Selig covers bases in state of game address

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

ST. LOUIS — While Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero were booed, Manny Ramirez’s return was celebrated.

ESPN broke into regularly-scheduled programing to show Ramirez’s first at-bat after his 50-game suspension for a positive test.

If you had a problem with Ramirez’s triumphant return, you’re not alone.

Commissioner Bud Selig was upset that Ramirez was given the green light to play 10 minor-league rehab games before returning to the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup. Ramirez only played in five but his appearance at minor-league outposts was celebrated there too.

“I believe that rule should be changed,” Selig said, during his annual state of the game address at the Baseball Writers Association of America luncheon yesterday.

“The logic was OK. Guys get hurt, they go out and rehab. But I think that’s something we need to really change in the next labour negotiation,” Selig said.

While Ramirez lost 50 games worth of pay, he could have missed only 40 days of playing time. He committed to playing 10 rehab games but only actually played in five.

Selig could not resist the chance to brag “out of 2,400 tests, Ramirez was the only positive.”

Selig covered a number of topics:

The economy — His goal by the all-star break was 40 million in total attendance and said at the break the totals were 400,000 short. He said attendance is down 12.5% compared to a year ago, but pointed out of that both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York have reduced capacities than Shea and old Yankee Stadium so the downturn is 3.8-to-4%.

“In a sense, this may be out greatest season,” Selig said.

The Pete Rose suspension. Selig said there was nothing new on when or if Rose would be reinstated. “He did,” Selig said, “accept a lifetime suspension.”

The appearance of U.S. President Barack Obama to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals. Selig said he wrote the White House with an invite and said he had an answer within 24 hours. A video tribute on the scoreboard included comments from five living presidents.

“No matter what one feels politically, it is a testament to the meaning of the sport when the president shows,” Selig said. “I can remember opening Miller Park in Milwaukee and the announcer saying: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.’”

Citi Field and its quirks. The Mets new home has had led to a number of replays on disputed home runs, saying, “I don’t want to go back to where when you sat in those bowls. I used to joke that if you had too much to drink the night before and woke up the next day, it would take you a half-hour to figure out if you were in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh. They looked the same and felt the same. They were all lousy.

“Qurkiness doesn’t bother me. Many generations of players grew up playing in quirky ballparks. I like quirkiness. I don’t think parks should be antiseptic.”

MLB.com’s treatment of interns. Asked how he could allow the highly-profitable online site to run like a “sweatshop,” and not pay interns, Selig said interns were paid. They are not.

Collusion. Usually the dirty word tossed at Selig begins win an S ... as in steroids. Someone tossed a word which upset the commissioner and it begins with the letter C.

That’s with a capital C, that rhymes with T and stands for trouble,

Agents are pushing new Player’s Association boss Michael Weiner, who takes over for Donald Fehr, to file collusion charges over a lack of free-agent activity during the off season.

“Fine, they’re entitled to their opinion,” Selig said his voice raising “This is one sport where I can’t fathom that anybody could think that. Our average major-league salary is at $3.2 million.

“Given the world we live in, with what’s happened the last 18 months ... I can’t fathom how anybody could think that. Player compensation hasn’t gone down. Some of us, let me be as blunt as I possibly can, have to live in the real world. Not in some make-believe, little scenario that doesn’t exist. And I mean that very, very sincerely.”

Ownership was found guilty of colluding against free agents in 1986-89 and had to pay $280 million US in damages.


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