Baseball commissioner: ‘This sport is cleaner than ever’

NEW YORK — With his staff pursuing yet another investigation into performance-enhancing drugs, Commissioner Bud Selig defended baseball’s drug-testing program on the eve of the All-Star game and insisted “this sport is cleaner than it’s ever been.”

Selig declined to detail timing for decisions in the probe of the closed anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, accused of distributing performing-enhancing drugs. MLB could attempt to discipline former MVPs Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun along with other players.

Baseball began drug testing for the 2003 season, added penalties the following year, banned amphetamines in 2006 and started HGH blood testing last year. Critics said baseball didn’t move quickly enough.

“People say, ‘Well, you were slow to react.’ We were not slow to react,” Selig said Monday. “In fact, I heard that this morning, and it aggravated me all over again.”

There were eight violations of the major league drug program last year, and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera was among those who served a 50-game suspension following a positive PEDs test. There have been no suspensions in the big leagues this year.

During a question-and-answer session arranged by Politico, a question was sent by Will, identified as an 8-year-old in Los Angeles. He asked: “How old will I be when … you can say that there are no more cheaters in baseball, not one?”

“Will, this is what I would say to you,” Selig responded. “I used to object way back when, when people would talk about steroids. They’re not a baseball problem or a football problem or a basketball problem. They’re a societal problem.”

Selig, who turns 79 on July 30, also denied his willingness to combat steroids has increased during his time in office, which started in 1992.

“Some people say now that I’m over-vigilant because I’m worried about my legacy,” he said. “That’s nonsense. That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. This is in the best interests of baseball. I was brought up to understand that you are to do what’s in the best interest of this sport no matter what, even if it’s painful, and we’re going to do that.”

He maintained the majority of players object to being tainted as playing in what’s referred to as the Steroids Era.

“Most players on their team didn’t do anything. They were as clean as could be,” he said. “So the Steroid Era in short to some people implies, well everybody did it. That’s wrong, and it’s unfair.”

According to Selig, Major League Baseball’s decision to hire former U.S. Secret Service director Mark Sullivan to assist in its Biogenesis probe was evidence of baseball’s effort to ensure there are “no stones unturned.”

“We have many groups, consulting groups that are working on this whole investigation,” he said.

Selig has said repeatedly he intends to retire, only to change his mind. His current term runs through December 2014, and he has made no effort to start planning for a successor.

“That’s a subject that I’m going to put off for a while. Right now we haven’t gotten into specifics,” he said.

On other subjects, Selig:

—said he’s never sent an email. “And I never will. … I’m illiterate when it comes to that, and proud of it. … I did get an iPhone, so I’ve made some slight progress.”

—is concerned about spending on players, whose average salary rose 6 percent to $3.65 million on opening day, the steepest rise since 2008. Baseball’s revenue is projected to reach $8 billion this year, and Selig wants clubs to spend less than half on players. “We’ve made some new television deals and our clubs got a little excited, and so we may go over 50 percent, and that’s dangerous. I think we have to work on more mechanisms.”

—is deferring action on the Oakland Athletics’ preference to build a ballpark in San Jose until the city of San Jose’s antitrust suit against MLB moves forward. San Jose is in the territory of San Francisco Giants. “We are defending ourselves. So before I make any decisions, we’ll see what happens to that. I feel pretty good.”

—is concerned with Tampa Bay and Miami, which have the lowest attendance averages in the major leagues. “I certainly haven’t given up on Florida. The demographics are too good,” he said. As for Tampa, “We have a stadium problem there. There’s no question about it.” And for Miami, “We’ve had some things happen that need to be corrected.”

—Asked what song he would use to for his introduction while walking to home plate for an at-bat: “Bridge over Troubled Water.”

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