Selig shows for Game 1 at MetrodomePosted: Tuesday October 08, 2002 10:36 PM
Updated: Tuesday October 08, 2002 11:49 PM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Having failed to fold the Minnesota Twins, Bud Selig came to the Metrodome on Tuesday night to behold baseball's biggest surprise team in the opener of the AL Championship Series.
Baseball's plan to eliminate the Twins and Montreal Expos last offseason was blocked by the Minnesota courts. Twins players, especially Doug Mientkiewicz, have said their inspiration is to have Selig hand them the World Series trophy later this month.
"If I was their Knute Rockne, then they owe me something for that," the baseball commissioner said, citing the Notre Dame football coach of the 1920s who was famous for motivating players.
Baseball owners voted 28-2 last Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams for 2002, and their lawyers later told the players' union that Minnesota and Montreal were the targets. Baseball agreed in its new labor deal not to eliminate teams until 2007 at the earliest.
Selig was perceived in Minnesota as trying to help Twins owner Carl Pohlad, a close friend, get a better price in contraction that he would in a sale. Selig has denied the accusations.
"Contract-ula-tions Twins for a superb season/All the way for Bud's sake" read one sign behind home plate at the start of the series against the Anaheim Angels.
"I know I'm the lightning rod when I have to deliver unpopular messages in behalf of a lot of people," Selig said.
Selig, who traveled from his Milwaukee office, arrived in Minneapolis about two hours before game time and watched the game from Pohlad's luxury box, away from the fans. He said he intended to walk through the stands and that he would sit in public view, near the field, if the Twins advance to a World Series matchup with San Francisco or St. Louis.
"There were things said this winter that really hurt a lot of people around here this year," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's going to be a tough atmosphere, but he's a pretty strong man. ... Hopefully, our fans will treat him with respect."
Selig's been criticized in Minnesota for calling the Twins' success this year an "aberration." Speaking in the press box as Minnesota took a second-inning lead, he said his remark was misinterpreted, that he was merely citing the statistic that teams in the top half of the payroll standings won 219 of 224 postseason games from 1995-2001.
His economic study committee concluded "if a team with a low payroll wins, it's an aberration from the norm, and all the empirical and economic data support that," he said.
While he still thinks the Twins need a new ballpark, one filled with luxury boxes, to survive for the long term, he didn't want to get into that discussion.
"That's for another day and for another generation, perhaps to worry about," he said.