WASHINGTON - The Phillies have developed into one of baseball's haves, a moneymaking machine with one of the top payrolls.
The Toronto Blue Jays are currently a have-not. As a result, fearful that they couldn't hold on to ace starter Roy Halladay when his contract expired at the end of the upcoming season, they traded him to the Phillies, who immediately signed him to a 3-year, $60 million extension.
You might think this would be the sort of scenario that bothers baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
You'd be wrong.
The commish dropped by Opening Day at Nationals Park yesterday, coincidentally the occasion when Halladay made his first Phillies start. And in an impromptu availability behind the press box in the fifth inning, he offered a spirited response when asked if he thought that deal was good for the game.
"The way I'll answer is this: I think it is good for baseball," he said. "I've talked to a lot of people about competitive balance, and I'm proud of where we are. Our competitive balance is as good as any sport. I think we have more than we've ever had in our history. People will talk about, well, you have this team and you have that team. But just go back in the '20s and the '30s and you'll find that there were a lot of bad teams. I don't think people understand, and I want to say this very strongly, I don't think people understand how good the competitive balance is today.
"Toronto made a judgment and I talked a lot to [Blue Jays president] Paul Beeston about it. They felt they made the right decision for their franchise in the long run and maybe even in the medium run."
While he was on the subject, Selig brought up Twins catcher Joe Mauer, one of baseball's best catchers. He recently signed a lucrative 8-year extension to remain with his hometown team. That, the commissioner believes, is a direct result of increased revenue-sharing.
"It couldn't have happened a decade ago. It could not have happened. But it did now. And I'm happy about it," he declared passionately. "Is it perfect? No. Is there work to be done? Yes. But given where we are as opposed to where we were a decade ago, it has been remarkable."
Selig touched on a number of other subjects. He said baseball continues to seek a reliable test for human growth hormone and that he's "anxious" for the day it can become part of drug testing.
He said he feels much better about the economic state of the game than he did a year ago. "I had a lot of trepidation," he said. "We were in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression . . . and we would up having a marvelous year. I feel good this year. I'm not going to make any predictions [about attendance] because if I'm right nobody will say a word and if I'm wrong [the media] will remind me 400 times. So I sort of grew out of that years ago.
"But I feel very good about where we are. I'll give you that much of a hint."
He also said he doesn't detect any real enthusiasm for expanding instant replay beyond its current use for boundary plays involving home runs.