Selig goes to bat at Law School

  • Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, spoke at the Law School yesterday
  • Selig addressed the many challenges the sport has overcome and continues to face
  • Topics included the economics of baseball, drug use and the general role baseball has in American society.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig acknowledged baseball currently faces many challenges, but spoke hopefully of the sport's ability to prevail at an "On the Issues" with Mike Gousha discussion in the Law School Tuesday.

Selig, a Milwaukee native, is well-known for the numerous, sometimes drastic, changes he has brought to baseball.

He described the sport as a "social institution," saying that "social institutions have always been difficult to change."

But he said these changes were necessary for the survival of the sport.

"We have to do everything we can to keep this sport competitive," he said.

One of the biggest issues Selig has faced as commissioner is the matter of performance-enhancing drugs.

Selig praised the measures baseball currently has in place, but was open about its shortcomings.

"Do we have a human growth hormone problem? Of course we do," he said. "Everyone does."

He cited the difficulty in testing for this substance as the major reason for it still being an issue.

Selig said some people unfairly characterized steroid use as a problem originating in baseball.

"It wasn't a baseball problem," he said. "It's a social problem."

He addressed former Sen. George Mitchell's widely publicized report investigating drug use in baseball.

"No other sport has ever had that kind of self-exam," he said.

One member of the audience questioned whether managers had tacitly accepted steroid use among players. Selig did not agree with this sentiment.

"Once we recognized the problem, we moved as expeditiously as we could," he said.

One of Selig's most significant achievements was an overhaul of the economic system within MLB.

"They hadn't changed the economic structure since the 20s," he said.

Selig established a revenue sharing system, which he said has resulted in the sharing of $450 million this year.

He said additional measures such as debt-service rules and luxury taxes, combined with the revenue sharing, had done a considerable amount toward keeping the sport competitive.

But he admitted this structure still requires adjustments.

"The system will need tinkering," he said. "If you ask me what that is, I don't know."

When directly asked whether baseball ought to consider a salary cap for players, Selig declined to comment.

Recent reports of Selig's salary currently topping out at $18.35 million have raised eyebrows, but his salary was never discussed during the session.

Selig also addressed ticket prices, saying eight clubs had lowered prices and 15 to 16 had stayed the same.

He felt the remaining clubs that did increase "raised prices very judiciously."

When a member of the audience asked if Selig would consider making the first round of the playoffs a best-of-seven series like the league championships and world series, Selig rejected that idea outright.

"We're trying to figure out ways to reduce the (amount of games)," he said.

Matt Mitten, director of the Law School's National Sports Law Institute and a law professor, was impressed with what Selig had to say.

"I thought it was an excellent talk," he said. "It's very clear he's very passionate about the game of baseball."

Mitten agreed with Selig's characterization of baseball as a social institution, as well as the significance Selig placed on the revenue-sharing system.

"That's quite important when you have a league scattered throughout the U.S.," Mitten said.