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Q & A with baseball Commissioner Bud Selig

Commissioner Bud Selig discusses the Dodgers, the new wild-card playoff format, expanded video replay and other issues in a wide-ranging interview with The Times.

October 13, 2012|By Bill Shaikin

MILWAUKEE — The Fall Classic can wait. For baseball, this is the classic fall.

In a good way. The regular season delivered meaning down to the final day, sparked by teams' jockeying to avoid the new one-game wild-card playoff and crowned by the first triple crown winner in 45 years. The division series featured three walk-offs within 24 hours and — for the first time — all four series extended to the full five games.

Commissioner Bud Selig stayed awake past midnight here Wednesday, watching Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez and stun the Baltimore Orioles, then watching the Oakland Athletics jolt Jose Valverde and force a decisive fifth game with the Detroit Tigers.

"After that game was over, I couldn't sleep," Selig said. "It was an unbelievable night. It was just incredible. I think back to the last day of last season, when everybody said, 'Oh, you'll never duplicate that again.'

"Only baseball could produce a night like last night. It was remarkable. And here we are, going again today."

So, as Selig met with The Times in his office Thursday, the television was tuned to Game 5 of the series between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. Selig alternated between the interview and the game — until the bottom of the ninth inning, when he reached for the remote control, turned up the volume and put the interview on pause.

You pushed for the additional wild-card team in each league, and for the one-game wild-card playoff. How has the new format worked out?

"Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. It sort of reminds me of the first wild card. I knew it was the right thing to do, just like I was sure about these two wild cards. I don't know how it could work out any better than it has."

Under the new system, the retiring Chipper Jones and the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers were eliminated in one game. Any regrets?

"No. When we started, I made the first decision: We are going to do it. Then I used my 14-man committee just for format: Do we do this two out of three? I sort of favored that, because I am cautious. You play all year. You worry all year about your team, and the weather and everything else for 162 games, and you're gone after one game.

"But, much to my surprise, the whole committee was for it, including the four managers, and without equivocation. And then I talked to a lot of baseball people, and I got no pushback from anybody.

"So, no, I love the way it worked. The one weakness we had in the previous plan was that you didn't reward teams enough for winning your division. That was a fair criticism. I accept that.

"If you don't want to be in a one-game playoff, then win your division."

If the first wild card in each league has worked out well, and if this second one has too, why not two more wild cards and another one-game playoff?

"No. I meant what I have said all along. I always worry that we are really affecting what I call the integrity of the game. Ten out of 30 [teams in the playoffs] is a good number. That's fair. Any more? Absolutely not. Not while I'm around."

In the wake of the controversial infield fly call that went against the Atlanta Braves, would you consider reducing playoff umpire crews from six to four? That would make sure no umpire is in an unfamiliar position, since four umpires work every regular-season game.

"I think, overall, having umpires on the lines is OK. I appreciated Atlanta. They're a classy organization. What they said is, 'Look, our defense beat us, not the umpiring crew,' which is true."

You have said you want to expand instant replay to include reviews of fair or foul balls and trapped balls. Will that expanded replay be in place for next season?

"I think we'll have it for sure. They're working on cameras in all the ballparks. We need the right cameras. Should we have them by next year? We'd better."

You have been an advocate for new ballparks. In 2016, the year Angel Stadium turns 50, owner Arte Moreno can exercise an escape clause in his stadium lease. Do you believe the Angels need a new ballpark?

"I have a lot of faith in Arte. He is very marketing-oriented. He has never communicated to me any thought that he needs a new ballpark.

"Does he? They have drawn great crowds. The franchise has been beyond spectacular. They would have to make that judgment."

His marketing strategy has involved broadening the Angels' appeal beyond Anaheim — and adding Los Angeles to their name. Could there be an advantage to considering a move to Los Angeles, or do you want them to stay in Orange County?

"That is a judgment I cannot make. They have to make it. They live there. They understand the demographics. They understand where people are. You know your own market better than anyone else."

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