Selig touches variety of topics in annual chat
Commissioner discusses replay, playoffs and more with fans
PHOENIX -- In one of his most engaging FanFest chats to date, Commissioner Bud Selig expanded upon some points of interest regarding Major League Baseball on Monday.Answering questions live, during a session that was carried worldwide on the Internet via MLB.com, Selig said that Major League Baseball is examining further use of instant replay to aid umpires in their on-field decisions and is committed to expanding the playoff field to 10 teams. The Commissioner added that he would entertain the idea of using the designated hitter in National League ballparks during Interleague Play, and that there was no chance a salary cap would be part of the next Basic Agreement, currently under negotiations with the MLB Players Association.
"I must tell you that within baseball there's not a great appetite, frankly, for instant replay," Selig said. "However, there are some things that we're talking about, and we may make two more rather significant changes to the instant replay rule. But we're still discussing it."Selig said that extending the netting that protects fans behind home plate past the dugouts would not happen in the foreseeable future. He said there would be no rule changes to protect catchers in the wake of an incident earlier this season in which Giants catcher Buster Posey broke his leg in a collision at the plate. And that possible division realignment, a much-talked-about subject recently, is not imminent. "I know there have been stories about it lately that I found to be somewhat premature," Selig said about realignment. "I've always had it on my mind, and I've talked to people about it from time to time, but is there anything imminent? No." Selig was not specific about the changes that are being contemplated in instant replay. At present, it is only used to determine home run calls -- fair or foul, in and out of the ballpark. Baseball officials have since called for the video technology to also be used in determining balls hit on the field down the foul lines and bang-bang plays at home plate, among others. This was Selig's 11th Internet chat session. Out of the thousands of questions filed by fans via MLB.com, the Commissioner fielded 17 and then took three questions from fans among the hundreds in attendance at the MLB.com area, which is located at FanFest in the Phoenix Convention Center. A question about the Dodgers' ownership situation came fairly early. "At least we waited for the fifth or sixth question before we got to the Dodgers," Selig said. "As everybody knows, Mr. [Frank] McCourt has filed for bankruptcy. We are in bankruptcy court and in a tough relationship with him, but time will tell." Baseball last expanded the playoffs from four to eight teams in time for the 1994 season. At that time, the four divisions were split to six and the two Wild Card teams were added, but because of the strike that canceled that postseason, the new playoff format was not fully implemented until 1995. Selig is fond of pointing out how much opposition there was to those changes back then, and he's facing similar opposition to expanding the postseason again. Selig has had a 14-man committee reviewing significant changes to the way baseball is played for the past year, including alterations in the playoff format. The committee includes Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, Joe Torre -- now MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations -- and managers Jim Leyland of the Tigers, Tony La Russa of the Cardinals and Mike Scioscia of the Angels. "We only have eight of 30 teams," Selig said. "If we go to 10, that's 10 out of 30. Twenty go home. That's not too many. I can make a case for 10 -- no more than 10. Now, the question is how many games to you play to determine [a first-round winner], and we haven't decided that yet." About the age-old DH argument, Selig said that he didn't see any changes in the current format. "What I would say to you is that it would take some catalytic event -- some huge realignment or something like that -- to deal with this issue," Selig said. "At the moment, the National League clubs love the way game is being played, the American League clubs love the DH. We've been trying to make the necessary adjustments in between. It's hard to believe that we've been doing this for 39 years now." But Selig said he wasn't averse to making a change in Interleague Play so the DH is utilized in NL ballparks and the pitcher hits in AL yards. "That's a good question; we've talked about that," Selig said. "I think that's something we ought to consider. The NL fans could see the DH and the AL fans will see the game they remembered before 1972. So I like that suggestion." All of these changes are being contemplated as baseball owners and the MLBPA are quietly undergoing collective bargaining sessions, with the current Basic Agreement expiring on Dec. 11. Selig, who called those talks "constructive," was asked two questions about the ongoing negotiations: With the National Football League and National Basketball Association currently in the middle of lockouts, how does baseball avoid that same situation? "We were there back in the '90s," Selig said. "In my baseball career that started in 1970, we had eight work stoppages, and one became more painful than the other. So I'm very sensitive to what's going on in the other sports. I think what I'm most proud of in my Commissionership is that we've had 16 years of labor peace -- unprecedented in baseball history. We've started our negotiations, and they've been constructive, but it's early. I hope that continues and that we have many more years of labor peace without interruption." And is a cap on salaries part of the current negotiations? "No," Selig said. "We've done a lot of economic things that have really moved the game forward. It's been really helpful. The fact that you're seeing the competitive balance today that you're seeing, think about it. Pittsburgh has made a remarkable comeback. The Cleveland Indians have made a remarkable comeback. Every division has races. The economic system has changed. It is completely restructured. It's working."