Bud Selig Understands Why Derek Jeter Withdrew From All Star Game, Believes Expanded Playoffs and Realignment Are in MLB’s Future

July 13, 2011 – 6:00 am by Steven Cuce

Bud Selig currently has a lot on his plate as the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Last week brought both good and bad news for the Selig.  Earlier in the week, 39-year-old firefighter, Shannon Stone, died tragically after falling over 20 feet on to concrete as he was leaning over the left field railing in Texas as he tried to catch a foul ball thrown by Josh Hamilton. Good news came over the weekend though when Derek Jeter homered off David Price to become just the 28th player in league history to reach the 3,000 hit plateau. There’s also the Los Angeles Dodgers bankruptcy issues, as well as the New York Mets’ financial problems that Selig’s contending with on an ongoing basis. You begin to see how busy Bud Selig has been.

There’s also been discussion of expanding the playoffs and realigning the two leagues. These are hot topics for a game known for its tradition and history, but Selig others in the game seem intent on not letting the game be held back by an adherence to the past at the expense of entertaining and logical innovation. Selig seems confident that two more teams will be added to the MLB playoffs next year and he would like to see realignment in the near future. Selig was crucified for adding the Wild Card in 1997 and it proved to work out very well for baseball. He also defends Derek Jeter’s decision to withdraw from the 2011 All-Star after he has been crucified by everyone for first making the All-Star game based on a “lifetime achievement award,” and now the cry is how does the Yankees shortstop have the audacity to skip the All-Star game after getting hit No. 3,000.

Bud Selig joined XTRA Sports 910 in Phoenix with Bickley and MJ to discuss Derek Jeter skipping the 2011 All-Star game, why he understands and supports Jeter’s decision, his reaction to the theory that injuries are up this year as a result of steroids use being way down, the likelihood of expanded playoff format being implemented next season, realignment also being a part of Major League Baseball’s future, and why he thinks the MLB All-Star game is a positive experience.

What are your thoughts on Derek Jeter withdrawing from the 2011 All-Star game after getting his 3,000th hit on Saturday? Did any part of you think we need to revisit this idea because too many guys are withdrawing from the game?

“Well it’s interesting no one in the National League has done that [withdrew]. The only player that is not here that was invited was Chipper Jones. I’m doing the American League and I haven’t gotten the results yet. I don’t think that is true. If you take out and I’ll get back to Derek in a minute. If you take out the pitchers and Joe Torre and I had dinner last night actually with George Will and a bunch of other people. We talked about that. We’re the ones that put the rule in. If you have pitched yesterday you can’t pitch Tuesday, so there’s no sense in playing in that game. Now are things we can do without. We have talked about that. If you look at these rosters there’s 5 National League guys who are hurt and everyone one of them has come here starting with Ryan Braun. Look Derek Jeter, who I talked to on Saturday. Joe [Torre] got him on the phone with me and Derek Jeter really has been as good as it can get in the last year. He’s makes my life a lot easier and he’s so good. He’s coming off…and he was very careful to say ‘Look I have been hurt. I still kind of feel it. We are going to Toronto on the turf, which is very tough.’ I understand that. Look he’s not 27 years old anymore. He’s 37 years old, which is young by my standards, but I understand. I’ll say to that the interest in playing in the game has been marvelous and I am proud of everybody.”

There have been quite a bit of injuries in this era of Major League Baseball. Is that a good piece of evidence that steroids are out of baseball with players being hurt more often than they have been before? Is Major League Baseball cleaner that is has been?

“I would make this…it’s interesting I’m going to have a conference call with trainers. At least 16 to 18 of them and maybe more now. They told me they had 18 lined up. I do that often now. I have great respect for the professional athletic trainers. They are not only good, but having run a club nobody knows what’s going on more in any sport than what trainers does in the clubhouse and they are so optimistic. I call them now. I want to know what we should do? What should we do about this? Remember we banned amphetamines. Nobody seems to understand. We did that on our own. No one asked us to do it, so we did it. I think the sport…because I had doctors tell me 3,4,5 years ago they were more concerned about amphetamines at that point than steroids. They thought we gotta really clean this up. Now we banned both. Yes I know there is human growth hormone. We’re working hard. We are spending a lot of money. We’re testing in the minor leagues. No other sport is doing that. As soon as we have a reliable blood test we will do that. I believe this sport is cleaner today than it has been in a long time. I couldn’t put an exact time on it, but if you asked me is it really much cleaner than it was 20 years ago you bet it is.”

Is expanded playoffs happening next year in baseball?

“I believe so. Yes. Yes. You’ll remember this. I remember in 1993 I was acting commissioner, not thinking I would be there long. Of course here it is, 18-19 years later, but interesting when we went to the Wild Card I got killed by all the traditionalists. I got killed. I don’t know where you were on that. I don’t remember. Now you have to admit it has not only worked out well. Just think about this I talked to some Red Sox fans over there and I did a chat on MLB.com. They said to me on the way out if it wasn’t for the Wild Card 2004 would never happened, which is one of the legendary stories. Eight out of thirty teams [in the playoffs] isn’t too many. It’s less than any sport by far. I wont look at any other sport. You’ll have to make your own judgement on that. Now we go to ten out of thirty [teams]. That is fair. It’s just fair. Ten [teams] is not a bad number. Yes I have every reason to move it ahead, but we need to work out some details frankly in which we have been debating in the last month or so.”

What are your thoughts on realignment? Are your more interested on locations or time zones?

“I don’t know yet. The story that was ran was not only premature, but I’m not even sure where it came from, but I’m trying to be kind this morning, which Dan would tell you is unusual. Look I love realignment. In 1997 when we needed a team to move. I didn’t want to move Milwaukee. They wanted to. My daughter was telling me they really wanted to, but I gave Kansas City a chance to move. David Glass who I love and thought should have moved. They had six weeks. They made up their mind and they didn’t want to move and then Milwaukee moved. I believe in geographical realignment. I believe in a lot of things, but there is many details to work out and so there’s thing we can do. Things we need to do as short term things and it’s just premature right now. We’re kicking a lot of things around. I want to be very careful. We make so many changes, but I always want to be careful that we don’t do something I regret and so far we haven’t and I’m trying to keep it that way.”

Talk about what people should be focusing on for the All-Star game and why it is so great and fans shouldn’t focus on the negative news?

“I will. You and I had this conversation a couple of weeks ago. That was the one time we really agreed with each other and did. Look this is it for people in…it’s Phoenix this year. Kansas City next year. I know as a kid I can still replay the 1950 All-Star game in Comiskey Park where Ted Williams hit the wall broke his elbow and played 14 innings. Stan Musial hitting a home run to win the game in Milwaukee in 1955. There is something for… especially  young people going to an All-Star game and looking with awe looking down on the field and seeing those people and what it means to them, what it means to a generation of people. Here is Phoenix, Arizona, great city, never had an All-Star game. Just a great moment. This is a great moment. Look at all the people here every day. Just look at this and so when I make judgements and I’m as sensitive sociologically and every other way as an anybody in my position has ever been, but you have to take…I told Dan a story about my dry cleaners, but I would tell you right now I know how much this means to Phoenix and that makes me very, very, happy. I just hope they have enjoyed the three or four days so far and tonight is just fun. Tomorrow night when you go out in that ballpark and see all the great players in the game out there it is a moment that families and kids will never forget because I know that and I have never forgot that.”

Listen to Bud Selig on XTRA Sports 910 in Phoenix here

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