Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: In lengthy talk about baseball, Bud Selig drops insights to several locals in the game
Pausing this Sunday to clean out my notebooks.
If you missed our Eagle Conversation with Major League Baseball Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig, it was quite a night.
And, of course, when you talk about baseball, it always tends to circle its way back to the "Birthplace" of the game.
Selig's Milwaukee Brewers might not have gotten to the World Series were it not for a pair of Western Massachusetts guys — Harry Dalton from Springfield and Dan Duquette from Dalton.
"Harry Dalton was a really great executive," Selig said. "I got him in 1977 for '78 season. He was here 15 years — no, more than that, 16 years. [Dalton was a] great general manager, we had a lot of success. I believe, really, you can make a compelling case for Harry to be considered for the Hall of Fame."
Dalton went to Amherst College, and by 1980, had hired a former Wahconah Regional High School catcher and linebacker, who played baseball for the legendary Bill Thurston at Amherst.
"Dan Duquette, I remember as a young kid," Selig said during our interview. "Harry hired another Amherst kid. Dan and I would oftentimes be the last guys left after a night game. I would be working. Dan would be working. We established a great relationship."
Duquette left Milwaukee for Montreal, eventually became the general manager of the Expos before getting his dream job as general manager of the Red Sox.
While Duquette never actually got to celebrate a World Series championship, he did help Dalton build a 1982 World Series team in Milwaukee, and Duquette laid the foundation for the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox championship teams.
"He turned out to be a really good executive. He had some tough times," Selig said. "One thing about having a career in baseball — you're going to have good times and you're going to have bad times."
Some Major League teams are having bad times because, for whatever reason, they cannot compete financially. The clarion cry is often heard from writers and media members in cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Kansas City about a salary cap. Having a cap would enable medium market teams to compete with the Bostons, the New Yorks, the Los Angeles, the Chicagos.
"That's an interesting question. I lived with it for 50 years," the commissioner emeritus said. "The '94-'95 strike, which cost us a World Series, was over a cap. I remember [former Atlanta Braves and Hawks president] Stan Kasten saying to me 'We're not asking for half as much as the other sports have already.' And he was right. What I would say to you about that is we have learned to live without it. There are things I love about the cap. But I think the game has gone on. We've had some huge years. I think, for the most part, we've learned to live without it.
"Would I have liked a cap? Yes, I would have. It caused one labor disruption, and we weren't ready to have another one."
We are into our third week of the 2020 season, which is a season like no other. Not only is it shorter and regional, but it is also one with some rules that have been greeted with cheers and boos.
The designated hitter is now a permanent part of both the National and American Leagues. Up until this year, the NL had allowed the pitcher's to bat.
The other controversial rule change for 2020 is that in extra innings, the player who makes the last out in the ninth, will lead off the 10th inning on second base. That would continue with the player making the final out starting the next frame on second, until there is a winner.
"I'm the only one left who voted, I was in the American League in 1972 when we sat in New York, and I'm the only person left from that room who voted for it. It's worked out well," Selig said. "This is an unusual year. We're trying to get through a very difficult year and I think this is a year to try changes. Whether I like them or not, I'm delighted with the DH. Even the 10th inning rule, it's an experiment, and this is the type of year to experiment."
One question that a viewer asked Selig concerned international play and whether it can make differences between nations shrink. Selig said that would be his hope.
"We've opened up in Japan and we've done so much. My dream is to have a real World Serie, someday to have the team that wins here play the best team in the world," he said. "We're a ways away from that yet.
"Someday, I think that will happen."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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