Selig wraps up owners meeting with bummer financial report
By Rick Gano
Chicago -- Some teams lost money in 2009, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday after the final owners meeting of the year.
"There was no question about that," Selig said. "I don't think the concerns have been ameliorated at all. I think the concerns are still there because all these people have their own economists."
Selig said final figures for this year are still being calculated and everyone is living in the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. He declined to identify the teams.
"I think of all the heartache that's in the world," Selig said. "We live in this environment. We don't live in a bubble. And so, I think the clubs in some areas have been hit a lot harder than others."
Major League Baseball's average attendance dropped 6.7 percent last season from an average of 32,528 in 2008 to an average of 30,350. Total attendance of 73.4 million was baseball's fifth-highest.
"Given the economy, the fact that we drew 73.5 million people is a testament to this sport's popularity and everything that has been done is remarkable," Selig said.
With the free-agent market set to open Friday, teams and agents are uncertain whether the economy will impact salaries.
"Revenues as a whole were flat at best and I think there's still a lot of people, and obviously we're still focused on our fans, that are still struggling," Angels owner Arturo Moreno said.
Moreno has two players who became free agents after helping the Angels win the AL West: right-hander John Lackey and third baseman Chone Figgins. The Angels have already kept Bobby Abreu, agreeing to a $19 million, two-year contract.
Re-signing both Lackey and Figgins could be difficult.
"I think there's going to be X amount of players that are going to probably get great contracts and I think there's a lot of players that I think it's going to happen like last year, where there are going to be good players available towards the end," Moreno said.
Selig said there was no discussion at the meeting of increasing the use of video review by umpires, a subject that has been debated following several missed calls during the postseason.
Owners also heard reports and welcomed new Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.
"It was very interesting. Once again, just learning," Ricketts said after emerging from the meeting.
The Cubs, who drew over 3 million fans again last season, had the third-highest payroll at the beginning of last season behind the New York Yankees and Mets.
"I'm not going to make any predictions on the economy. I think we did OK as a team," Ricketts said.
Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks is putting together a group of local investors, including Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, for a bid that would enable him to keep majority ownership of the team.
Several other groups have been identified as potential bidders.
"I don't know what's going on," Selig said. "The bids are due tomorrow and I'll be anxious then to see them."
Selig didn't say much about the St. Louis Cardinals' decision to hire Mark McGwire as their hitting coach.
"Let's see how it all plays out. I've talk to Tony La Russa a lot about it and I've talked to Bill DeWitt about it," he said, referring to the Cardinals manager and owner.
McGwire, who hit 70 homers in 1998 and retired in 2001 with 583 for his career, became notorious when he refused to discuss the past when testifying at a 2005 congressional hearing about steroids.
Owners also heard reports on the annual civil rights game, the World Cup, legislative affairs, baseball's Internet division, the first-year MLB Network and the amateur draft.