Commissioner Bud Selig discussed the influx of young talent in this year's All-Star Game as well as instant replay and Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey's rise to dominance this season in a conference call on Monday to preview the All-Star Game.
The Commissioner was part of a five-person panel -- along with Fox All-Star Game broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, FOX Sports Media Group vice chairman Ed Goren and co-president and co-COO Eric Shanks -- assembled to preview the 83rd All-Star Game on July 10 at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
Selig opened the call by talking about his overwhelmingly positive takeaways from the season's first half.
"I'm looking forward to next week, the All-Star Game and all the events we have," Selig said of the Midsummer Classic. "We're having a remarkable year on the field, and frankly off the field, as we're going over 37 million in attendance today.
"I don't want to jinx us, but I'm excited we have great [division] races, the two additional Wild Cards and it's just been a great year -- five no-hitters, two perfect games ... and you have the R.A. Dickey story."
Though the panel discussion was centered around the All-Star Game, Selig also addressed a couple of other topics, including his satisfaction with the current state of instant replay in baseball.
"People in our sport don't want any more," Selig said in regards to expansion of replay. "Given our attendance and everything we're doing, we're in the right place with instant replay. Baseball is a game of pace. You have to be very sensitive and careful not to disturb that pace."
Members of the panel expressed interest in all the new faces that will be suiting up in Kansas City next week. One of the more popular names brought up was 20-year-old Angels rookie Mike Trout, whom Selig mentioned in his initial statement, and McCarver mentioned as one of the things he was most excited about this year.
"I'll tell you what I've loved this year: The infusion of young players in the game has really been incredible," Selig said. "Just take the Mike Trout situation."
"Mike Trout, I've never seen him play [in person], but I'm really looking forward to that," said McCarver, who along with Buck, has called each of the past 13 Midsummer Classics for FOX. "That, for me, is going to be one of the highlights of the All-Star Game."
The Commissioner also fielded several questions about the voting process.
As far as the minor disagreement between Reds manager Dusty Baker and National League All-Star manager Tony La Russa stemming from La Russa's decision not to invite Reds starter Johnny Cueto and second baseman Brandon Phillips, Selig said La Russa will address any queries about his All-Star personnel decisions himself.
"Well let me just say this, Tony will answer all questions about his team," Selig said, "But you look at the list of pitchers, and I went over that with Tony, and I think in the end there were a lot of pitchers available. And I think in the end, they picked their strongest staffs.
"Every year, there's always some struggles. We've had less controversy this year. Everybody would like to have all their players on, but in fairness to the Cincinnati Reds, they have three players on [the NL team], and that's a strong showing."
Selig also discussed Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval's surge in the final couple days of the fan vote to surpass the Mets' David Wright for the National League's starting third-base spot. Sandoval erased a nearly 465,000-vote deficit in the final week of voting and earned the starting nod despite missing more than a month of the season with a broken hand.
"It's part of the process," Selig said. "Today we have the fan vote, we have the player vote, then we have the managers choosing. I'm not unhappy about it ... I think for the most part, the lineups are very, very good. I'm comfortable where we are."
Selig cited the strong player commitment levels since World Series home-field advantage was awarded to the winner of the game.
"Given the fact that years ago we ran into a period where a lot of players tried to find excuses, didn't want to play -- we haven't had any of that," Selig said. "People are critical of 'this time it counts' -- well, I think it's worked well. People are happy to go, and the only people who are unhappy are the people who didn't make it. I feel very good about where we're at today."
As for team- and player-specific recognition, Selig offered high praise for Dickey's rise that could land him the starting pitcher nod for the NL in next week's game, as well as for teams like the Orioles and Pirates remaining in contention.
Buck echoed the Commissioner in saying the All-Star Game is in good shape and even tossed out a prediction that Giancarlo Stanton would win the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby next Monday night.
"It's by far the best All-Star game," Buck said of baseball's Midsummer Classic. "It's not even close; it's by far the best of the four major sports."