Commissioner Bud Selig sat down to speak with Bob Costas in an interview that aired Friday night on MLB Network (complete interview available @ http://mlbnetwork.mlb.com/network/index.jsp), discussing the state of Major League Baseball — including a few changes that could be coming soon. Since Costas and Selig have not always shared an eye to eye purview, it is interesting to see their relationship evolve over the course of time. Costas, like many ardent baseball fans and media members (including yours truly) is largely critical of Selig’s administration and challenges the common perception among ownership that Selig’s 20-year reign has been wholly good for the game.
Touching on a number of topics in the 30-minute interview, Selig fielded questions about division realignment, Interleague Play, the possible addition of two more Wild Card teams, the use of instant replay and the rumored specter of him retiring after the 2012 season. None of the issues are new to baseball fans but several of the responses have changed from recent discussions. Among the potential immediate changes in store (including postseason expansion, realignment, schedule changes and altering revenue streams), Selig chose to focus on the All-Star Game – which could be subject to a few tweaks as early as next year.
All-Star Game: Selig said he was still happy with the All-Star Game deciding which league receives home-field advantage in the World Series, but he said MLB will do more to make sure they have better representation in 2012. There is also a chance the date of the Midsummer Classic will change — possibly to a Wednesday instead of the usual second Tuesday in July — in order to provide players more flexibility, whether that means allowing for more eligible pitchers or encouraging the chosen players to participate. Those of us who are critical of Selig point to the fact that he is trying to make an irrelevant exhibition game relevant in order to justify his previous decision (more than 90 players were named to the 2011 squad to compensate for widespread rejected invitations). It should also be pointed out that his Midsummer Classic is having a desultory effect upon the Fall Classic. http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/07/05/all-stars-almost-finalized/
“We’ll have some announcement after the first of the year. … I will expect everybody to be there,” Selig said. “The fact remains; it’s still the best of the All-Star Games. … We will do more for next year to make sure we have better representation.”
Wild Card: Questions about MLB adding two more Wild Card teams were met with cautious optimism. Selig said there has been no final decision yet, but the transition would likely take place in 2013, not next season. Selig said he didn’t believe 10 playoff teams would be too many, though he did acknowledge that the proposed expanded system would have removed much of the magic from the end of this year. It would suggest there is some opposition from those seeking to maintain the integrity and accomplishment of being a division winner after a 162-game season. This proposed plan would afford division winners extra time off while wildcard teams play each other to determine who will face division winners in the second round of playoffs. Some question remains whether this proposed Wildcard round would be three game playoff, five game playoff or simply a one game playoff. http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/10/19/fall-clunker-postseason-change-imperative/
“However, you don’t do things for one year,” Selig said. “You do it for 20 years, 30 years. These are permanent changes. You can’t keep expanding from 16 to 24 teams and 28 teams and expanding to 30 teams… without adding something. You can’t do that. It’s not fair.” Selig said he won’t get rid of the three divisions per league “under any circumstances.” He pointed to the idea of a Wild Card playoff as proof that winning the division would still be rewarded come postseason time.
Realignment: Reorganization to create two 15-team leagues was a hot topic this past spring and has been debated in many permutations. The simplest solution would involve migrating the Houston Astros to the American League West – thus creating a natural rivalry with the Texas Rangers and balancing the leagues. Selig said it was being considered in order to rectify the “unfair” disparity of having six teams in the National League Central and four in the AL West. Selig said he was initially averse to that idea due to the potential of year-round Interleague Play. Aside from a few details that need to be worked out (namely the timetable for such a migration, the creation of a new DH-oriented team subject to the player’s union and agreement from all parties), it appears that very well may be the ultimate solution. http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/09/21/2012-expansion-realignment-seligs-odyssey/
MLB Ratings: Selig spoke proudly about how baseball is being viewed by more people than ever before (with expanded cable and satellite options as well as streaming and mobile device viewing), and acknowledged the postseason TV ratings are “always a concern” due to their inconsistency with the regular-season numbers, perhaps due to regional interests. It was pointed out that regular season NFL games generally outdistance MLB’s postseason on a predictable basis but there is some debate as to why that may be the case. Selig points out that baseball is not as universally appealing as the NFL product because it is not as simple for the casual viewer – and yet the MLB product remains as popular worldwide as it has ever been. Attendance is up since the 1994 labor dispute (causing the final 7 weeks and 1994 postseason to be cancelled – the first World Series cancellation since 1904), limited revenue sharing, draft amendments, regional agreements and the establishment of the MLB Network itself have all contributed largely to the resuscitation of baseball fandom. Despite all of that, postseason TV ratings for FOX’s broadcast of the 107th World Series are the lowest they have ever been and could be attributed to some combination of length of postseason, sharing the viewership with college and pro football season or simply the selection of World Series participants. The games themselves have been fundamentally sound, classic, dramatic and wildly entertaining on the field.
“Would I like to get the ratings up? Of course I would,” Selig said. “This sport has never been this popular on both a regional and global level. We will get the ratings up.” Selig refused to expand on his response or his planned methodology for actually achieving this goal. http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2010/07/20/mlb-all-star-game-worlds-fair-to-zzzzzzz/
The Commissioner also touched upon preliminary discussion of the following topics:
• Instant replay: Selig said MLB will probably add more instant replay next year — especially on fair/foul calls — “but not much.” He once again emphasized not disturbing the pace of the game – meaning balls and strikes would remain in the hands of the umpires as would calls on the bases.
• Interleague Play: Selig said the number of Interleague games clubs play might be slightly reduced, and there could be a few variations to keep the competition fresh and relevant. It was suggested that maintaining more regional rivalries and encouraging new local grudge matches (playing NL East vs. AL East every year for example but limiting the number of non-regional interleague matchups such as NL West vs. AL East) would likely be the best method to maintain this freshness.
• His retirement: The Commissioner has said that he plans to retire after the 2012 season and reiterated that in the interview. His wife commented from off-camera that there may be some wiggle room in this existing timetable but the Commissioner obfuscated the issue.
“We’ll let history take its course,” Selig said.
Further investigation into these relevant issues such as Postseason Expansion, Realignment, Instant Replay, Interleague Play, All-Star relevance, World Series ratings, Revenue Sharing, Draft reorganization (universal draft with rookie salary slotting as well as expanded compensatory draft picks regarding free agency) and several MLB Competition Committee matters all remain unresolved but in the discussion.
Feel free to check out my other articles for more detail on these any other MLB discussions. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. We look forward to encouraging ongoing debates with MLB fans and writers alike and will have offseason podcasts and articles as these subjects develop.
Fall Clunker: Postseason Change Imperative http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/10/19/fall-clunker-postseason-change-imperative/
2012: Selig’s Odyssey Expansion & Realignment http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/09/21/2012-expansion-realignment-seligs-odyssey/
Time Has Come for Playoff Expansion http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2010/09/25/time-has-come-for-playoff-expansion-says-selig/
All-Stars Losing Battle http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/07/05/all-stars-almost-finalized/
MLB All-Star Game: World’s Fair to Historical Footnote
MODEST PROPOSAL: MLB vs. MAGELLAN
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org