NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig would like to tinker with the World Series schedule but is adamant the Fall Classic will not be moved away from hometown fans.
Selig told Reuters he yearns for a World Series day game and an earlier start to night action but dismissed calls for a neutral site following this year’s chilly, rain-delayed championship finale in Philadelphia.
“Not as long as I‘m commissioner,” Selig, 74, said at the Reuters Media Summit in New York.
”You spend years getting into a World Series. Look at the Phillies or Tampa Bay this year. To tell your fans, who have invested their energy, their soul, that you’ve got to go to San Diego to see the World Series would be awful.
“Put the logistical problems aside. It’s the emotion. Eventually, the Cubs will get to the World Series. Can you imagine after X amount of years telling them it’s not going to be played in Wrigley Field? You couldn’t do that.”
Baseball set a revenue record of $6.5 billion in 2007, drawing nearly 80 million fans to major league ball parks, but had its worst television ratings in the Fall Classic between the triumphant Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.
”That’s a subject I’ve wrestled with over and over,“ Selig said. ”Television ratings during the season have been really good. There’s intense loyalty locally for the 30 teams.
“The World Series ratings are inconsistent with the great growth in every other phase of the business.”
Selig said he had some Fall Classic changes in mind.
“I really would like to have one late afternoon game and hopefully we can work on that, and hopefully start (night games) a little earlier,” he said, adding he would not rule out seeing changes by next year.
This year’s World Series ended October 29. Due to the World Baseball Classic (WBC), while the 2009 season starts a week later than last year and will likely push the series into November.
Selig said fiddling with the schedule in order to begin the post-season earlier was complex.
MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said scheduling some regular season day/night doubleheaders on the weekends could save some time.
“It has been talked about,” DuPuy told Reuters.
Selig said MLB would like to see baseball return to the Olympics but could not envisage a lengthy mid-season halt in the major league season to allow players to participate.
“Given the nature of our sport, we can’t stop our season,” said Selig, who described the WBC, as “the perfect vehicle to extend our international influence.”
The 16-team WBC, which begins March 5, will be played in Japan, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Two years ago, Selig said he would retire at the end of his contract but instead signed a three-year extension in January which leaves him in charge through 2012.
“I am done this time,” he insisted. “I’ll be 78 years old. I know I’ve said it seven times, but this time I‘m telling you I‘m done. I’ve got four more years.”
Editing by Ed Osmond