Bud Selig, who was in Pittsburgh Tuesday as part of his tour of major league cities during this final year of his commissionership, seemed to enjoy the Pirates' postseason almost as much as fans of the team.
"I have to tell you, sitting and watching what was going on here last fall was something that I'll never forget," Selig said today during a press conference at PNC Park. "I'm not ashamed to tell you that I had goosebumps watching what was happening."
Selig said that the Pirates' recent success is clear evidence of how the changes made in baseball economics has restored competitive balance to the sport.
"Revenue sharing was the biggest thing, obviously. This was a sport that in 1992, when I took over, was still doing business like they did in 1940," he said. "So it's revenue sharing, it's a whole series of other things. I call them mechanisms we built in that provide hope and faith in as many places as possible and it has worked tremendously in Pittsburgh, and the Pirates organization [also deserves] a lot of credit."
The Commissioner added that he thinks the "tweaks" made to the draft - in particular, capping bonuses - are "very good," and have contributed to more teams stocking their systems with talented young players.
"All the rules that we have now and all the changes we've made, I think have contributed to an even more level playing field. Now, there maybe a club here and there who says, ‘If we could do X and Y,' but the fact of the matter is every club drafts players, every club has a chance to sign those players. That's why we have the competitive balance we have today."
While Selig believes that the sport is "as good as it's ever been," there are plenty of challenges remaining and changes that need to be made.
He described the rash of pitcher arm injuries as a "grave" concern, and said that he is anxiously waiting to read the upcoming recommendations of a team of orthopedists who are studying the increase in Tommy John surgeries.
"It is really, to me, puzzling. I just have never quite seen anything like this. ... There was a period a month ago, where I was afraid to pick up the papers."
Selig described the Brady Aiken situation an "aberration," and did not seem eager to endorse a standardized medical combine, like some have suggested.
"That's the only one we have had. And, I don't minimize it, but it's one we've had and we'll have to look into it."
When asked about the continuing pace-of-game issue, a problem that baseball has claimed to be getting serious about for some time, Selig responded that he is "paranoid" about it, but he repeatedly mentioned that it doesn't seem to be an issue for fans.
"We're working on it," Selig said. "I have to tell you this. I really don't hear it as much from fans. The last 10 years, by the way, are the best attendance years we had. And, we're having another very good year. So, it's clear to me our fans are not objecting ... all the polling we do, we don't hear a lot about it."
He went on to say there were two things that baseball could do about the situation, but did not complete his thought. Instead, he discussed how long batters and pitchers take between pitches.
"A guy gets in the batter's box, ball one. Now he gets out and he's adjusting all this crap that's he got on him. And, I'm thinking to myself, watching the game, ‘What is he adjusting? He hasn't swung the bat.'"
Selig mentioned continuing to work on competitive balance and growing the game internationally as challenges facing the next commissioner.
"I think if we are as aggressive on international as we've been domestically, you won't recognize this sport in five or ten years. It has that much potential."
Finally, Selig was asked the inevitable question about pardoning Pete Rose.
"Only answer I'll give you is that it is a matter is under advisement and since I'm the judge it is inappropriate for me to comment."