Big day for replay just start of Selig's last year
Commissioner addresses drug testing, succession plan at Owners Meetings
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- As Bud Selig begins his last scheduled year as Commissioner of baseball, he says owners are going "full speed ahead" after their first quarterly meetings of the year produced unanimous and historic approval for wide-spread use of instant replay to aid the umpires in making correct calls.
"I have a lot of things to get done before Jan. 24 of next year," Selig said, noting the effective date of his retirement. "The nice part of this meeting was it was thoughtful, without controversy. It's full speed ahead. Everybody's excited about the season. That's always my No. 1 concern, but I do have a lot of things hopefully I can get done."
At his media availability after Thursday morning's joint session, Selig addressed the process of electing his successor, the success of the Joint Drug Agreement with the MLB Players' Association after an arbitrator handed out a record 162-game suspension to Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, and the need to be vigilant about the testing program.
About the process to name his replacement, Selig said:
"No, there's no update. There are a lot of things going on. Look, this is not the kind of thing we're going to have a big public discussion on. I give the other sports credit. They handle it quietly and thoughtfully. The fact that there's no discussion doesn't mean there aren't things going on."
Selig chose not to speak specifically about the Rodriguez situation because of pending litigation.
"The only thing I will say is that we have a drug-testing program and its enforcement is critical," Selig said. "I'm proud of what we've done. I gave my word personally to a lot of people, we gave our word, particularly to our fans. To be very blunt about it, that plan was going to be as tough as it could be and it would be enforced.
"There's a long history of me going to Washington. I won't go through that whole thing. I made a commitment years ago, many years ago. I've had a lot of very prominent people in Congress call to thank me in the last five months only because I promised them that this is what was going to happen in terms of our program and how good it was. Our players, our Players Association, everybody has played a role in this. They deserve credit, and I want to say that, they deserve a lot of credit."
Selig was asked if he watched the "60 Minutes" segment on Sunday, in which the Rodriguez decision and suspension was analyzed. Selig appeared in the segment.
"I did watch [it] the other night with most of my family, all of them whom had observations, as they do on most every other subject," he said. "The only thing I do take umbrage with, I occasionally see, particularly on television, 'Well they were slow to react.' No we weren't. That's one of those historical myths that people keep repeating until they believe it. My Minor League [drug] program is 14 years old now. We've responded very well, very confidently. We did it as soon as we had a labor negotiations [in 2002]. The thing that made me very proud yesterday was WADA's [World Anti-Doping Agency] comments about all this. After all, they were very critical of us at one time. And their support, and the support of other people in the field, tells me that we really have the best drug-testing program in America. That makes me feel very good."
Can the system get better?
"We think we have the experts around us to really help," Selig said. "Can you ever get complacent? No, and that's true. But between the Montreal lab and Dr. Gary Green and all of our people here who, I think, have become quite sophisticated at this, I feel very, very comfortable. Nothing in life is perfect and that won't be either. You talk to the experts about our longitudinal testing and they're very confident. If they're confident, I am."
Selig, the one-time owner of the Brewers, became interim Commissioner in 1992 and was officially elected by the owners in 1998. He is 79, and when he leaves the position next year, he will have had the second-longest tenure as baseball Commissioner behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the sport's first Commissioner, who was put in place in 1920 and died in office after 24 years.
Selig said as the succession process proceeds, "There are no books on Commissioners. There are no training schools."
The next Commissioner doesn't necessarily have to be an owner. None of the eight before him were.
"[Owning a team] helped me," he said. "I didn't necessarily say that it was critical for the next person. Back in 1992, which seems like a thousand years ago, the fact I had run a team for 23 years at that point, helped. All of these problems that had come to me I had encountered on the local level. I thought that was helpful and it worked out well even if many people at the time thought it wouldn't. But in the history of sports, Commissioners come from different areas and you have to use your judgment on that one."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.