Brewers' attendance bucks trend
“Attendance is down 5 percent, which I think is amazing,” Selig said Monday in his annual question-and-answer session with the Baseball Writers Association of America.
“In a sense, this might be our greatest season. Clubs are working very hard, no doubt about it. It’s a great testament to this sport.”
One of the teams bucking the economic downturn is the Milwaukee Brewers, who drew an average of 38,120 fans to Miller Park during the first half. That figure represented a 5.8 percent increase from a year ago, when the club drew 3 million fans for the first time.
“They had a great year last year,” said Selig, referring to the Brewers making the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. “Even in a recession, as often is said, winning is a cure. That’s very true.
“Milwaukee is having a remarkable year. Hank Aaron and I had a conversation last night and we said, ‘Who would think a team in Milwaukee would draw 3 million fans two years in a row?’”
Obviously, Selig thinks the Brewers will hit the 3 million mark again this year, and he closely monitors the ticket sales of every club.
Selig was excited about President Barack Obama attending the All-Star Game and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. He said he wrote a letter to the White House and received an answer “in about 18 to 24 hours.”
“And they’re really happy to come,” Selig added. “No matter what anyone thinks politically, it’s a big thing and another testament to the meaning of this sport. We do have a tremendous social responsibility and that clearly intrigued the White House and the president.”
Selig addressed a number of other topics:
He didn’t like that Los Angeles’ Manny Ramirez was allowed to play in minor league games before his 50-game suspension for using an illegal substance expired. In the next labor negotiations, Selig said he would push to not allow players to get ready in the minors before suspensions end.
Selig vehemently denied any accusations of collusion by clubs to keep prices down on the free-agent market last winter.
“Some of us have to live in the real world,” Selig said, “not in some make-believe little scenario that doesn’t exist. This is a tough world today. The average major-league player salary is $3.2 million. I rest my case.”
Selig said critics who complain that new ballparks such as the Mets’ Citi Field are too “quirky” with their dimensions and designs were off-base.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Selig said. “I like quirkiness. I don’t think parks should be antiseptic.”
Selig supported the statements of St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, who maintained that he never has used performance-enhancing substances and has the negative drug tests to prove it.
“Albert Pujols is absolutely right,” Selig said. “He has been tested since he started playing (in the minors). He has been tested many times a year.”
Parity in baseball has created a tough trade market because so many teams are in contention they don’t want to sell off players.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” Selig said, referring to his revenue-sharing program that allows clubs to put more money into their payrolls.