|03-09-2004, 01:08 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Decatur, GA
Q&A with Bud Selig
I thought this looked interesting. What do y'all think of Selig's comments? The Expos situation seemed intriguing to me. New Jersey would be a decent place for it, IMO. Especially because of the Yankees thing.
Commissioner Bud Selig talked with SI senior writer Tom Verducci this week for Part I of an in-depth interview that appears in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated. In Part II of the discussion, which follows, Selig touched on Pete Rose, the Yankees, the Expos, QuesTec and more.
SI: Fox is airing a prime-time Yankees-Red Sox game in April -- the first prime-time, regular-season national telecast since 1998 -- because the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez and the rivalry with Boston. Is A-Rod on the Yankees good or bad for baseball?
Selig: The Yankees are clearly within the rules. I've read where people have written that the commissioner tried to help the Red Sox unfairly, all of which was nonsense. You know, we've talked about leveling the playing field and we're in the second year of a labor agreement that I think has really changed the economic landscape. Between revenue sharing and the [luxury] tax, the Yankees alone will pay $80 million-plus this year. So, yes, there were a lot of people offended by the trade. Yes, the Yankees have a payroll substantially higher than the next team. And yes, we have a lot of rules that are still in the process of kicking in. But overall I certainly can't be critical of the Yankees in any shape or form over what the rules were. People may say, "Well, your system isn't working." I don't think that's true at all. I think the first year of the new system and the first few months of the second have been better than we had any right to expect.
SI: Three straight mid-market teams have won the World Series. Way more revenue sharing is going on, more than $300 million. Do you think, for lack of a better phrase, the Yankees need to be "hurt" more, such as putting a team in New Jersey, which the Blue Ribbon Panel suggested in its July 2000 report?
Selig: I reserve judgment on that until after years two, three and four (of the agreement). This labor agreement will continue to do its work properly on all the clubs, including the New York Yankees. So I'm very optimistic about this deal and its ramifications, including the new debt-service rule and other things. There are so many good things happening. Last Sept. 1 17 or 18 teams were still in playoff contention. I think this year we'll have at least as many. That couldn't have happened seven or eight or nine or 10 years ago. I'm comfortable that when you ask me this question in two or three years the playing field will have continued to be leveled out. I say that very strongly.
Pete Rose: 'I made no commitment'
SI: Pete Rose wrote in his book My Prison Without Bars, that in November of 2002 he admitted to you that he bet on baseball as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Why did you not tell anyone during the following 14 months? In fact, when asked during that period if there was anything new on Rose you repeatedly said no.
Selig: Because the conversations I had with Pete were confidential. I had made no decision -- have still made no decision -- (on Rose) and as the judge in this case I think me talking about it while it's ongoing and I'm forming a decision would be very inappropriate. That would be, in my judgment, not only unethical and unfair to Pete but unfair to the process. The one thing about the commissioner's role in this is that it has to be eminently fair. And that's precisely the way it's going to continue.
SI: Is there dialogue with him ongoing?
SI: Have you talked to him since the book came out?
Selig: I have not.
SI: Pete left that November 2002 meeting saying the feeling he got from you was that he would be reinstated in "a reasonable amount of time." Was that your intention?
Selig: Well, he feels that way. Obviously I made no commitment. People don't understand that he has the right to apply for reinstatement. And I thought it was only fair that I saw him.
SI: But was that your intention -- to give him the impression that he was on a track to be reinstated within a reasonable amount of time?
Selig: No. Frankly, I didn't communicate any of that. He was very subdued and respectful and I thought the meeting was a reasonable one. Obviously there were no commitments made then or since.
The Expos: 'We need to have a buyer'
SI: The Montreal Expos are, I think you might agree, an embarrassment.
Selig: Well, I don't know if "embarrassment" is the right word. Look, contraction was a very tough course, as I found out. The residue of that very painful process is Montreal. Obviously, we couldn't find a new owner [for the Expos]. But to move a team we have to have a site with a new stadium and all the necessary work done.
SI: Does that mean you're prepared to keep the Expos in Montreal indefinitely?
Selig: No. We need to have a buyer. We (have said we'd like to find one) by the All-Star Game this year and I really hope (that's the case). (Keeping the team in Montreal) has helped us in some ways. It gave us the chance to go to Puerto Rico. I'm a great believer in internationalization, and we couldn't have done it any other way. So at least some good came from it. But now the relocation committee is hard at work and we all agree by the middle of the season we ought to have a buyer and a site.
SI: Peter Angelos, who is on the executive council now, has said that one of the reasons he committed to long-term player contracts this past winter is because he is more confident that there will not be a new team in his backyard.
Selig: Well, he believes very strongly. He also said in that same interview that nobody had given him any assurances, it was just his feeling. Look, I've always been sensitive about moving teams without proper thought. For instance, [moving the A's to Oakland created] a two-team market in which both teams have struggled for decades. That was just poor planning. The Washington and Northern Virginia people have a different view of the potential of that market than Peter Angelos has. And I understand.
SI: Does that mean the Washington and Northern Virginia people have to climb a higher hurdle?
Selig: Oh, I don't know about a higher hurdle. The relocation committee is going to have to determine which site has the best long-term potential for our sport. And we have a lot of interest now from a lot of areas. I'm proud of the job Omar Minaya, Tony Tavares and Frank Robinson have done with the Expos. The team has been remarkably competitive. But we need to get rid of it. There's no question.
SI: Especially when you don't even give the Expos enough money to bring up September call-ups.
Selig: That was a [story] that made that rounds, but when I called to ask [the Expos] that question they said, "No, no." There was only one guy they thought about bringing up but they decided he wasn't going to help them anyway. They were fading at that point. But their payroll this year is higher than five, six, seven teams.
SI: Given the sponsorship money that teams are taking from casinos and other gambling interests, isn't Las Vegas now a real player as a potential new home for the Expos?
Selig: We haven't made that judgment yet. Look, life is not what it was two or three decades ago. Gambling is legal, there are casinos within miles of most every ballpark in the major leagues. There are problems in Las Vegas that need to be addressed. But I will say that the people there have been very aggressive and made some excellent presentations.
SI: What are the problems they have that others don't?
Selig: You have to worry about the entire environment, and that's something that I'm very cautious about. I was raised in an era in baseball when that would have been unheard of, but things change. There's no question about it.
QuesTec: 'It's going to remain'
SI: If you like QuesTec so much, why are we three years into its implementation, yet it's not even in half the major league ballparks?
Selig: About a month ago I met with the umpires. There asked very few questions about QuesTec. There were many more questions on a lot of other subjects, many of which you have already touched on. We have a report on QuesTec at every owner's meeting. We have very little debate on that subject. So I think QuesTec can get more sophisticated and more refined and yes, ultimately we need to get QuesTec in every park. You need a device to evaluate people, or help them. And if it isn't QuesTec it's going to be something else. But the people we have in charge of this really believe in QuesTec. And until I have evidence otherwise it's going to remain.
The Brewers: "It's time for them to sell'
SI: Now the Brewers. You put them up for sale after --
Selig: Well, the ownership has.
SI: You have, what, 25, 26 percent?
Selig: Actually a little more, like 28 percent.
SI: But you made a personal decision --
Selig: Actually, the board did.
SI: But you made that decision after the ballpark was built, and the franchise value is much higher with a new ballpark than without. So why now for you?
Selig: It's three or four years after ... Look, this ownership has owned the team for 40 years. The basis of this group hung together for four decades. A lot of people died, a lot of people are older now, those who want to sell, so it had nothing to do with the ballpark. And they really came to a judgment that it was time. In my case, I would have been happy to sell even in the '90s when I was interim commissioner. I knew it was a perception issue. Even though my daughter was fastidious about it, as were all the owners and all the trustees of my trust who have impeccable reputations. But there was always this "wink, wink" and all that. I understand that. From 1998 on I really did want to sell because, if nothing else, the commissioner shouldn't own stock in a club. But until the whole group came to this conclusion it was difficult for me. There just weren't any buyers. So you come to it now, there have been a lot of cash calls. ... Yes, the new ballpark has helped, but there's been a lot of money poured into that club. But I think most members of the group, because of a change in their status in one form or another, now believe it's time for them to sell.
SI: You probably saw the HBO Real Sports report. The report claimed that when the Brewers had their hand out for public funds to build a ballpark, you, your daughter and your son-in-law were pulling down $2 million in combined salaries.
Selig: I'm telling you right now that [our combined salaries] averaged 28 percent of that $2 million. The [$2 million] figure is so grossly, obscenely inaccurate and it came from people who had never seen the numbers, and quite frankly, it was just made up. It's sad.
Wild-card fever: 'It's so popular'
SI: People generally assume the wild card has worked well. But four of the last eight teams to get to the World Series were second-place teams. Do we need more of a disincentive for finishing in second place, such as a proposed play-in game for two wild-card teams? Something to make it more difficult for a second-place team to get to the sport's premier event?
Selig: We've talked about that, and through my Commissioner's Initiative in the 21st Century [committee], we're dealing with that. We're not quite ready to talk about it. I knew what I wanted to do back in '92 when I started [as commissioner]. I knew we needed a wild card. I took a lot of criticism and today it's so popular that you have a lot of people asking for more wild cards. I'm not sure that's what we want to do. I don't have the same feeling. We're looking at a lot of things. Should there be a tougher road for the wild card club? I think it's pretty fair right now.
Blacks and baseball: 'Something happened ...'
SI: Why has the number of African-American players declined?
Selig: It is somewhat surprising. We're trying to do things in the inner cities, building a youth academy in Los Angeles, the RBI initiative [a grassroots program managed by Major League Baseball in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America] is great. We need to do more of that. I don't know ... Something happened in the '50s and '60s after the generation that produced [Jackie] Robinson and [Larry] Doby and [Hank] Aaron and [Willie] Mays and [Ernie] Banks and Billy Williams and on and on. And football and basketball became more prevalent in the lives of inner-city kids. I hope we're making progress. We're going to continue to try to be as aggressive as we can.
World Cup: 'We're working on it'
SI: You're on record saying you hope to see a World Cup-type tournament as soon as next March. Can that happen without Olympic-style drug testing?
Selig: I don't think so.
SI: So what are the chances that it could happen at all?
Selig: We're working on it. Both sides want a World Cup, but there are conditions that need to be met and that's one of them. The players' association understands that. The World Cup would be a great thing, there's no question about it. I'm still very optimistic.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci covers baseball for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.
"A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages"
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