Selig wants current rule changed

ST. LOUIS -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wants to keep players on drug suspensions from going to the minor leagues before they return.

Manny Ramirez drew sellout crowds last month in the minors when he played two games at Triple-A Albuquerque and three at Class-A Inland Empire on his rehabilitation assignment before his return to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 3.

"I believe that should be changed," Selig said Tuesday during a one-hour question-and-answer session with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "Their logic was OK -- look, guys get hurt, they can go out on rehab, and so on and so forth. But I think that's something we need to really change in the next labor negotiation."

The current rules are in place through December 2011. Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, said management will not ask for a rules change before then.

"I'll let them work that out. I don't want to do our negotiating here," Selig said. "But it's 50 games and then go do what you got to do to get back into [shape]."

The Dodgers outfielder was suspended 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy by obtaining a prescription for a banned female fertility drug.

"We will respond appropriately to any bargaining proposals advanced by the commissioner," said union general counsel Michael Weiner, who has been designated to succeed Donald Fehr as players' association head.

Weiner said the current rules were in place "to make certain that the penalty a player actually serves does not exceed the negotiated penalty."

"A player suspended for 50 games should be able to return to play after the 50 games are served," he said.

There have been more than 2,400 tests this year under the major league program, and Ramirez has been the only player suspended. Selig noticed the warm reception Ramirez has received from Dodgers fans.

"It's an interesting reaction because I think it surprises a lot of people, the positiveness of it," he said. "But you always get back to fans: They want their team to win. And this player has now been disciplined. He's back. They're in first place. He can help them win. And I think that's what you're seeing there."

He also defended baseball's drug rules and took a shot at those who have been critical, especially in the wake of reports Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa allegedly tested positive during baseball's anonymous 2003 survey.

"The names that got out were the result of us having a drug-testing program," he said. "We're doing everything we possibly can. The players know it."

On other topics:

• Selig still is reviewing Pete Rose's 1997 application to end his lifetime ban from baseball.

• He wished the Cubs' sale process was "much more expeditious. ... Certainly, the Cubs will be better off once they have an owner that's there as the owner just of that team. Hopefully, we're moving towards that, but I told you that last year at this time, too. But I do think now we're in the near future coming to a moment of truth on that." He wasn't concerned about a bankruptcy filing because "if they are in bankruptcy, it's going to be very briefly, I'm told, and it's only to clear the club, and so they can move forward. So I think really in the long run, hopefully it will work out in their best interest."

• He's not overly concerned about the Texas Rangers' financial situation. The team's parent, Hicks Sports Group, borrowed money from MLB. "We've done some things to be helpful down there but that's not the first time in our history we've done that and I trust probably not the last."

• Management could propose changes in the amateur draft in 2011 bargaining. "I note with great interest a lot of major league players speaking on compensation that draft-choice players get, and not in a positive way. I find that very, very interesting." Of the Nationals and dealings with the top draft pick, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, Selig said: "I know they're going to make him a very meaningful offer."

• He is awaiting a report for a committee on the Oakland Athletics' quest for a new ballpark, possibly in the San Jose area that is now territory of the San Francisco Giants.

• The Tampa Bay Rays must determine whether they need a new ballpark, but he acknowledged: "we're living in their type of economy now, it's tough to be talking about new stadiums." Still, he said, "they need to do everything they can to continue to increase their revenue there" and he might assign MLB chief operating officer Bob DuPuy to assist the team.

• He didn't know the timing of an announcement that the 2012 All-Star Game will be played in Kansas City.

• There is no thought to moving the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers.

• He denied allegations by some agents that teams conspired against free agents last winter. "Given the world we live in and what's happened in the last 18 months, I think this is one sport where I can't even fathom that anybody could think that."

• MLB is probing possible age discrepancies of Dominican players. "That's one of the areas that we do need to get a much better handle on."

• While attendance is down 6.3 percent, he's pleased, given the economy. "I think this may be in a certain sense our greatest season."

• He thinks the Pirates, headed to their record 17th consecutive losing season, will turn around. "When you have a club that's been down that long, it just takes a long time, and that's all I can say. But are they on the right track? They are. And I think that track will be faster than most people believe."

• On whether the Yankees should adjust ticket prices: "I'm going to leave that to them."