At his final Draft, Selig lauds event as vital
Commissioner recalls influence first-rounders Yount, Molitor had on Brewers' rise
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig presided over his final First-Year Player Draft on Thursday night at MLB Network's studios. From the podium, Selig announced each team's first-round selection.
And when the first round was over -- after the Cardinals selected California high school right-hander Jack Flaherty -- Selig simply turned and walked away. Selig insisted that he hasn't begun to feel wistful about his decision to retire in January.
"I'm not to that point yet," said Selig, who earlier in the day made his first visit to the MLB Fan Cave in New York. "I really don't think about it in that regard. But I guess I would say to you that I'm so comfortable with my decision that I've sort of accepted this now. And I still have eight or nine months. Near the end, I think that will be more in my mind."
As Selig's legacy comes into sharper focus, many of the changes that have occurred under his leadership -- the addition of Wild Cards, Interleague Play and expanded replay review -- have been mentioned. A key accomplishment is how the Draft has become a midseason focal point.
"When they went into it in 1965, they had a clear objective, and that was to level the playing field," Selig said of the Draft. "In those days, they were terribly concerned about the Yankees winning all the time. And a few years ago, we had problems because clubs were not drafting for need, which was unfortunate. But now we've rectified that.
"When you think of the Drafts that I participated in with the Brewers and what it is today, this is amazing. We're on television. It used to be on the phone. There were years you wouldn't even divulge to the press who your Draft choices were. So have we come a long way? Yes, we've come a long way. It's been wonderful."
Selig would like to see the three-day event become even more prominent, including the eventual adoption of a worldwide Draft.
"Everybody wants to compare this Draft to the NBA and NFL, but remember: College kids get great publicity. College football is big, and college basketball is big. I think we've come a long way, but we need to do more. We need to publicize more because, in the end, to all the millions of fans for each franchise, this is the lifeline."
Between stints at the podium, Selig talked at length about the importance of the Draft and that he learned early in his days as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers how integral the process is to building and maintaining a successful organization.
"In the 1973 Draft, we had the third pick. And there was a huge debate between our general manager and our scouting director. I never saw tension like that. It was unbelievable. One wanted Richard Shubert, a pitcher from New York. And the other wanted some kid from Woodland Hills, California: Robin Yount."
Fortunately for the Brewers, the scouting director prevailed. Yount reached the Hall of Fame. Shubert, who was eventually drafted in the second round, never made it past Double-A.
In 1977, the Brewers again picked third. The White Sox took Harold Baines, who turned out to be a great player, first overall. With the second pick, the Expos took Bill Gullickson, who developed into a dependable pitcher. Milwaukee followed with the selection of another future Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor.
"So we got lucky -- that's why this is so interesting," Selig said. "You've got to have breaks and you've got to have luck and you've got to be in the right place. In 1971, we picked two guys who I was told were can't-miss. That's what I was told. I didn't realize that can't-miss didn't mean you can't miss. We picked two guys, and they both missed.
"Having run a club, this is a big day in the life of a baseball team. Just think how those two guys [Yount and Molitor] affected the Milwaukee Brewers for a number of years. This is critical, because there's only one way to build a successful organization that has consistency, and that's through the farm system. This is where it all starts. I cannot stress how important I think this day is."
During his visit to the Fan Cave, Selig conducted a question-and-answer session with fans and shortstop Nick Gordon, who several hours later became the fifth overall pick, taken by the Minnesota Twins.
"It was a very good experience," Selig said, adding that he plans to return on his next trip to New York. "I loved the questions. It was great, and I enjoyed myself. I had never been to the Fan Cave, but I'd seen all the pictures and seen all the videos, so I wasn't surprised by anything."
Back at MLB Network studios, Selig addressed a few other topics.
The Commissioner confirmed that the Athletics are close to signing a lease extension at O.co Coliseum.
"I think they're very close; stability is always helpful," Selig said.
Selig repeated that MLB is closely monitoring expanded replay review with an eye to improving it, but he declined to be more specific.
"We're deadly serious about that, no question," Selig said.
Selig also said he hopes to award the 2016 and '17 All-Star Games before he steps down -- which, inevitably, is a reminder: This year's All-Star Game at Target Field in Minnesota will be Selig's final one as Commissioner.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.