Selig, fans share dialogue at Town Hall
Commissioner answers questions from audience, Internet
DETROIT -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig regaled fans and the media in back-to-back sessions Tuesday, hours before the 76th All-Star Game at downtown Comerica Park.The Commissioner, appearing live on MLB.com via streaming video and audio during his fifth annual Town Hall, answered 18 questions filed by e-mail and another nine from audience members who waited in line for the microphone at the John Hancock All-Star FanFest in the Cobo Center. Earlier, Selig had addressed assembled reporters from the Baseball Writers Association of America for the third consecutive season at its yearly All-Star Game luncheon and meeting. Selig told the writers that MLB would return to the regular All-Star rotation after back-to-back games in National League parks (Pittsburgh and San Francisco) in 2006 and 2007. The 2008 and 2010 games would go to the American League. "One of the things that I like to do with the All-Star Game is that if you can help a city that needs help, that's how I like to use it," he said. "There were enough compelling reasons to give the National League two years in a row. Maybe further out, I'll give the American League two in a row." When asked online when New York might get another All-Star Game, Selig said, "The American League has some slots coming up, and that's a very, very good question." Selig agreed that the decision could be made in conjunction with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium in 2009. New York has had the All-Star Game only twice in the past 41 years -- in 1964, a year after Shea Stadium opened, and in 1977, a year after Yankee Stadium was renovated. Both the Mets and Yankees are planning to unveil new ballparks by the end of the decade. Cincinnati's recently opened Great American Ball Park has the inside track for the 2009 Game. The Town Hall was Selig's fourth in front of a rousing FanFest audience. This year, Selig answered questions about the progress being made toward selling the Washington Nationals and the new World Baseball Classic, which is scheduled for March 3-20, 2006. He stumped for the new 16-team event, the first international tournament to include Major League players. "Watch the World Baseball Classic, because it will be spectacular," Selig said during the chat, a day after the tournament was announced. "We will not only take baseball to countries where it's very popular, where it's very important, but we will take baseball to places where there isn't a lot of interest. And, therefore, I'm very comfortable telling you today that the World Baseball Classic is going to internationalize the sport a lot more than I think people understand."
Selig told the writers and fans that new owners for the Nationals would be determined by the end of the summer. Eight groups have placed deposits of $100,000 with the Commissioner's office and have filed bids. All eight met last month with the ownership subcommittee that is trying to narrow the list.A meeting to brief Selig this weekend didn't materialize, but he said discussions are ongoing. "We have eight groups bidding on the Washington franchise, and I believe we'll bring that to conclusion sometime in the next month or six weeks," he told a questioner during the chat session. "You'll have an owner and I believe an outstanding ownership group, and the Washington franchise will do very, very well." Selig told MLB.com readers that Interleague Play, which has been highly popular since its inception in 1997, "is here to stay." He also defended the American League's use of the designated hitter. When asked if there was a chance of eliminating it, he answered: "It will take some precipitous event, like overall Major League realignment, to do that." Answering a question posed to him after the chat session, Selig said he was bullish on the idea of the American League using the DH in National League parks next season during Interleague Play. Pitchers would hit in the American League parks. "Right now, I've got to tell you that I like it a lot," Selig said, adding that he probably would go through the process of chatting with owners and officials of the Players' Association about making the change in time for 2006. In answer to a question from the Internet about his proposal to stiffen penalties for steroid use in the Major Leagues, Selig said that it had become a matter of integrity for the owners and players. "Well, you know, on April 25, I wrote a letter to [union executive director] Don Fehr, and I said that I wanted the penalties to go to 50 games, 100 games and life," Selig said. "We're having ongoing discussions. The current program is working. Make no mistake about it, it is working. But there's an integrity issue here, and that's why I believe baseball needs a tougher program, so that people understand we will rid the sport of steroids under all circumstances." Selig said he was against the use of instant replay to change an umpire's decision; that his favorite player as a youngster growing up in Milwaukee was the great Joltin' Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees; and, as he has all year, Selig continued to beat the drums loudly about the health of Major League Baseball. "The sport is enjoying its biggest year," he said. "Last Sunday, we passed the 40 million mark [in overall attendance], which is absolutely stunning. So I'm very proud of that, and we've really made a lot of progress."
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.