Selig cites Brewers, Rays in declaring success despite economy

Updated: October 5, 2008, 12:12 AM ET
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE -- Given the state of the U.S. economy, baseball commissioner Bud Selig warned team owners Saturday not to "get too cocky" and overprice game tickets.

"Because you do pay a price," Selig said.

Speaking before Game 3 of the NL playoff series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers, Selig called 2008 a "phenomenal success" for baseball despite a decline in attendance that Selig attributed to bad weather and high gas prices.

But Selig acknowledged concern about a prolonged economic downturn and how it might affect the sport next year.

"I think anybody in every business is concerned," Selig said.

Selig was optimistic about baseball economics, citing playoff appearances by the small-market Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays as an example of the positive effects of revenue sharing.

"I think the sport has more competitive balance today than there's ever been," Selig said.

Selig, a former owner of the Brewers, is expected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday after the Brewers beat the Phillies 4-1 Saturday to send the NL division series to a fourth game. He said the festive atmosphere surrounding Milwaukee's first playoff appearance since 1982 made him recall the contentious legislative fight he went through to get Miller Park built in 2001, mostly with public funding.

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"Every time I drive by the stadium I'm reminded of much that went on," Selig said. "But as my mother would have said, thank goodness for small favors: All the politicians that fought it are either gone or don't say anything. That's a good thing. It's a wonderful day for Milwaukee."

Selig acknowledged that there are "reasonable" arguments for and against public financing of sports stadiums, but insisted that it would be hard to argue that the new stadium didn't make Milwaukee a better place.

"You can debate the economics," Selig said. "I think it's a plus, but we can have a reasonable debate. But the question you must always ask yourself is, will this be a better place because we have done this?"

Selig also praised the popularity of the wild card but downplayed talk of allowing more teams into the playoffs.

"I don't happen to believe that," Selig said. "I happen to think the system is good this way. I don't think it should be changed. But I think it's fair. And nobody can say that the Milwaukee club this year that won 90 games shouldn't be in the playoffs. Because, of course, they should."

Selig also downplayed any talk of expanding the first round of the playoffs from to best-of-seven series. He told team owners that expressed support of more playoff games they would have to cut regular-season games from the schedule -- something owners clearly weren't willing to do and the players' union likely would oppose.

"End of discussion," Selig said.

Selig said there were no new developments in the impending sale of the Chicago Cubs.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press