WisBusiness: Selig cites 16 years of labor peace as boost for baseball

By Gregg Hoffmann

For WisBusiness.com

MILWAUKEE — Bud Selig keeps saying that as commissioner of baseball he’s “neutral” on the NL Championship Series.

“But a lot of people aren’t buying that,” Selig, who also is former owner of the Brewers, said at a press conference Monday before Game 2 of the Brewers’ second-round playoff series at Miller Park.

“What it really has done is brought back a lot of memories and history. Playing the Cardinals, of course, brings back memories of the 1982 World Series. If we had Rollie Fingers, we would have won it.

“Seeing the crowds here, in this ballpark, brings back a lot of memories of fighting to get a team back in Milwaukee and for the building of this facility. It’s a rather remarkable story.”

Selig regularly addresses the state of baseball during the playoffs. He said the 2011 season has been a great one. “It’s our fifth best in history,” he said. “Better than ’09, better than 2010.

“When this recession first hit, I had some concerns, but we have done terrific the last few years. The game has continued to grow.”

One of the reasons for that growth is 16 years of labor peace, according to Selig. “Baseball was sort of stuck in neutral for 25 years,” he said. “We continued to have labor problems, and people just got sick of hearing about it. I believe we miscalculated the damage the past labor problems did. I believe 16 years of labor peace is one factor for our growth.”

Labor negotiations on a master contract have started this year. “I couldn’t give you a timetable, but I can tell you they have been quiet, thoughtful and constructive,” Selig said. “They have been far different than those in the ’80s and ’90s, when much was done through the media. I give both sides credit.”

In addition to the dollars and cents of a new contract, the negotiators also are considering increasing the number of playoff teams, the post-season schedule and perhaps realignment.

“We have the fewest number of teams in the playoffs of any major sport,” Selig said. “I believe we can work it out and still not extend the playoffs into November. I hope a lot of things can be tied together in these negotiations.

“Baseball is like any social institution. It can be slow to change, but once the changes are made things seem to work out.”

NOTE: Gregg Hoffmann is covering the post-season run of the Milwaukee Brewers for Game Day Magazine and http://www.midwestdiamondreport.com and filed this story for WisBusiness.com from a press conference with Commissioner Bud Selig.