Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is flying in today from his home base in Milwaukee. Tuesday, he spoke with Times baseball writer Marc Topkin about the success of the Rays, the need for a new stadium in Tampa Bay and the state of the game. Some excerpts:
No disrespect to the Red Sox, but how pleased are you, how good of a story is it for baseball to have the Rays in the World Series?
It's a great story, a remarkable story. When you are commissioner you tend to be neutral and there are always pluses and minuses, but the Rays winning is an affirmation of everything that I've tried to do. You remember that the owners in January 2000 gave me unprecedented powers, that leave when I leave, to fix competitive balance. So I'd guess I'd have to say today that we've come a long way in eight years, and from that standpoint I'm proud because it's in the best interest of this sport. To see the success of the Rays, Milwaukee, Minnesota, you know that's why baseball is more popular than ever. I know you've heard me say this before, but there is hope and faith in a lot of places.
What do you think of the job owner Stuart Sternberg and his staff have done?
It's been remarkable. And I don't want to forget (former managing general partner) Vince Naimoli, who labored through so many tough years to get baseball there. But you look at Stu, Matt Silverman, Andrew Friedman, Gerry Hunsicker and everybody, what a remarkable job. You look at how young that club is and how talented they are, it's a credit to everyone there.
Though you've only been to Tropicana Field for one game, in 2004, you've said it's not suitable as a long-term home for the Rays. Does their success in the playoffs change that?
With all due respect, and I've said this in other places, given the kind of revenue this team has to generate to keep these great young players, even in an economic system to which we've made great changes, this park will just not produce the kind of revenue that's necessary. I know a lot of people don't like to hear that, but it's just a fact. There's no question in my mind this organization needs a new ballpark, and if people want them to be competitive they have to be sensitive to that. We've had 22 new ballparks in Major League Baseball, so that's not a hard thing to figure out.
What are the biggest issues facing the game today - performance-enhancing drugs, maple bats, the economy?
We are in the midst of this incredible renaissance - attendance numbers are stunning, revenue numbers are stunning. The economy certainly affects everybody and everyone. Maple bats are under study and I have every confidence we'll solve that problem. Performance-enhancing drugs, I'm very proud of where we are and you hear very little about it any more. ... My job today is to make sure we keep moving in the same direction, but obviously there are concerns about the economy.
Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer