11/10/09 11:10 PM EST
Commissioner Selig chats with Network
'Studio 42' segment addresses postseason, parity issues
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
On the postseason scheduling and the 2009 season finishing in November
"I'm not comfortable because I really loathe going into November, worried about it a long time. We've talked about it and quite candidly the alternatives are not many in this regard. I know people complain about the schedule and we do have off days. We don't know in March how many [series] will go four games, five games. We also need days to accommodate the clubs. We had the Red Sox play the Angels and we don't know if it's going to be a five-game series. You've got to plan for the five games with travel days, because otherwise you're going from Anaheim to Boston, you can't make them travel all night. Even during the season we try not to make them do that.
"In '86, the first game of the World Series, it was 50 degrees [in New York]. My wife and I remember that in 1979 we were in Baltimore, first game of the World Series, and it snowed. They got snowed out. That's October 10. The more I look into average temperatures, and I think of April and May in Detroit, and in Cleveland -- and now in Minnesota, and Chicago, used to be Milwaukee but they have a roof ... on and on -- the weather in late October is considerably better than it is in April and May. My point is, even if we shorten things and go to the middle of October, if there's so little difference between the middle and end of October, that you can't disrupt everything. Having said that, I worry about going into November. I have said this publicly many times. I don't like it.
"We had the World Baseball Classic this year, the Players Association and Major League Baseball, I was very careful to protect the players, so we started a little over a week over [the normal start] actually. That's why we [finished in November]. The World Baseball Classic has been so successful. We do it now once every four years. It's been so successful and it is such a unique device for taking our sport internationally, something we must do, we were a little tardy getting there, we are now really gaining on it. It's worth it. I've talked to players who played in it, and they were just thrilled, they said it was an experience they will never forget. It did wonders for us internationally. So once every four years, we're going to have to take that as the price for doing what we're doing now."
What if the Division Series is a best-of-seven, with additional revenue?
"That would be something you could do if you have another seven to 10 days, which I believe you could have to work with, but that won't work, because clubs really don't want to do it, and I understand why because there are some very strong economic reasons.
"I don't mind the first series being five games. Look, all the way into the '80s we played League Championship Series that were only five games."
On the argument that the Wild Card removes division-race drama because the fallback is a Wild Card, and that there is less chance of a "fluke outcome" if you play a best-of-seven Division Series
"I don't agree. Baseball, remember, has only one Wild Card team in each league. Only eight teams out of 30. Most of our Wild Cards will win 90 or 95 games. They're not there by accident. Now I say to you, since we have been so judicious in adding teams and so careful, you don't really want to make it almost impossible for a Wild Card to win. If you can give me the first two home games and you give me the fifth and deciding game that I can play at home, [as it is now], I think that's an inherent advantage."
On the possibility of a World Series day game -- ideally as the Saturday Game 3 based on another Wednesday start
"I'd like to, personally. It would bring back a lot of memories for me. Network preemption and what they do. I'll tell you what's disappointed me, because I'd like to see a day game. What has really disappointed me is, we do show quite a few day games during the postseason. They just don't do well. ... Even during the League Championship Series -- you're playing for a pennant, they're very important. I've talked to TV people, and they all say including the World Series, your ratings will be down considerably. It's my job as Commissioner of the sport to make sure as many people as possible can see our games. Having said that, I haven't given up on it."
On adding instant replay for the postseason
"I've talked to a lot of baseball people. Managers -- Mike Scioscia [of the Angels] came out publicly, he's certainly one of the people I've talked to. A year ago, when we went to instant replay, I said I'll do it for home runs because the new stadiums presented challenges for umpires who had to run 200 feet, make a call with very difficult backgrounds, they couldn't see. I learned long ago that this is a game of pace. When I watch other sports and there are three- and four-minute delays ... we also have closer supervision on the bases than we've had. I really believe, I'm really proud of the umpires and I want to be very protective of them. There have been a series of calls that were incorrect ... we had a little period there in the playoffs where we had some calls -- I said they were controversial, you and I know they were worse than that.
"Mike Scioscia said something to me the other day. I had been very concerned. He said, 'All of us who argue -- these guys are right 99 percent of the time. Instant replay at any time of the season would be a disaster.' I agree with it. I worry about pitchers standing on the mound, walking around. We've been very concerned about the pace of our game, we've worked very hard, [have had] slight progress. I never say never to anything, and over the course of the offseason this year, I'll do a lot of thinking about the subject.
"Some of the controversial calls we've had, more calls in error, could have been avoided with the umpires getting together and talking about it. On the first night of the World Series, they did and made the correct call. Nestor Chylak, the Hall of Fame umpire, used to say to me, 'The best games we have are the ones where nobody talks about the umpires.' ... Some of those [calls] could be rectified by umpires meeting together. There are a lot of things we could do to correct some of these things. ... I think there are many things we can talk about that do change this."
On Mark McGwire's return to the game as Cardinals hitting coach
"Mark McGwire, all the years he was in Major League Baseball, was extremely cooperative. I am saddened by what happened, but I have great respect for [Cardinals manager] Tony La Russa, for [Cardinals owner] Bill DeWitt. [McGwire] has done a lot of things with wonderful hitters, some on the Cardinals and some not. He clearly is entitled to come back.
"This is a subject I have spent the last 14 years of my life on. The sport is cleaned up. The sport is cleaned up. We administered 3,700 tests at the Major League level this year and two positives. ... We had 8,995 tests in the Minor Leagues. That program is nine years old. We are down to seven-tenths of one percent.
"We are spending many millions every year looking for tests of HGH [human growth hormone]. We've gone to work with the Hooton Foundation. ... We go to every city, we talk to kids, we're working with Partnership for Drug-Free America. I guess the point I'm making is, all these people pontificating about something that happened 14 years ago ... Today we have the toughest drug-testing program in America. We're educating. So ... I find it fascinating, when people bring up McGwire, nobody talks about what we've done, because they don't seem to want to know.
"Bringing him back to baseball, there will be a better chance that he will become candid. ... Let's see how the Mark McGwire thing plays out. Let's see how it plays out. When Mark comes back and has press conferences, let's see how it plays out."
On whether this sets a precedent to allow former players such as Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro to return to MLB in managerial or coaching positions
"No, I didn't say that, those are all hypotheticals. And each of those situations is very different."
On whether Pete Rose, currently suspended from baseball, should be placed on the Hall of Fame ballot as likely will be the case for players tied to past steroid allegations or admissions
"No, because while I'm sensitive about even talking about it -- I am the judge in this case -- and it's quite inappropriate. You must remember -- I remember -- when I first walked into a Major League clubhouse, May of 1958 in Milwaukee, that's a rule that was there, all created because of the Black Sox scandal.
"The entire matter is under my review. I'm really reluctant to comment. I don't think it's fair. I'm wary of the entire process. ... I would remind you that everybody who's ever been in our sport knew that gambling was a lifetime suspension. And Pete did voluntarily agree to a lifetime suspension. Now, he did all of that, the evidence is there, there's nothing that's changed about the evidence, but he had a right to petition, and that's where we are now."
On whether players who used performance-enhancing substances should be disqualified from Hall consideration
"That's up to the Baseball Writers Association of America."
On whether Barry Bonds is the authentic single-season and career home run record holder
"Since Hank Aaron and I have been very close friends for 50-something years, the point we've made to each other: Barry Bonds has set the record. There's no sense [in] me pontificating about this in any way, shape, form or manner. All I can do -- the writers are going to have to make that judgment along the line. You and I can have quarrels about what affected what players in the past or what didn't.
"Derek Jeter said something a couple months ago, which I think is right, and I've had other players call and tell me that. He said, 'What do you mean, the steroid era? I didn't take it.' He mentioned about six of his teammates. 'I know a lot of players who didn't take it. What about the great majority who didn't?' ... The sport has now done everything it can. ... It is time to move on."
On issues upcoming whenever the Collective Bargaining Agreement is opened
"We haven't gotten to that point yet. But we need a worldwide Draft, we need a slotting system for our players. When we went to the Draft in 1965, the Draft was to add competitive balance, but the Draft has become a problem on that score. ... We'll work on some economic things. I'm proud of our economic system. It has produced more competitive balance. In six months, I'll be able to tell you more about that."
On the possibility of a salary cap or a salary floor
"We wanted a floor the last time and the Players Association was against it. I'll be able to get more into the economics as time goes on. I have a lot of ideas, and will have a lot to say on it."
On former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn being in the Hall of Fame while Marvin Miller, Kuhn's longtime nemesis as the groundbreaking Players Association leader, is not
"Marvin Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame, if the criteria is what impact you had on the sport, whatever way one wants to value that impact, yes, Marvin Miller should be in the Hall. Not a lot of support. Marvin should be in the Hall of Fame."
On competitive balance and whether clubs at the bottom face a problem given that six of the top 10 clubs in ranking of payroll made the postseason
"No, I don't think so. I said we had work to do. But I took the last five years, 20 of the 30 teams have made the playoffs. No other sport can say that. You had Colorado in the  World Series, you've had Tampa Bay in the  World Series, you had Milwaukee in the  playoffs for the first time [since 1982], Minnesota did well, Colorado did well again this year. I'm not telling you there isn't work to be done. But if you take this five-to-six-year period and compare it to any other in the last 20-25 years, you'll find we have more competitive balance today than ever before.
"Is it perfect? No. I know people are talking about this year [that] three out of the last four teams standing [in the postseason] have high payrolls. But it wasn't true in the year before, and it wasn't true the year before that, so it's something I have to keep an eye on. No question about it, it's something I worried about for a long time. But when I took over, and all the way into 1996-97-98, there was no revenue sharing ... It was nothing. This year it will be $440 [million] to $450 million. We've done that without any litigation, without clubs fighting, done it without work stoppages, so we've made progress. ... I want to repeat, I didn't say the system was perfect, but it's come a long, long way. Nobody a decade ago could have dreamed that all the clubs would be in this position."
On affordability of ballpark outings
"The clubs did more discounting this year, and I hope they do it in good years as well as bad years. I could take you all over the big leagues and you would be stunned at how cheap a family can get into a game. Everywhere -- Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland and on and on and on.
"We're so far and away, by per capita for all of our seats, lower than all other sports or other form of entertainment. I'm going to continue to work on that. We are family entertainment -- yes we should do that. I think we have been in most places very sensitive and will continue to be.
On whether he uses his office to influence price structure
"I just don't talk about it but the answer is yes.
"The average Major League Baseball ticket price is in the $20s, which is remarkable. That's why we're drawing 75 to 80 million people a year. Because we are affordable, and [fans] can afford it. We wouldn't be at the stunning attendance figures we are today if they couldn't afford it. But the fact of the matter is, I have concerns also."
On whether his term expiration at age 78 will be the true end in this office
"It is. I know clubs don't believe it. I know a lot of others don't believe it. But I do want to write a book, meaningfully, on much that I have seen since 1963. I want to teach. I've had some wonderful teaching offers. I actually taught a [college] course last year. History of sports, particularly baseball 1960 to the present, you bet. I really want to do that, even though people don't necessarily believe me, because this has gone on and on; at age 78, it's time for somebody else, it's time for me hopefully in my remaining years to do some other things I want to do."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.