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Baseball Insider

Owner highlights: Selig cites attendance, Hal laments injuries, DeWitt alibis for Albert

NEW YORK -- Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was in a hurry to get to City Hall for the announcement about the Mets hosting the 2013 All-Star Game. But before he hopped into a waiting limo with Mets owner Fred Wilpon, MLB V.P. Joe Torre and other luminaries, Selig put in a positive word about the impressive attendance boost baseball is showing this season.

Stories have surfaced pointing to empty seats in stadiums, especially among the expensive seats. But in answer to a question about any attendance concerns, Selig said, "It's up six percent. We're in the process of having an extraordinary year.''

Sure enough, a look at the figures shows MLB is up 5.8 percent (which rounds up to 6). The Marlins lead the pack in improvement; they are up 70 percent, thanks largely to their beautiful new Marlins Park (getting that built in Miami was an accomplishment unto itself), but a few other teams are showing huge increases, as well, notably the improved Nationals, who are up 35 percent, and the Prince Fielder-infused Tigers, who are up 30 percent.

The free-spending but disappointing Angels lead the attendance downers, off 13.3 percent, followed by the awful Twins, off 13.2 percent, and the surprisingly competitive but largely anonymous Astros, off 12.2 percent.

The overall increase isn't all attributable to the Marlins and their new digs, either. Miami is up about 196,000 fans, MLB is up about 850,000.

Meanwhile, several owners and club honchos were caught for brief comments on their way into or out of the owners' meetings at 245 Park Ave. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said he was pleased his team is doing better recently but noted that the season is "a marathon.'' Werner also backed embattled new manager Bobby Valentine, who was the pick of Boston's ownership group, saying he is "absolutely'' fine despite the stormy beginning. (Coincidentally, "absolutely'' happens to be Valentine's favorite word.)

Red Sox owner John Henry was seen later, but with Werner having already spoken, the questions went to his traveling companion Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner. Henry sidled up to Steinbrenner suggesting he'd look forward to see how Steinbrenner handled the grilling. The young Steinbrenner did fine, lamenting the early season injuries.

"It's been a tough season,'' Steinbrenner said. "I'm concerned about injuries, that's more than half the battle.'' Steinbrenner also pointed out that they are pleased to have Rafael Soriano, the best third-string closer in the game, whose signing for $35 million turned controversial when GM Brian Cashman admitted he was against it. "Redundancy isn't always a bad thing,'' is the way Steinbrenner put it. (More of Steinbrenner's comments are on Danny Knobler's blog.)

Like Steinbrenner, Giants partner Bill Neukom also lamented his team's many injuries. That's been a theme of the season. Tiger president-GM Dave Dombrowski expressed surprise in his team's offensive struggles and faith that it would get better.

Wilpon referred to Mets star David Wright as "a great kid, and a great player,'' a noticeable upgrade over a year ago when he scoffed at the notion that Wright is a superstar in the New Yorker. That story was supposed to be about how the Mets owners weren't guilty in the Madoff scandal, but the message was obscured by that negative quote -- and another one about Jose Reyes (Wilpon was right about that one, as Reyes didn't get "Carl Crawford money.'') Regarding the Mets' chances to keep Wright long-term, Wilpon said this on Wednesday: "I hope that happens.''

Cardinals owner Bill De Witt said about the superstar he lost, Albert Pujols, "He's off to a slow start. He'll be fine. He got off to a slow start with us last year.'' It goes without saying that Pujols' start in 2011 wasn't nearly this slow. Pujols had seven home runs last April and has only one so far this year.

The owners generally seemed to be in good spirits. Of course, one owner was conspicuous in his absence. That would be Angels owner Arte Moreno, who is paying $240 million to Pujols and presumably busy firing a hitting coach.

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