economy, the fact that we drew 73.5 million people is a testament to this sport's popularity," Selig told reporters after the meeting. "It's remarkable. A year ago I had no idea where we were headed. There was really a lot of concern. I'm grateful we did what we did. The grand old game did all right." Regarding other issues, a report was presented to the owners on the Civil Rights Game, with the fourth annual contest scheduled for the second consecutive season in Cincinnati, where the Reds play the Cardinals on May 15.
As far as the 2012 All-Star Game is concerned, Selig is nearing an announcement, and the likely recipient will be Kansas City, which hasn't hosted a Midsummer Classic since 1973 in honor of the opening of what was then called Royals Stadium.Selig said that because the winning league in the All-Star Game earns World Series home-field advantage, he's intent on rotating every year between American and National League cities. Primarily, the reason is fairness: The designated hitter is used in the AL parks and the pitcher hits in the NL parks. The 2013 game seems headed to Citi Field in New York, where the Mets haven't hosted an All-Star Game since 1964 at Shea Stadium. It's up for grabs after that, though the Marlins, with their new retractable-roof ballpark now rising at the old Orange Bowl site in Miami, appear to be a strong contender for '15. "There's a long, long list of teams that want to host," Selig said. "We have a lot of clubs that built new stadiums, and we made promises to cities that if they [did so] they'd get an All-Star Game. We have to live up to those promises." One of those promises was made to the Marlins and another to the Royals, who just finished a $250 million renovation of what is now called Kauffman Stadium. "I haven't made a final decision, but we did promise [the Royals] an All-Star Game at some point," Selig said. "They did a magnificent job there. But I'm not going to say any more than I've said." As far as baseball's finances are concerned, Selig said that some teams lost money in 2009 because of subpar seasons and the slumping economy, but he declined to divulge the names and amount of franchises that finished in the red. Even though the stock market is up dramatically from this time last year, Selig said his concerns haven't been "ameliorated at all" by the positive tidings of the '09 season. "I haven't talked to an economist yet who has told me anything different, who has told me why I shouldn't be concerned," Selig said. "And sure, we had some clubs that had a very difficult year." Now that the Cubs' sale to the Ricketts family is concluded, the one remaining franchise on the block is the Rangers, whose owner, Tom Hicks, has accumulated debt tied to the baseball team and the NHL's Dallas Stars. Hicks, who was not at the meetings, said on Wednesday that he's trying to put together his own local group so he could maintain ownership of the Rangers. Selig said that three groups have vigorously pursued the team and that second bids are due on Friday. He also said he knew nothing about a Hicks-led group outside of media reports. "I'll be anxious to see [the bids]," Selig said. "All three groups have worked long and hard and we'll see what happens. We started a process and [Hicks] started a process where we've encouraged that bidding. He's going to look at them. We'll look at them. The banks will look at them. No question about it, we want this taken care of by the start of the  season."
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.