-- With Washington Mayor Anthony Williams and city councilmen Jack Evans and Vincent Orange in town to press Major League Baseball officials to find an owner, Commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday he is confident a new owner for the Nationals will be selected soon.
"Sometime in August, I am hopeful," he said.
That brought a chuckle from Evans, who spent the past two days meeting with as many MLB officials as he could find.
"Decisions need to be in place for the acquisition of players and other things involving the team," Evans said. "You've got to get going on this stuff. Just pick one."
Originally, Selig said an owner was supposed to have been selected by this week. He sounded chagrined as he brought up this point, but said he remains confident the process is going smoothly, though he also said there were only peripheral talks about the Nationals in meetings with owners and league officials here for the All-Star Game.
"Timing in life is everything," he said. "Do I wish we could have done this a year or two ago? Of course. It's turned out that our timing is extraordinary. My answer is now [on a sale] is as soon as humanly possible."
He was quick to say that the league will not be affected by comments made last month by Rep. Tom Davis (Va.), the head of the House Committee on Government Reform that berated Selig when it asked him to testify on MLB's steroid policy back in March. Davis, a Republican, seemed to warn that MLB might not want to pick the Jonathan Ledecky group, which includes liberal philanthropist George Soros as a potential investor.
"It has no effect on how we select the ownership in Washington," he said. "This is a baseball decision. It's not a political decision nor should politics interfere with any decision we make."
'An Integrity Issue'
Selig described his appearance before the House Committee on Government Reform as one of the worst moments of his career in baseball. He said he still believes in the proposals he made to the union in April proposing tougher steroid standards, including a lifetime ban for a third offense.
"I believe this is an integrity issue," he said. "I believe we must create -- everywhere -- the understanding that we want to rid this sport of steroids. The perception that we aren't concerned is there. Therefore, when you have tighter penalties and more independent testing I think the perceptions change.
"What is our preference? Our preference is to get something done."
Clemens Fields Questions
Roger Clemens arrived about 21/2 hours before the game and was besieged by trade questions. He did not deny an interest in being traded back to the Yankees, only saying, "The rumors have certainly died down."
But when asked if he'd be open to a trade anywhere he said: "I don't even entertain those thoughts right now. I don't let it enter my mind. The question I would like posed to our owner is now that we've put ourselves back in [the wild-card race] maybe there's a bat we can have like when we went out and got Carlos [Beltran] last year."