Yes, Major League Baseball suffered a black eye with the suspensions of 13 players involved with performance-enhancing drugs, and Bud Selig — in town to promote the RBI Classic, a baseball tournament for inner-city youth which will have games all around the cities this month — said it has been a trying time as commissioner.
“It has been a tough period for me,” Selig said. “I’m very protective of every single meeting and the game itself. … I just think there are so many, the great majority of our players who have done this well and clean and played the game. They don’t like being tied with this, and I understand that. I’ve heard from a number of players. They’re also very supportive of [the suspensions], and that means a lot.”
Selig said the reaction of the players and the fans has been good and even the owners, some of whom lost players for a long period of time, are complimenting the move. He also said he thought the suspension of so many players at once sent a strong message.
While that has been tough for Selig, he can be proud that while hockey, basketball, and football have had a total of seven work stoppages in the past 19 years, baseball hasn’t had any. One of the big reasons for that unprecedented stretch of labor peace is a great commissioner.
Selig was asked why he thinks baseball has been able to avoid any labor issues over that time.
“We had eight work stoppages [between 1972 and 1994-95], but we now have had 21 years of labor peace,” Selig said. “It has been remarkable. It has really helped the sport. We’ve really worked well with the union and improved the economics of the game. So I feel good about where we are.”
Selig on Twins
Selig was asked his reaction to the poor record of the Twins the past three seasons and whether he was concerned if there might be a big loss in attendance for a team in a brand-new major league stadium.
“No, because I have a lot of faith in [Twins General Manager] Terry Ryan,” Selig said. “He is on my committee. And I really mean that, I’m not saying that because I’m here. I look at farm systems and I’m telling you, the Twins have as many good prospects as any other organization. I’ve looked at the Top 50, I’ve looked at the Top 100, and they are doing very, very well.
“Every year you’re going to have some teams struggle, but I have faith. My home team [the Milwaukee Brewers] is struggling mightily this year, too. But they both have good farm systems. I’ll tell you one thing. I wouldn’t bet against Terry Ryan. He will bring this team back.”
How difficult was it to give the 2014 All-Star Game to Target Field, when there was a lot of pressure to give the game to Wrigley Field, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next season?
“For me it was a joy,” Selig said. “Oftentimes I struggle with making that decision, but given the struggle that [former owner] Carl and the Pohlads took getting a ballpark and getting everything else, given the support of the fans here, this is like a second home to me and it was a pleasure to do it.”
My feeling about the Vikings’ chances to match or surpass last season’s 10-6 record will depend on the team’s ability to replace veterans such as wide receiver Percy Harvin, cornerback Antoine Winfield, punter Chris Kluwe and linebacker Jasper Brinkley.
“All of those guys you mentioned were very good players for us, they were veteran players in our league,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “Some of those positions we’re replacing with young players. We’re going to have to bring them along. We may not get the same production out of those young players that we got out of those veterans. But we do have confidence that they’ll do a good job, and we just have to bring them along as quick as we can.”
Frazier said one of the reasons for optimism is the early play of the team’s first-round draft picks: defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
“I’ve been impressed with all of our draft picks,” Frazier said. “Our three first-rounders have done a very good job for us early in camp. Everyone that we’ve drafted has contributed in practice. These preseason games are going to tell a lot as far as how much these guys can help us in the regular season. But what we’ve seen in the first week of practice here in Mankato, I’m pleased with every one of them.”
Mortenson back at U
Mortenson Construction — the firm that built Target Field, Xcel Energy Center, TCF Bank Stadium and will build the new Vikings stadium — has been selected by the University of Minnesota to do the $4.5 million in changes the Vikings are paying for in order to upgrade TCF Bank Stadium for NFL games next season.
Ken Sorensen, vice president for Mortenson, reported that his firm will be involved in upgrading the stadium for winter weather, which will include the installation of heated turf, temporary seating in the west end of the stadium, additional storage space within the stadium and other things necessary for the stadium to be suited for use in much colder weather than when the Gophers play.
• The picture in Sunday’s Star Tribune of Hall of Famer Cris Carter wiping the tears from his eyes reminded me of Bud Grant’s induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1994. As Grant’s presenter, I was sitting next to the late Tom Landry who, as coach of the Cowboys, was a presenter for Tony Dorsett. Knowing Grant well as a stoic guy, I insisted he wouldn’t shed tears during the ceremony and Landry insisted Grant would, so we made a little bet. Well, Landry was right, and Grant and I paid off with one of Murray’s famous steaks when Landry next came to town.
• The Class AAA Rochester Red Wings have the Twins’ Opening Day outfield on their roster. Aaron Hicks, Josh Willingham and Chris Parmelee have been playing together with the squad since Monday.
• ESPN.com ranks Gophers defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman as the 15th-best player in the Big Ten. The article said: “Minnesota is expecting a monster senior season from [Hageman] and a much improved defensive line overall. … Hageman is staking an early claim as the league’s top interior defensive linemen.”
• Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia continues to work with Team USA at the 2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., as it trims its roster for the eventual 2104 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden, which run Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com