Awed by Jeter, Selig thrilled with MLB's direction
Celebrating one of game's top stars, Commissioner reflects with satisfaction
MINNEAPOLIS -- After he presented Angels outfielder Mike Trout with the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet, after he met retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter outside the dugout for a final embrace, Commissioner Bud Selig took a few moments on Tuesday night to reflect.
Both the first half of the regular season and the 85th Midsummer Classic at Minnesota's Target Field could not have gone better, Selig said.
The Commissioner was thrilled with a well-played All-Star Game that the American League won, 5-3. And Jeter's final appearance couldn't have been scripted any better, from the extended standing ovation he got when he stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the first, to his going 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored, to another outpouring of emotion when he came out of the game.
"I had chills," Selig said. "I've said it before, but you're proud to be the Commissioner of baseball when your icon is Derek Jeter. I don't know what else I can say. He's a great player, but he's so classy and dignified."
That was a fitting end to a first half of the season that Selig gives high marks.
"Great races -- and great races shaping up," Selig said. "I just can't tell you how good I feel about the year. I've meant what I said. The competitive balance is amazing. Remarkable. I feel good about where we are, very good. There's just been a lot of very good baseball, and I've enjoyed it."
At the break, 23 of baseball's 30 teams are within eight games of either a division lead or a Wild Card berth.
Baseball has also made sweeping changes in the way the game is played with expanded replay review and new rules governing home-plate collisions.
"Tony La Russa [part of the committee that put together the revised replay system] and I had another conversation [on Tuesday night], and we're lucky," Selig said. "It's working out great. Yes, there are a few things we can do over the offseason. But to put in a new system and have it work as well as it is now? Very, very happy.
"And the collision rule is Joe Torre's baby, but he's very happy and the managers are happy. And you know what? The fans love instant replay. I've had more people say to me at the ballparks, 'This is really good.'"
Everybody asks Selig if the thought crossed his mind that this would be his last All-Star Game as Commissioner. Even his wife, Sue, asked him during the game.
"It did not," Selig said. "So many people have talked to me about it, but I really do think that the answer in November or December would be very different."
Along those lines, the Commissioner appeared on the FOX telecast and was asked about his greatest accomplishments and his biggest regrets during his 22-year tenure.
"I think overall, the economic changes that have produced what I call competitive balance, the greatest in baseball history," Selig said of his most treasured achievement. "The changes were painful and took a while, but it's led to wonderful, wonderful balance. If you look at the standings today, every division is really close, and some have four-team races. Baseball has always been resistant to change, but when you look at all of the changes plus the Wild Cards and everything else, we're a long way from where we were in 1992."
Selig conceded that he still rues the strike that caused the 1994 World Series to be canceled.
"I don't know that I could have done anything different, but I will say that ... was the eighth work stoppage in my baseball career, and you probably could see it coming," Selig said. "Now, I'm proud of the fact we've had 22 years of labor peace. But do I wish somehow there would have been a way to stop that? I do. I've thought long and hard about that. I would hope at least that everybody learned their lessons and we've moved on. But that was very painful."
The 2015 All-Star Game will be hosted by the Cincinnati Reds, and Selig said he's looking forward to that event.
"They have a great baseball tradition," Selig said of the Reds. "Oldest franchise. Wonderful fans. They do very well. Given all their tradition, to give them an All-Star Game is a great match."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.