Selig in chat: 'Fans love the game, love the sport'
Commissioner continues tradition of answering questions at MLB FanFest
KANSAS CITY -- In a wide-ranging discussion before fans at All-Star FanFest on Monday, Commissioner Bud Selig said that at its core, Major League Baseball's popularity is predicated on the fact that "people love the game, love the sport and love what it's doing."
"I think a lot of the things we've done on competitive balance and parity have worked," Selig said. "I was going through all of the division races and Wild Card races today and the numbers are staggering. We're going to have a great last three months of the season."
Fielding questions submitted to MLB.com as well as from the live audience, Selig addressed an enthusiastic crowd and a world-wide MLB.com audience a few hours before Monday night's State Farm Home Run Derby. It was the 12th consecutive year in which Selig answered fans' questions in advance of the All-Star Game.
The 83rd Midsummer Classic is scheduled to be played tonight at Kauffman Stadium. It will be broadcast by FOX beginning at 7:30 ET.
Selig answered 19 questions from fans that were submitted online and another five from members of the audience. Topics ranged from next year's World Baseball Classic to this year's new playoff format and the possibility of Chipper Jones one day being enshrined in the Hall of Fame.MLB has expanded the playoff format to 10 teams with a second Wild Card berth in each league. The two Wild Card teams in each league will face each other in a one-game playoff to determine which one will advance to the Division Series. Because of scheduling and travel difficulties, this year's winners of those one-game playoff games will host the first two games of the Division Series, with the division winners they'll be facing hosting as many as the final three games of the best-of-five series. "This year, to get [the one-game playoffs] in, we had to change some things," Selig said in response to a question about the issue. "Next year, it will go back to 2-2-1. [Agreement to do it] came so late and the schedule had already been drawn, so the only thing we could do it was [for the Wild Card winner to host the opening games]. "... I'm not so sure that that isn't fair anyway, but you can debate that. We debated all of this back and forth. But the clubs wanted [the expanded playoffs] this year and the Commissioner wanted it this year very badly. All I can tell you is I haven't had a complaint from any of the 30 clubs. Everyone is thrilled." Selig said that next year's third edition of the World Baseball Classic should be bigger and better than ever. A new qualifying round is scheduled for later this year and determining a venue for the finals and semifinals is in the final stage. One thing is certain: They won't be in San Diego or Los Angeles, where the first two Classics were held. When asked what the expectations are for the upcoming tournament, Selig responded: "Big. Huge. This sport has a chance to do things internationally that five or 10 years from now will stun you. The whole point of it is the World Baseball Classic, it's grown. We're up to 28 countries, everybody wanting in. I want to go to different parts of the world that we haven't gone to. So my expectation is it's going to be huge and really meaningful.
"Joe Torre is going to manage the USA team. We're going to put a lot of emphasis on it. It's a point of genesis for a huge revenue-sharing program."Selig said that he is a big fan of Jones, the Braves third baseman who plans to retire after the season. That would put him on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2017. "Chipper Jones, obviously, has been a great player," Selig said. "There is no question about it. He's had a remarkable career with the Atlanta Braves. He's helped the Atlanta Braves win a lot. You look back on Chipper's career and it's been a great career in every way.
"I'll leave the Hall of Fame thing to the writers, since they're the ones who are going to have to make that decision. But there's no doubt that Chipper Jones has been a great player and one of the great players of our time in the last 19 years of baseball."Here are quick hits on some popular topics fans ask of the Commissioner most years: On the designated hitter: "I like the DH rule. On the other hand, I've watched many National League games and I like that. I've often said, and I'll say it again, it'll take some cataclysmic event to maybe clean that up one way or another. What am I talking about? Geographical realignment, which really is not in the cards right now. Looking at all of the popularity and attendance figures, I guess our fans seem to like it the way it is and that's very important to me. I don't think the difference in rules has really hurt us at all. And it's been 40 years now, so the grand old game is doing pretty well." On expanding instant replay: "We've gone to replay. We're going to expand it -- when we get all the proper cameras -- to bullets hit down the left- and right-field lines, plus trap plays in the outfield. I have this special committee of 14 people and we've discussed instant replay. I must tell you that within baseball, there's not a great appetite for any more instant replay. It is a game of pace. You have to be careful you're not interrupting the game every five or 10 minutes. But we'll continue to watch it." On enforcing the rules to quicken the pace of games: "I spend a lot of time on that question. I think everybody is trying. It's an interesting question because I'm the one who always raises questions about pace of game and how long it takes and how long it should take. Our fans really seem to care and it's [supported] by the stunning attendance that we're having this year. I think that speaks very loudly. The umpires are trying to enforce it. The managers have been better. I think we've made some progress. It's something that we need to watch. Remember, it isn't the time of the game. It's the pace of the game. Baseball is a game of pace. We want to be careful not to disturb that pace." On choosing venues for the All-Star Game and events: "That's a great question, because there are cities and franchises just begging for it. The pressure has really been enormous. I never thought it would come to something like this. Kansas City did a great job [renovating] their stadium. There's a very proud tradition here. [The game hasn't] been here since 1973 and walking around the last 24 hours, I'm glad we're here. It's been great. These fans deserve it. So you take all of these factors into consideration and go from there."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.