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07/11/06 4:45 PM ET

Selig addresses fans, media in live chat

Discussion includes Miami stadium, All-Star regulations

PITTSBURGH -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig addressed baseball fans around the world on Tuesday in a live Internet chat session just hours before the 77th All-Star Game at PNC Park.

Selig spent about a half-hour answering questions at MLB.com's TV studio at the John Hancock All-Star FanFest in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, just blocks from the downtown ballpark. The broadcast, during which Selig answered 20 questions on a number of subjects submitted through the Internet and another six from an audience numbering in the hundreds, was carried live on MLB Radio and BaseballChannel.TV.

"I love talking to fans," said the energetic Selig, who stayed around for about 15 minutes after the session to autograph baseballs and cards for the people who are again supporting the game in record numbers this season. "It gives me a greater appreciation for what people think, what their problems are, what they'd like us to do. So I enjoy this immensely."

The sixth annual chat came directly after Selig spent an hour answering questions from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Asked by moderator Seth Everett which group was tougher, the writers or the fans, the nearly 72-year-old Commissioner answered judiciously.

"It's a tie," he said. "But it's interesting -- the questions raised today by about 300 newspaper people from all over America were actually pretty similar."

Both events have become popular features of All-Star Game week festivities.

The chat has evolved since 2001, when Selig took questions via the Internet for the first time from his Milwaukee office. The next year, the media was invited and a press conference followed the session. In 2003, the events were split, with Selig attending the annual summer meeting of the BBWAA and the current format, in front of fans in attendance at FanFest, was implemented. It's been the same ever since.

Selig broke no new ground at either question-and-answer session on Tuesday.

He defended Major League Baseball's current joint drug-prevention program negotiated in conjunction with the players association, saying, "I think we have gone as far as we can go." Selig added that there's no prospect of unifying the American and National Leagues with either an MLB-wide implementation or elimination of the designated hitter rule unless there's a "cataclysmic event like geographical realignment of both leagues," a matter that is not currently under discussion.

Selig was asked if it should be mandatory that all players voted by the fans to either All-Star team play in the game. The matter was given increased focus last weekend when Boston Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez begged out of the All-Star Game with a sore knee, but played every minute of a 19-inning game against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

"Manny should be here," he told the writers, adding during the chat: "We're going to review that this winter. I actually think it should be [mandatory]. I said earlier that I believe a player who is healthy has an obligation to be here. But more important than the obligation, he should be thrilled to be here."

Selig said he was intrigued by a proposal to play the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, in the midst of what would be its final season before a new ballpark opens just to its north in the Bronx. He added, though, that there's stiff competition for that game, which will probably be awarded later this season.

Selig praised Pittsburgh and Pirates officials for the job they have done this week producing the All-Star events in and around the stadium, and he asked Pittsburgh baseball fans to be patient with the course that ownership is taking while trying to build a competitive team.

"The week has been terrific," he told the writers. "You can see how much it means to the people here."

Asked to define his favorite storyline of the season's first half, the Commissioner unabashedly said: "The Detroit Tigers," who are currently in first place in the AL Central with a 59-29 record, the best in baseball.

Comparing it to the plight of the current Pirates, whose current 30-60 record is the worst in baseball, Selig noted that the Tigers lost 119 games three years ago.

"The fans were ready to dump [owner] Mike Ilitch and everyone else in the Detroit River," he said. "And they ain't doing too badly now. I know [the Pirates] are committed to winning. I know baseball teams are held accountable by the games they win and lose. But given all their young talent, you have to be patient. And I know people get tired of hearing that."

Selig also said that MLB wasn't ready to abandon Miami, but he added that the Marlins will be not be successful there until the stadium situation is rectified.

"We're committed to the South Florida market, but they need a new ballpark," he said.

Finally asked about the current state of the game, Selig said: "There's work to be done. I'm not suggesting there isn't. There are still inequities. I want to make that point very carefully. But revenue sharing has really leveled the playing field. If a person left baseball in 1998 or 2000 and came back today, they would be stunned at the difference."

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.