Selig foresees even brighter horizons in coming year
Commissioner excited about media deals, potential of more replay, upcoming Classic
CHICAGO -- Commissioner Bud Selig discussed approval of new media contracts, optimism about baseball's continued growth and his interest in the expansion of instant replay at the conclusion of Owners Meetings on Thursday.
Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved new eight-year contracts with FOX and Turner worth $12.4 billion, Selig announced."Our attendance the last four years, given the economics, has been amazing," Selig said. "In fact, I think we're the only sports league to be showing an increase in attendance the last four or five years. "I hope next year we go over the $8 billion [in gross revenue] mark, and I feel we will. I think we're very close. We're doing fine. We're doing great. Twenty years ago ... we were at $1.2 billion. I was trying to figure out if we could ever get to $2 billion. We're going over $8 billion. That's pretty good." In addition to saying he plans to review the pending 12-player trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins, Selig addressed instant replay, the World Baseball Classic and ongoing talks with the Players Association about strengthening the sport's drug policy. Selig said instant replay eventually could be used to review a variety of close plays and calls. The possible expansion is being studied under the direction of Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, who said he hopes to have a plan in place, if not implemented, by next season. "I'm a traditionalist at heart, but in the last 20 years we've made more changes to the sport than ever before in our whole history," Selig said. "I'm not unwilling to talk about things and that's where [Torre's] group has been so good. So we'll just pursue that. We'll spend a lot of time during the winter talking about it, and I'm not averse to that." MLB already has agreed with the union to expand the use of replay from fair-or-foul, in-or-out home run calls to include "bullets" landing near each foul line and balls trapped or caught by fielders. MLB has tested new laser technology outside of traditional replay for balls hit down the lines. So far those studies have proven inconclusive. "We just talked about this during the General Managers Meetings, and I listened," Torre said. "We're looking into what the best way of going about it is. We're certainly not hiding from the fact that there is an outcry for this. I'm of the mind that the game has been run pretty well for years, but with new technology coming on board, you certainly have to pay attention to it. Whether we do something for next season or not, by the time we start next season, I'm confident we'll have a plan." Selig said he will talk about synthetic testosterone with team doctors and trainers, among others, during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., next month. Four Major Leaguers have tested positive for the substance in the past 12 months. "We always must be ready to react," Selig said. "Life is changing. Chemists come up with different things. Our testing program worked well this year. I'm always amused that people say if you catch a guy, the program is not working. Well, we caught a guy. That's why we have a testing program. I'm going to be guided by [MLB head physician] Dr. [Gary] Green and our Montreal lab and all the team doctors and trainers, who are in the clubhouse. "I know from my many days of running the Brewers that the trainers know more about what's going on in the clubhouse than anyone else. Time will tell, but that doesn't mean we're not working on it and I must say the union has been quite helpful, too." Selig expressed confidence and excitement about the third World Baseball Classic, which will be held in March.
"This is important," he said. "This is going to be the biggest World Baseball Classic we've had. I feel the greatest growth in this sport is international. As I said to the clubs this morning, if we do our work properly, you won't recognize this sport in five years. The World Baseball Classic is our forum to do that. The clubs have been wonderfully cooperative. I'm excited. I think next March you're going to see a huge Classic."
Barry M. Bloom is 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.