NEW YORK Baseball owners likely will postpone any effort to institute a worldwide draft until their next labor contract with players begins in 2012.
Commissioner Bud Selig said interest in a worldwide draft has increased among management, but Rob Manfred, his executive vice president for labor relations, indicated owners probably wouldn't push for the players' association to reopen the collective bargaining agreement over the issue. The current deal runs through the 2011 season.
"We're not near making any decision on that," Manfred said Tuesday. "I think the most likely course of events is that it would be handled in the next round of bargaining. The most likely course of events is we would handle it in 2011."
Selig spoke for 45 minutes to the Baseball Writers' Association of America prior to the All-Star game, touching on the investigation into possible skimming of signing bonuses in the Dominican Republic, a probe into gambling among scouts, the lack of offers to Barry Bonds, instant replay, maple bats, the slowing economy, baseball's efforts to rejoin the Olympics, poor television ratings for the Washington Nationals and the prospect of new ballparks for the Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.
He offered no details on the FBI and baseball probe into Dominican signing bonuses other than to say "we understand exactly what's going on and we'll do what we have to do to clean it up." As for the probe into betting by scouts, he said "there certainly is no evidence that it's widespread."
Baltimore fired its national cross-checker after he was linked to a gambling investigation that involved bets primarily on football.
A day after Bonds' agent said prospects appear bleak for the home run king to find a major league job, Selig denied that there was a conspiracy against Bonds. The seven-time NL MVP, who turns 44 in two weeks, faces a federal trial next year for lying when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he didn't knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.
"Every club is free to do what they want to do. No club has talked to me about it," Selig said. "Clubs have made individual decisions based I think on a myriad of factors, I guess. And so I'm not going to respond to their charges. They're without basis."
Selig, an opponent of instant replay, has softened his opposition to using it to assist umpires' decisions. Baseball is thinking of implementing replay for boundary calls, such as whether home runs are fair or foul, or whether balls clear fences for home runs.
Decisions likely would be made at a central location with access to all replays.
"We are looking at it intensely," he said. "If it occurs, it will be in a very limited form. And once we are convinced that the bugs are out, it will come quickly. And so, is there a chance, if we agree to do it, that it could be before the postseason."
Work is going more slowly on baseball's study if maple bats shatter more often and more dangerously that their wood counterparts.
Management and the players' union have contacted experts to study the matter, but Selig said feedback is at least a month away.
"I've been talking to a lot of people, players who played three generations ago, two generations ago, 10 years ago and players of today," Selig said. "In terms of the older players, they all say the same thing: They've never seen anything like this. They have different theories, but everybody always seems to get back to the maple."
Selig rejected calls for baseball to put more netting up around fields to protect fans. Most ballparks restrict netting to the area directly behind home plate.
"While one is always very, very concerned with the health and welfare of your fans, you don't also want to do things that obstruct the view of the fans, either, which causes really a major problem," he said. "So you sort of have to weigh one against the other."
He remains optimistic that MLB will set another attendance record, even though the national economy has slowed. Attendance averaged 32,011 at the All-Star break, just about the same as last year's average of 32,012.
"We haven't seen really it at any level of our business of any significance," he said of the slowdown. "But if the economists are right and it's going to deepen, well that's a question that we'll have to talk about in three or four months, six months or a year."
He repeated his oft-made assertion that the Marlins, Rays and Athletics can't compete unless they get new ballparks.
"Florida is I think very close. Oakland has got a lot of work to do but (owner) Lew Wolff is a very innovative, resourceful guy," he said. "And I have confidence in the Rays ownership, that they will solve it."
Selig hasn't come up with a solution to the Olympic issue. The International Olympic Committee dropped the sport starting with the 2012 London Games, but baseball hopes to be reinstated for 2016.
"We're in our season, as opposed to everybody else," he said. "Everybody understands we have a timing problem that is very difficult to solve."