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Friday, March 6, 2009
Selig justifies his role in fighting steroids

Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig again defended his role in the sport's steroids scandal Friday, pointing to the players' union opposition to drug testing and a lack of curiosity by the media as the problem started to grow.

On a visit to Camelback Ranch, the new spring training home of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, Selig said the testing program adopted in the labor agreement of 2002 was "weak." But he said baseball was just recovering from the 1994 strike and could not afford another work stoppage.

"What I could do unilaterally, I did almost immediately," Selig said, pointing to a minor league testing program started in 2001.

Fewer than 1 percent of minor leaguers now test positive for banned drugs, down from 9.1 percent in 2001, he said.

"The players' association was fighting us at every turn. There's no question about it," Selig said.

Selig also noted that baseball has banned amphetamines.

"All I could do at the end of the last decade and the beginning of this century is to clean the sport up. And so I've done that," Selig said.

In another pressing issue, Selig said he is "encouraged" by how Major League Baseball has dealt with the national recession.

"But I say that with a great deal of trepidation," he said. "This is the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression."

Selig said he has gathered information on how various clubs are dealing with the slumping economy.

"We have some teams doing a lot of business, doing very well. We have other teams who are struggling," he said.

At least half the clubs have kept ticket prices stable and six have reduced them while nine have raised prices in selected ranges, he said.

Selig also discussed the World Baseball Classic that began this week, saying baseball officials will discuss ways to encourage more big league players to take part in the tournament.

"Is it perfect? No, [but] overall, I'm thrilled," he said.

Selig said he will emphasize the growth of baseball internationally in his remaining years as commissioner.

As for the White Sox, Selig called hyper-quotable manager Ozzie Guillen interesting but added, "Just remember, I'm only 90 miles away [in Milwaukee]. So I'm listening. ... I'll say this for him. He's not dull."

Guillen, hearing that Selig was at the stadium, joked, "Every time I talk to the commissioner, it's because I got in trouble."

Then he added, "I take that back. He congratulated me when I got this job. But usually, it's like, 'I'm sorry, sir. It's not going to happen again.' ... If I see the commissioner, I got my checkbook ready to go."