The following are two excerpts from today's interview with Commissioner Selig on Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner, which airs on XM Satellite Radio, XM 175.
The expansive interview hit on a number of topics including how the downturn in the economy has impacted attendance, the possible use of instant replay, whether maple bats constitute a "safety in the workplace" issue, the pace of the game, and much more.
The following two excerpts cover the issue of drug testing and the relationship with the MLBPA during the 2002 CBA negotiations.
The Business of Sports Network thanks XM Satellite Radio, and producer Brent Gambill for these transcription excerpts:
Steiner: What… Over the last couple of years, visa vie the Mitchell Report and all of the other stuff that we have gone through. Big picture… what does this all tell you about statistically where we are now. It appears home runs are down. Pitching velocity is down. Anecdotally, just talking to scouts and all, scouts are saying we are now beginning to assess young players at the high school and college level more athletically rather than in terms of sheer brawn. Big picture, how has the game adjusted post-steroids? Post all of that?
Selig: Well, extremely well. I tell ya the thing that makes me really very proud. I know people are critical; “they were too slow to react” and “they should’ve known”. All of those are debates that I could participate in very aggressively, but let’s review the bidding here for you Charley. We, today, have the toughest testing program in American sports. We’re proud of that. I’m very proud of it.
We’ve banned amphetamines. For those of us who have been along for a long time, and that includes the two of us, that’s a very, very significant thing. Amphetamines have been around for 80 to a hundred years in different forms. This idea that other generations haven’t used things to make them play better or whatever is just not true. We banned them. Nobody asked us to ban ‘em. We did it.
We’re funding a study and a program with Dr. Catlin in Los Angeles with the National Football League to find a test for human growth hormone.
My minor league program, Charley, is now in its eighth year, so the great young stars –
the Ryan Howards and the Prince Fielders and Ryan Brauns and Chase Utleys and on and on and on, there are a lot of them on every team – have now been tested for eight years. Not just tested the last year or two. So, this idea that we didn’t react well is just not right.
You know steroids… By the way, I would go and get George Mitchell again. That’s how, that’s how delighted I am that the report… That we got the report and it worked. But baseball reacted well. It’s a societal problem, Charley. It isn’t a baseball problem or a football problem or anything else. Not a sport problem. It’s a societal problem. We’re doing a lot work with the partnership for Drug Free America. All the players named in the Mitchell Report, and many other players who want to, are doing public service work with the partnership, so I am satisfied.
You go through life… I said to Jerome Holtzman, who is our baseball historian, whom you know obviously very well, is a remarkable human being and has a wonderful knowledge of the sport. I asked him about a year ago to go back to the ‘20s and point out to me each decade what problems commissioners had; what problems the sport had because people were writing in the late 90’s and even four, five, six, seven, eight years ago, “Oh, this is terrible. Baseball never had problems.” And of course they had. They’ve had a lot of problems like this. And, so I am proud of the fact. I give the Players Association a lot of credit; they reopened [the JDA] two or three times and they didn’t have to, which shows you that our 16 years of labor peace, which is also unprecedented, today that we did react well. So, a problem is a societal problem. We were in the forefront of taking action and doing things. Whatever happens as a result of that, frankly that’s just fine. That’s what we meant to do.
(further into the interview)
Steiner: The reproach ma that you had with Don [Fehr] and Gene [Orza] – that’s to say the players union and management. Could this have been done without the help of Congressional intervention?
Selig: Well, I think it could of. I know a lot of people say that’s what pushed us over. I happen to think their wrong, but that’s a debate probably not worth having. We proposed a steroid program in nineteen hundred and ninety-four. That’s a negotiation that broke down and the players were on strike so there was no World Series and we had a rocky period in the nineties. We had eight work stoppages from 1972 on. Now, here we are with 16 years of peace. We fought like the dickens in 2002 and it was the last item.
Andy MacPhail and Peter Angelos were the two representatives at that time of ownership. Andy called me one night, I was home in Milwaukee and he was of course in New York, and after kidding me he’d like to watch his team play, but I’d had him there for about two and a half months. He said, “I wish you could have seen what went on today.” I said, “What happened.” He said, “Have you heard from Rob or Bob today?” Obviously, Rob Manfred and Bob DuPuy. I said, “I have but just briefly they are going to call me tonight.” He said, “I have to tell you, it was worth the price of admission. Angelos got into a brawl with Gene Orza over steroids and drugs and it was three hours of…” He said, “I’ve never heard anything like that.” So I had to make the decision at 6:30 in the morning Charley, do we take a program that I knew was not as strong as I like but have now since improved it a lot or have another work stoppage? I believed another work stoppage would hurt the game badly for maybe two or three generations and never it never came back. So you know the union – I don’t say this critically, they would not quarrel they had the privacy issues and other issues – they were dead set against it. So sometimes in life Charley you have to reach a certain point before you are willing to change, but people talk about the Congressional thing. Remember my minor league program went into affect in 2001. We were working with the Partnership for Drug Free America. Drug testing is something that has to be collectively bargained. That is not something that the Commissioner can do unilaterally. People don’t say it much any more, but I used to hear, “Well, if Landis was still the Commissioner.” Well, there’s two facts involved: One, he isn’t and two, he didn’t have to deal with the Players Association, and life was much different. Commissioners are bound by rules, too. Was it Congressional intervention that really did it? Look, I think it probably helped to some degree, but we were already there and frankly, owners don’t get enough credit. I want to tell you something Charley, no owner has ever said to me, “Gee, I like the home runs” or, “This is good.” Owners have always had deep and abiding concerns and last year – last week, when we approved the new drug testing program, which we did in about 30 seconds after Rob Manfred got done, Frank McCourt of the Dodgers really wanted to be the club that did this. (He) got up immediately, there was a second. I asked if there was any discussion. A vote was taken. Thirty to nothing. Done. Over. That’s always been the case.
To read the entire interview with Commissioner Selig from today’s Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner on XM 175, go to: