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Bud Selig holds court: discusses replay, Wahoo, Montreal, chewing tobacco, and much, much more

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MINNESOTA, MN — Commissioner Bud Selig held the town hall-style meetings he always holds at baseball’s jewel events — the Winter Meetings, the All-Star Game, the World Series — and while we all argue and discuss this stuff all the time, when the Commissioner speaks, things happen. Or at least start to happen. Dormant topics are given new life, much-discussed topics are put to rest or, more often, the can is kicked down the road a bit. The point: Selig’s comments on these things shapes the conversation, so let’s buzz through Bud buzzed through late this morning here in Minneapolis:

Montreal

Selig was asked about the exhibition games held in Montreal last spring. He said “I thought that was marvelous,” and said that Montreal would be “an excellent candidate in the future” for relocation of a franchise. He did note that the ballpark was a big problem, so it’s not as if Major League Baseball would move someone there any time soon, but one gets the sense that the Lords of Baseball would like to maintain Montreal as a reasonable bluff at the very least.

Length of Games

Some contradictory comments here. As we noted earlier today, Selig said that “television wants a three-hour program” when it comes to the Home Run Derby, but also noted that he’d like to “accelerate the pace of the game.” Given that TV and the commercials they show — especially during the playoffs — often lead to long games, this is not going to be an easy nut to crack.

Chief Wahoo:

Selig was asked about the Indians racist mascot. Obviously seeking to avoid the sort of controversy which has engulfed the Washington Redskins and the NFL, Selig went to one of his favorite plays from his old playbook: feigning ignorance. Selig said “I’ve never had anybody talk to me” about Wahoo as an issue and said the Indians have had polls and studies that indicate people don’t care. Which has zero to do with whether a red-faced racial caricature is appropriate or not, but go ahead and wave a poll. Selig also famously said no one he knew ever said baseball needed instant replay. He continued saying it until the very moment instant replay was introduced.

Instant Replay/Plate Collision Rule

Speaking of instant replay, Selig said it could use some tweaking but that he’s generally pleased. I think that’s fair. Someone asked him about the stalling process managers use before deciding to challenge and was asked about whether managers could throw a flag, perhaps. Selig said:

“In certain cities you may have a whole laundry bag coming out on the field.”

I would assume he’s talking about Philly there. As for the home plate collision rule, Selig said that it will be on the books in 2015 despite it being considered an “experimental” rule at the moment and despite some criticism of its implementation. Selig said we haven’t had any horrific collisions at home plate yet, however, and that’s the point. Which also explains the logic of the rock I keep in my pocket, but we’ll leave that go for now.

Smokeless Tobacco

In the wake of Tony Gwynn’s death, Selig was asked about baseball getting tougher on smokeless tobacco. Selig said that’s a matter for collective bargaining but noted that, at some point, grown men are allowed to make their own decisions and that all the league can practically do right now is communicate to players how dangerous it is and hope they make good decisions.

Derek Jeter

As everyone else has been asked about Derek Jeter this week, someone asked Selig about the retiring Yankees Captain. Selig totally ripped Jeter a new one, saying that the game will be better once he’s gone.

Oh, wait. No. He said “How lucky can this sport be to have the icon of this generation turn out to be Derek Jeter.”

That strikes me as an odd way to put that, but Bud’s sentiments seemed quite sincere, so let’s give the Commissioner credit for being a fan with some passion. As he always truly has been if you watched closely, but it’s kinda neat to see Selig showing it in his official capacity.

The National Anthem: an unwavering sports tradition . . . since the 1940s

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Associated Press
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There’s an interesting article over that the New York Times in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick stuff. This one is about the history of the National Anthem at sporting events.

The anthem is a fixture for as long as those of us reading this blog have been attending games and it’d be weird if it wasn’t there. But it hasn’t always been there, the Times notes. Indeed, it was not a regular fixture until 1942 when it was added for the obvious reason that we were at war. The other major sports leagues all adopted the anthem soon after. The NBA at the inception of the league in 1946 and the NHL in the same year. The NFL’s spokesman doesn’t mention a year, but notes that it’s a non-negotiable part of the game experience. The non-negotiability of it is underscored by the comment from the MLS spokesman who notes that they felt that they had no choice but to play the anthem when that league began play in the 1990s.

I like the anthem at ballgames. It just seems like part of the experience. I like it for its own sake, at least if the performance isn’t too over the top, and I like it because it serves as a nice demarcation between all of the pregame b.s. and the actual game starting.

But this article reminds us that there is no immutable structural reason for the anthem at games. Other countries don’t play their own anthems at their sporting events. We don’t play it before movies or plays or other non-sports performances. It’s a thing that we do which, however much of a tradition it has become, is somewhat odd when you think about it for a moment. And which has to seem pretty rote to the actual ballplayers who hear it maybe 180 times a year.

Jeremy Jeffress will enter rehab after Friday’s DWI arrest

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 23:  Jeremy Jeffress #23 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 23, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Texas 3-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Rangers reliever Jeremy Jeffress was arrested on Friday for driving while intoxicated (DWI). According to a report from WFAA-TV in Dallas, Jeffress changed lanes without signaling and almost hit a car. While he was undergoing sobriety tests, he could not keep his balance or stand on one leg. His blood-alcohol content registered at .115.

Major League Baseball has opted not to suspend Jeffress as he has voluntarily chosen to check into an inpatient rehabilitation clinic, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports. He’s expected to spend about a month at the clinic, which is based in Houston. There is still a possibility Jeffress can rejoin the Rangers in time for the postseason.

Jeffress issued a statement, which Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided:

This is not the first time Jeffress has had trouble with substance abuse. He was suspended 50 games in 2007 after testing positive for a second time for a drug of abuse, which was marijuana. He tested positive again in June 2009 and was suspended 100 games. It was later revealed that Jeffress suffers from juvenile epilepsy and he was self-medicating with marijuana.

Hopefully, his time in rehab helps him recover from substance abuse. Substance abuse is an issue about which people have a shortage of empathy, especially when it comes to celebrities, including athletes.

The Rangers acquired Jeffress along with catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Brewers at the August 1 trade deadline. They sent prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named to Milwaukee. In nine appearances with the Rangers, Jeffress has a 4.00 ERA and a 6/5 K/BB ratio.