PHOENIX – Major league teams are reviewing stadium safety following the death of a fan at a Texas Rangers game last week, while still encouraging players to toss balls into the stands.
Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old attending a Rangers' game in Texas last week with his 6-year-old son, fell over a railing while trying to catch a ball flipped to the stands by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton
"It was horrible accident. It's heartbreaking. It really is — it's almost beyond comprehension to believe something like that could happen," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said before Tuesday's All-Star game during a question-and-answer session with the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Each team determines its own ballpark safety features based on local laws.
"I think everybody is reviewing parts of their ballparks where something like this could happen. Maybe there's some things that they can or can't do. So I guess is what I would say to you is common sense should always take over in these situations. And so to say here today, 'No we shouldn't do this,' or 'No, we shouldn't do that,' no, I wouldn't say that. Absolutely not."
Selig is concerned about the impact of the accident on Hamilton.
"I'd worry about anybody who did something nice, who did something that was really thoughtful, and that happened," the commissioner said.
Selig also said he had found more support than he had expected for a one-game playoff between wild-card teams if the playoffs expand from eight to 10 clubs in 2012.
He all but confirmed the 2013 All-Star game will be played at the Mets' Citi Field.
"Well, we'll announce it at some point in the world. I'd say their chances look pretty good," he said.
Minnesota's Target Field is the leading candidate for 2014, and the Marlins hope to host in 2015 at their ballpark that opens next year.
While Selig said baseball would consider moving the All-Star game to a Wednesday in the future — allowing pitchers who started the previous Sunday to participate — teams might be resistant because of their preference to play regular-season games on Thursdays.
Selig said that he was not interested in radical realignment that would eliminate divisions or make major alterations to the leagues, but it was possible one team could move from the NL to the AL to leave each league with 15 teams. Because the 2012 draft schedule already has been completed, that likely could not occur before 2013 at the earliest. The downside would be that interleague games — which drew 18.3 percent more fans than other games — would have to be spread throughout the regular season.
"Is there massive realignment on the horizon? No there is not," he said. "Would I go to 15 and 15? I don't know. ... You would then have to play interleague play every day obviously, and I like it the way it is."
The players' association is in favor of shifting an NL team to the AL. The Houston Astros appear to be the most plausible candidate.
"15-15 is an idea that the players have been in favor of for a decade or more," said union head Michael Weiner, who spoke with the BBWAA after Selig.
Selig also backed Derek Jeter's decision not to play in the All-Star game. The New York Yankees captain came off the disabled list last week and got his 3,000th hit Saturday. Jeter said he needed to rest because of the calf injury that had sidelined him.
"There isn't a player that I'm more proud of in the last 15 years than Derek Jeter. He has played the game like it should be played," Selig said. "He's even been a better human being off the field, as great as he is on the field. So any concerns I keep hearing about Derek Jeter isn't here. I respect that. And I must tell you, I think I'd have made the same decision that Derek Jeter did. So any suggestion to the contrary, Derek Jeter has brought to this sport great pride. He's become a role model, earned it and is still earning it."
Selig said the proposed $680 million sale of the Astros from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane was on track for approval. He also thinks the Mets' financial situation will be stabilized once the Wilpon family completes a deal for a $200 million infusion from David Einhorn, who once lived next to Selig in Milwaukee.
"He played baseball in my backyard. How could I turn him down?" he said. "Apparently he couldn't hit, but don't tell him that."
Selig also repeated his desire to reach an agreement with the players' association on an international draft and a slotting system for draft picks.
"Make it fair so that three or four or five or six or seven teams don't have an inherently huge advantage over everybody else," Selig said.
He said there had been no news from his committee, appointed in March 2009, to study the Oakland Athletics' quest for a new ballpark. Selig is worried about the Tampa Bay Rays, whose home attendance is averaging 19,115 — ahead of only the Marlins — despite a 49-41 record.
"You have to be concerned," Selig said. "You want to put a competitive club on the field, there's got to be revenue to support it."
He said more video review of umpires' decisions is likely. Currently, only home-run calls are subject to replay, but traps and fair-foul calls for non-home runs could be added.
He agreed with the assessment of Detroit manager Jim Leyland that player-umpire relations need to be approved.
"We need to remove some of that tension. I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said.
Selig repeated his often-stated intention to retire at the end of 2012, said no change to the designated hitter rule is envisioned and he hopes players will agree to a ban on smokeless tobacco and ruled out adding teams.
"We don't need any more expansion," he said. "At 30, I think we have the perfect number."