24th July 2006
The following interview transcript is published here by permission of XM 175 and Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner
Charley Steiner: Our friend Allan H. Bud Selig, who is in Milwaukee today and is going to spend the next few minutes with us. Morning, Bud.
Bud Selig: Hi, Charley. Good morning to you. How are you?
Steiner: I am terrific. And, yourself?
Selig: I’m good. I am looking at attendance figures. I’m looking at all the races. We went over the 45 million mark in attendance yesterday, Charley, which is really amazing on July 23rd. We are right on pace to break another record. Attendance record. The races are great in ever division except the National League East. The Wild Card races are intriguing to say the least. And, I feel very good. We’re having a wonderful year.
Steiner: Life is good. Let’s start with a hard one. Does anybody every call you Allan?
Selig: I think the last person that called me Allan was my fourth grade teacher. And, since my mother was a school teacher and my fourth grade teacher was a friend of hers. She stopped that pretty quickly.
Steiner: So, it’s always been Bud ever since.
Selig: Yes, Yes.
Steiner: Alright, you talked about the wonderful success the game has had and that’s something we’ve been talking about a lot on this program this year and the last couple of years really. It’s been good. Let’s talk about the All-Star Game. The numbers were up. The Home Run Derby. The numbers were up. There’s now… This was a big year for an influx of new All-Stars. There was a lot of out with the old, in with the new. You’re touching on it and I’m going to throw you a nice hanging curve and you can go with it where you want. The state of the game in general now. And, if you can, compare it a little bit to when you ascended to the thrown back in 1992.
Selig: Well, you know, I am really proud. You know baseball will always have some problems, and I am sure we will discuss those this morning, too. Think about this Charley, in 1992 this industry had gross revenue, which is really an economic manifestation of where you are, of a billion-two. And, I thought to myself, ‘boy someday I hope we can get to two billion dollars.’ People were talking about baseball being a no grow sport. It was past its time instead of the pastime. You know all the…which had gone on for decades. So, here we are in 2006. Gross revenues will be 5.2 to 5.3 billion dollars. Think about that. Races are better than ever. Television ratings really remarkable. The club ratings on television are terrific. Attendance beyond your wildest expectations. So here we are July 23rd Charley, the average club in baseball has drawn a million and a half. When I was a kid, came in the business in 1970, if you drew a million you were a genius. The numbers today are just stunning. The sport has never been more popular. And, in any criteria you use, the sport has never been more popular. I am proud. I am proud of all the changes. I think revenue sharing has helped immeasurably. Just go to Detroit and you can see that in a very dramatic way. The economic changes have helped. The Wild Card has helped. Even the All-Star Game, you know people will say ‘well the only reason they made a change was because of what happened in Milwaukee.’ That’s far from the truth. We have been discussing that for a year and a half. And, I am a traditionalist at heart which will surprise some people given the changes of the last 14 years, which have clearly been the most active 14 years in baseball history in terms of change. I didn’t like it only because I felt that was one change I wasn’t sure about. One thing I was sure of, though. The All-Star Games that I remember in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, the 70’s, and even into the 80’s was no longer that All-Star Game. I think Charley because I really believe in ’93 when Cito Gasten didn’t use Mike Mussina and got booed badly in Baltimore the managers said their going to use everybody. By the last 90’s, all of us were worrying that this game had lost its drama. Its lost its intensity. People were playing. They were gone by the fourth inning. Literally gone from the ballpark. They were going through the motions. After all as a kid, I saw Ted Williams play an All-Star Game in Chicago; I was in the stands in 1950. He broke his elbow Charley in the first inning, and he played the whole game. So, the change has been good. I had a letter this morning which made me feel good. The letter writer wrote ‘the intensity is back, I really enjoyed the game.’
Steiner: At the end of the day, its still an exhibition. Primarily, because you’ve got so many free agents and leagues don’t matter any more because you have so much cross pollinization, so its become a nice game. Let me ask you a specific question about your feelings as to whether or not every team should be represented at an All-Star Game. If in fact, it is going to be a real competition. Should you not have the best 30, 31, 32 players as opposed to we gotta get some guy whose representing a really bad team just to make them feel good on the home front.
Selig: Well, let me suggest to you that number one I think it is more than an exhibition. Yes, it isn’t quite what it was back in the 40’s and 50’s and 60’s and what I romanticize in. Because of interleague play. Because of television, national television and things. People weren’t able to see. The leagues still…You know if I’m sitting in that dugout with Ozzie Guillen or I’m on the other side with Phil Garner, I don’t want my league losing.
Steiner: Nobody wants anybody to lose, of course.
Selig: As for every team being represented, I guess I’m in the minority, but I don’t want to change the rule. Because I do believe… We’re up to 32 players now Charley. So, it isn’t 25 any more. I think the manager has flexibility. But, you bet, I ran a franchise. I know there are some teams that will always be weaker or having a bad year. But, I really do believe every team should have a member.
Steiner: Okay. Alright, let’s get to the hard stuff. Which I am sure you don’t like to talk about, but its part of the deal.
Selig: I am used to talking about it now too, so its okay.
Steiner: Yeah, I guess you are. When you hired George Mitchell?
Steiner: What were your marching orders to him? What do you expect from him? To point out those who may have cheated? Is this going to be a white paper on where baseball fits into society vis-à-vis the cheating whether it was steroids, HgH, or how Enron and WorldCom did there business from the late 80’s into the 2000’s. What at the end of the day do you expect out of the Mitchell Report?
Selig: Well, let me back up because that’s a great question. The answer cannot unfortunately be too brief. I said to the Senator, who many point out is a friend of mine and he is. He has that burden, but he also has an impeccable reputation but the brilliance of his work since he left the Senate in ’94 is just remarkable. Sent by American Presidents to Ireland, which really was his finest hour. Into the Middle East. Even when the U.S. Olympic committee got in trouble, they sent George Mitchell. That’s how good he is. When I called him, I said the following ‘Look, we’ve taken of the present and the future. We have the toughest program in American sports,’ which he knew of course. We’ve banned amphetamines. Great problem, Charley, for many, many decades.
Selig: In fact, I am reading again today an article by Whitey Herzog. In which, and how well I know this from running a team, he believes cocaine was a much bigger problem in the 80’s than steroids and HgH are today. Now, that’s Whitey’s opinion. You know, and he’s entitled to his opinion.
Selig: But it was a problem. And we never got testing. I want to make that point again. As a result of all of that, knowing we had a problem, we were still…my predecessors, unfortunately not their fault, were unable to get a testing program. We now have, I think a tough testing program. Tough penalties. So, I said to the Senator that day, ‘but there’s a question on what happened in the past. People making all kinds of accusations. You should’ve known, you could’ve known. People re-writing history, which I find fascinating. Having been a career baseball man since the 60’s, I don’t agree with that. But, I wanted to find a person who I had great faith in. And, I want him to go back… I said to him, ‘you go wherever anything takes you. Your going to get complete cooperation.’ It was as simple as that. You can find out whatever you want to find out. You talk to everybody and anybody. And, do whatever it takes. However long it takes, we’re not going to set any time limits because this is something that’s got to be done right. I said to him at the time that I thought ‘that well every decade has had problems like this.’ I think this is something that we at least ought to look into. So, Charley, no one can say at the end of the day ‘we you took care of the present and the future, but you were unwilling to look at the past.’
Steiner: So, what in your own mind do you envision, did you envision, when you had that conversation or series of conversations.
Selig: He’s going to have to tell me. I really don’t know. That’s why I haven’t commented on it, because I really said to him I wouldn’t comment, its now in your hands. And, he’s to go wherever the evidence takes him.
Steiner: Again, when you suggest evidence that seems to suggest well let’s see if we can meet out some punishment or would you like to see just an overall view of how we got to this place at this time?
Selig: Well, I am not going to make any judgments on what kind of punishment to be. That would really be jumping the gun and I don’t wanna jump the gun. I want to see what his report says, and then I’ll make any value judgments that I have to make. I know this…that I certainly in my own mind as well as I know a lot of general managers were unaware of any problem. People said you should’ve known, but when you ask them well they don’t really know how you should’ve known. Therefore, if we missed something, I want to learn so we don’t miss something in the future. But, I don’t want to pre-judge what the Senator does. They are working very hard. They are everywhere. And, uh, when all is said and done, I’ll feel good about it only in a sense Charley, that we’ll then known as much as humanly possible to know.
Steiner: There are those who suggest that active players have no interest and there is no enforcement for them to sit down and say anything to Senator Mitchell and his investigators.
Selig: Well, no, it isn’t yet. Because they haven’t started. No, I… So far, everyone’s been cooperative and this investigation has many avenues to travel yet, so I hope and believe that everyone will be cooperative.
Steiner: Of course, you do. [Laughs] But, there is that…
Selig: Well, Well, We don’t have any evidence of that yet, Charley, so I really don’t want to pre-judge that.
Steiner: And, you have no idea in terms of how long this may take. A year? Two years?
Selig: I really don’t. Boy, I don’t think the Senator knows either. Because, like on a lot of things, people will say, ‘well you know Bud moves slowly, the commissioner does this and that.’ Well, I always tell our people, better to get it right than fast. And in the Senators case, he’s so experienced in these areas. There’s a lot of people to see. A lot of people to see. Its impossible to set a time limit on.
Steiner: Do you have, uh, do you have any discussion whatsoever say with Jay Novitzky, or the grand jury in San Francisco, or is this…
Selig: No… [talks over Steiner]
Steiner: …totally separate things?
Selig: …That’s a criminal investigation that frankly we have no discussions with. With all the people involved. No. None.
Steiner: Let me as you a general question about Barry Bonds, because that is the name, as look, this just in: Barry Bonds. Um, and there was discussion about the possibility should he have been indicted this past Thursday that in the best interest of baseball, you might have taken some action. Uh, in what regard would you like to comment about that?
Selig: I, I really don’t want to comment. You know, I haven’t commented on the Bonds situation. Um, obviously they didn’t take action. Oh umm. There are a lot of rumors about what may or may not take place, but I really do think, in my particular situation, that, uh, it really insensitive of me to even discuss the matter and eh, so, I’m going to let human events take their course, Charley.
Steiner: Toward the end of the year, I think December, the collective bargaining agreement is up?
Selig: That’s correct.
Steiner: Um, how would you…
Selig: And they’re meeting this morning as we speak.
Steiner: Well, tell us about that. Who, they being?
Selig: Well, our negotiating team lead by Bob Dupuy, Rob Manfred and the Players Association’s Donald Fehr, Michael Weiner, Gene Orza, everybody. I have owners that are involved in the process, Andy MacPhail, Larry Dolan of the Cleveland Indians and Peter Angelos of Baltimore. So…
Steiner: When did these talks begin? Is this the first day
Selig: I think they started maybe a couple weeks, a couple months ago and they’ve been on-going and will continue to be.
Steiner: And how at this point would you categorize the relationship between the players’ union and, uh, and ownership?
Selig: Well, there’s no question, when I came in my first meeting, to give you the answer 36 years ago, and I didn’t know what the meeting was and I just excited to be at a major league meeting. And it was the worst meeting I had ever gone to. Bowie Kuhn sat meet in between Phil Wrigley and Gussie Busch, and um [Steiner chuckles]. I remember Gussie had broken an ankle or something. He had a cane and he was pounding that cane and here I am, a 35 year old kid from Milwaukee trying to figure out what I got myself into. And it never got better for about 28 years. All I can tell you, the relationship itself is, is better than it’s ever been. There is no question about that. I have often said, uh, my friend Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller fought for years. It was like watching Zale and Graziano every day [Steiner chuckles]. They just battered each other and they went on and on. There were 8 work stoppages. And I really believe, as great as the sport is today, one of the primary reasons is we’ve had labor peace. And, cuz our fans I think got tired of reading about owners, players, commissioners, everybody. You know, I’ve always said, Charley, that when the game, when we focus on the field instead of off the field, then we know we’re doing great. And so, look, I’m hopeful. We’ve, they’re a lot of difficult issues, but I have great confidence that, uh, hopefully, we’ll, uh, we’ll at some point in time, uh uh, make a deal, but the relationship, clearly, is better than it’s ever been.
Steiner: The WBC obviously brought the two sides together. I mean, I saw Rob Manfred and Don Fehr, as if they were holding hands and skipping through lily fields in slow motion they were so happy together…
Steiner: …and clearly that was a positive thing for baseball, for the relationship between union and management. On the other side of the coin, the whole issue of drugs, drug testing, and going about the business, going to, uh, the Congress and all of that. To what extent did that, uh, did that undo the goodwill the…
Selig: Well the World Baseball Classic came after all of that…
Selig: And, um, I, eh. Look. I made a judgment a year ago that we needed a tougher program. Don and I had many meetings on the subject. Rob, and Michael Weiner, and Gene Orza had many meetings on the subject. And Bob DuPuy. Um, and I think, I will, I will tell you again, given everything at least we have a very constructive relationship with them…
Selig: …and while we may have disagreements, there isn’t the anger and the intense dislike of the past.
Steiner: What are the two or three key issues that will have to be bridged in order to circumvent…
Selig: Well, they haven’t gotten to them yet. I mean, there’s still, there’s a lot of discussion on a lot of issues, so, that’s a question I’ll, we’ll be able to answer more in a couple months. But, uh, you know, we have some work to do on the economics of the sport and, uh, on on other things. We’ve, we’ve really taken, the drug testing is pretty much gone, by the way I want to give the Players Association a lot of credit, Charley. They reopened twice when they didn’t have to. We banned amphetamines. They were very, amphetamines they’ve been around for 70 years and a very significant part of the sport…
Steiner: They didn’t have to but the reality was there…
[talking over each other]
Selig: And they didn’t have to. Well, but, but they didn’t…
Steiner: …you were, you were squeezin’ em. The Congress was squeezin’ em…
Selig: Well, but but…
Steiner: …and and it got to the point where, that, eh, the Union had, for the most part, taken the owners out to the wood shed for about 30 some odd years.
Selig: [talks over Steiner] Yeah, but, but, the fact is though that they…
Steiner: and this was the first time they were kinda backed into a corner and then they had to react. That’s not an unfair appraisal.
Selig: [talks over Steiner] “But the fact though is that they, they did do it. And uh, and uh, they did it. And I don’t think it’s left any particular scar at all.
Steiner: Okay. Uh, few other things. Just kinda scatter shoot a little bit.
Steiner: Ahhmm, now TBS is part of the television family
Steiner: The one constant complaint, especially you know, from the East Coast, is that the games start so late. Ah, is, to what, as you sit in the center of the country, in the center of the baseball universe, is that a fair complaint and is there anything that can be done about it if it is?
Selig: Well, I’d like to have an afternoon game in the World Series, although we do have a lot of Division Series and even LCS games on. The problem with all that Charley, you’ve been in the broadcast business a long time, their ratings are abysmal.
Selig: The later a game goes at night, the better the rating. All the evidence that one would look at in making a decision in anything in life tells you that starting earlier is a disaster. And I don’t blame the networks. I’m sympathetic to them. On the other hand, we’d like to find a way, listen I was raised with day time World Series games and, eh, and so I understand all that. But I, you know, we do have a lot of games on, even in the Championship series and the Division Series where we have some afternoon games, or late afternoon games, and they just don’t do well. So we are going to work on that. We’re going to continue to talk about it. But let me say, and I know probably not all is popular to hear, the evidence does not support that.
Steiner: It doesn’t. You’re right from a financial point of view. But, there are those that will say, ‘Hey, you know, we remember those glory days where we snuck in our little transistor radios to the back of Mrs. Erickson’s class in the back of second grade and just kinda hunched on your hand to make sure that the wire wouldn’t be seen’…
Steiner: …umm, [chuckles] but for those kids now, and again, I assume what baseball is trying to do is to continue to re-seed the field and to have new fans grow…
Selig: By the way our demographics, in spite of what you’re reading here, our younger demographics both locally and nationally are very good. I mean, you know, we’ve just made some wonderful television deals in the past year, particularly in the last couple of weeks, and the demographics are very, very encouraging, but I’m sensitive to that Charley and will continue to talk about it.
Steiner: Finally, as we head toward, eh, the thrilling conclusion to this year.
Steiner: It’s obviously been a great year.
Steiner: Um, the whole notion of revenue sharing and as you have pointed out, teams like the Tigers have taken advantage of it…
Steiner: …and then you have other teams like Kansas City or Tampa Bay, where it appears, from afar, they take their revenue sharing money and they stick it in their back pocket.
Selig: Well, let me, if I can comment…
Selig: …on one of my favorite subjects because I already discussed it today with a newspaper man. I said to the writers and all of the media people at the All Star Game. there’s a lot of mythology that works in our business. If people say something, they believe it. I’m very sensitive, because when we went to revenue sharing which, this year will be well over 300 million dollars. And I remember the debate of the 90’s and I remember how intense it was and ugly and unpleasant it was. We are past all that now. The fact of the matter is, at every major league meeting. Not just one, Charley, at every meeting, I have Rob Manfred, who as you know handles labor and economics, show the clubs precisely where all the money came in, who paid, how much they paid, and where it went out. And to whom they paid it. And I can tell you this, that the reason that I have never had a complaint from a club, an official complain or even an unofficial complaint, is that the clubs that are getting the money, every one of them, is spending far more than they’re taking in. Last time I looked it was way over 100 million dollars more. So this mythology that the Florida Marlins or the Kansas City Royals, or whoever, Cubs, I mean it’s just wrong. Now, clubs spend their money in different ways. They may, after a significant period of time, decide we’re going to really spend a lot of money on player development for awhile. Well, as Branch Rickey used to say, you know, that’s eh, 3 to 5 years if you’re lucky. And so, you look at Detroit who lost 119 games 3 years ago and you look at all the young players they have. Watch a couple of their kids come out of the bullpen throwing 100 miles an hour. And you see what a farm system, you see what they did.
Selig: The Marlins were being criticized. Marlins have lost a lot of money down there. They have a tough place to play with a terrible lease, so they start with a lot of negatives. But, they did cut their payroll. They’re spending a lot of money. They’ve really turned out a lot of young talent. And all of a sudden, look it here. They’re doing very well this year given what everybody thought…
Selig: …they were gonna do.
Steiner: All right.
Selig: And then Kansas City’s case, the same thing. I happen to have great admiration for David Glass. But I’m telling you the mythology that says Kans, any of these clubs, are putting in their pockets…
Selig: …is just nonsense.
Steiner: So the Royals are bad because they are bad, not because of money. Poorly run organization…
Selig: Well, there’s always going to be teams, Charley, that do better than other teams. But is revenue sharing doing what it want? Look, call it competitive balance. Call it what Pete Roselle used to call it, parity. Whatever. I was just reading through all the clips today and there was one writer who suggests we still have 23 teams who have a shot at something. I always say by Labor Day if we’re in excess of 20 then we have done our job.
Steiner: Then you’re a happy Commissioner.
Selig: Revenue sharing has worked for this sport brilliantly…
Selig: And make no mistake about that.
Steiner: You mentioned the Marlins, and what, are they ever going to have a ballpark down there or will they have to move? And the problem it seems to me, if any franchise moves, where do you go to that’s any better?
Selig: Well, look, let me say this. I was in Minnesota last night, up in Minneapolis to a party to celebrate the Twins’ new stadium and that’s 12 ½ years later. And we went through a lot of heartache. And Carl Pohlad was there. It was a wonderful, wonderful night and a beautiful night; of course the Twins people are happy. They are playing beautifully. But, we did get it done. But it shows the patience you have to have. I am always optimistic. Oakland is working on a new stadium. And we, our people are down in South Florida. And I know that they, the Marlins people really want to get a new ballpark. We want to stay there. Hopefully, we’ll be successful.
Steiner: With the, you are keeping that totally open ended though. At some point, they can only swallow so many losses. Financial.
Selig: Well, that’s right, but in the end, if we gave up easily, we wouldn’t have wound up building a new stadium in Minnesota. So I, you know, I feel pretty good about that now as a lesson for the future.
Steiner: So nothing imminent one way or the other as far as the Marlins.
Selig: No, we are working hard on getting a new stadium.
Steiner: Nicely done, Bud. Ah, [chuckles]. As always, hey, thank you. You have an open invitation on this little lemonade stand of a radio show.
Selig: Charley, I’m happy to do it at any time, and I enjoy it, and this was a pleasure.
Steiner: Bud, thank you and look forward to seeing you soon.
Selig: Me too Charley. Take care of yourself.
Steiner: Thank you pal.
Selig: Bye bye.