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Q&A: Commissioner Bud Selig talks baseball

The commissioner says labor peace and the implementation of revenue sharing are the accomplishments that he's proudest of.

July 11, 2010|By Bill Shaikin

Full text of a recent question-and-answer session with baseball Commissioner Bud Selig at his office in Milwaukee:

Question: When you awarded the All-Star game to Anaheim, you called the Angels "a model for all our franchises." In what ways are they a model?

Answer: Since [owner] Arte [Moreno] has taken over, their attendance has been tremendous. Their revenues have grown remarkably. So have the revenues for all of baseball, but theirs have even exceeded that. You look at their operation — from [former general manager] Bill Stoneman, to [General Manager] Tony [Reagins], to Mike Scioscia — it's a well-run, well-disciplined organization, not only in their baseball operation but in their marketing. It's just a really well-run franchise.

Q: Many baseball people thought the Angels were a gold mine waiting to be tapped, given the large Southern California market and the demographics of Orange County. For all its marketing magic, Disney did not do what Moreno has been able to do in marketing the Angels. Why do you believe he has succeeded where one of America's most successful entertainment companies did not?

A: That's an interesting question. Disney knows the entertainment business as well as any entity. They're remarkable. I loved the Autrys as well as Disney.

But it's the second-largest market in America, which is the way you analyze things. Arte has had the right touch. He works hard at it. He has the right people in position. You have to give Arte Moreno a great deal of credit.

Q: In an ESPN poll last year, the Angels were selected the most fan-friendly team in the four major North American sports leagues. Before he bought the Angels, Moreno was a part-owner of a minor league team, and of the Arizona Diamondbacks. How important are those kinds of experiences to the success of owners, and do you look for those kinds of experiences when recruiting and approving new owners?

A: You bet I do. You know, whoever said 'Experience is the best teacher' is right.

Many people were critical in the early '90s when I became commissioner. They thought an owner shouldn't be commissioner. But, in fact, every issue that has come to me, I had to face when I was the president and owner of the Brewers. It was helpful. It really gave me an insight into the sport.

In Arte's case, he came with really considerable experience, and I think he has used it very wisely. He'll do what I used to do: roam the ballpark, watch concession stands, watch how people are operating. Again, experience is a great teacher, and his experience clearly has contributed to the success of the Angels.

Q: You talked about the benefits of an owner becoming commissioner. Your job as commissioner is to represent the owners, yet you also are charged with acting in the best interest of baseball. How do you reconcile that?

A: The office has changed dramatically. A lot of people don't understand that. [Former players' union chief] Marvin Miller, whom I rarely agreed with, had it right many years ago. In his many confrontations with Bowie [former commissioner Bowie Kuhn], he said, 'I represent the players. He doesn't represent the players.'

The commissioner has extraordinary power. He or she has the ability to do a lot of things. But the office has evolved. The players have their representative. The owners have their representative, the commissioner.

I have a lot of constituencies. One is the players' association. Two is the owners. And then there is television. There is a whole series of things. I think a commissioner in any sport today — because they all have evolved in the same way — will understand what he should do and what he can do and, just as importantly, what he can't do.

Q: If the union represents the players and the commissioner represents the owners, who represents the fans?

A: I think I do. I think anybody who knows me has always said they understand my passion for the sport. I care what fans think. I listen to them. I answer every piece of mail, every day.

There have been more changes in the last 18 years than ever before in the history of the sport. I believe they are fan changes. I believe the fans wanted the wild card. They love it today. I think the fans like interleague play.

Even all the economic changes were meant to give hope and faith in as many places as possible. So you have to know I feel good about how Cincinnati, Texas and San Diego are doing today.

I believe that one of the things that didn't happen in the 30 or 40 years before me was that we didn't listen to the fans enough. We were more bound by tradition and history and unwilling to change. All the changes we've made, I believe, are the reason the sport is more popular today than ever before, in terms of attendance, in terms of gross revenues, in terms of everything else. It's because we do listen to the fans.

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