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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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.