MLB Comissioner Bud Selig held his annual All-Star luncheon with the Baseball Writers Association of America today, an hour-long Q&A session that touched upon everything from steroids to collusion, Manny Ramirez to Pete Rose, new Yankee Stadium to the future of newspapers.
Only one franchise, however, was the focus of three questions to the Commissioner: Yes, your Washington Nationals. Selig was asked twice to defend the Lerner family’s ownership practices over the last three years and once about the possibility of Stephen Strasburg blowing up MLB’s recommended slotting system for draft pick contracts. (In the interests of full disclosure, I asked the Strasburg question.)
As you’ll see from the following transcript of his answers, Selig tends to ramble and at times talk his way around a subject (not all that unlike Stan Kasten, actually). But there are some interesting nuggets in there, most notably his insistence that the Lerners “understand what they have to do, and I have every confidence that they will do that.”
Here’s the full text…
Would you defend the Lerners’ ownership?
“I don’t think they need a defense. Look, you’re never going to have 30 teams on top. They understand what they have to do. I really think they’re in the process of doing it. They bought a team from Montreal that didn’t really have anybody there. It wasn’t like they were even able to start themselves. But they understand what they have to do, and I have every confidence that they will do that. I don’t think they need me or anybody else to defend them. But look, this idea that people can own a team, and if the team doesn’t do well, well, they don’t care … you can’t have owned a team for one hour and believe that. I’ve watched ownerships go up and down and have success and failure. … But I told you I evaluate farm systems, and I think that they are on the right track. They need to continue on that track. And they know that. They know that.”
On what basis can you say they understand what they’re doing and you have confidence in them to do that?
“Because I’ve been talking to them, and I know what they want to do, and I know what they’ve done in their farm system, and I’ve had other people evaluate their farm system and their organization. And while obviously this has been painful for them, I have every confidence they know what they’re going to do and they’re going to do it.”
Are you concerned about the Nats potentially blowing up MLB’s slotting system to sign No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg?
“That’s a decision they have to make, obviously. There’s no question about it. All sports are dealing with draft-choice compensation … and I have very strong feelings on that subject. And I understand it, I do. When you take a Pittsburgh club or a Washington club or a lot of other clubs, that’s clearly how you get better — maybe today even quicker than in my day. They’re very sincere about signing Strasburg, and I’m hopeful that they will, and I know they’re going to make him a very meaningful offer. Now, what happens from there is going to be up to Mr. Boras and Mr. Strasburg and what they want to do, and what the Nationals want to do. We’ve actually been off to a good signing season this season. By the way, I note a lot of major league players speaking up on the compensation draft choices get. And not in a positive way. I find that very, very interesting. That’s gone on in other sports, too. But the clubs, I think, have been very responsive. A lot of clubs, as I look around, their choices have signed already. And I’ll say this about that to you: I look around. I think about this subject a lot, too. Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Howard: They all signed at slot or under. They’re doing pretty well. Let’s be honest about it: In this economy, the numbers that are being spent are pretty good. But I have faith in the Lerners and the Nationals. They understand what they have to do, and they have to do it. I understand that. And they’ll be very, very responsible.”