PHOENIX -- Before he took questions from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, as he does every year at the All-Star Game, Bud Selig tackled one hot issue proactively.
The baseball commissioner completely and thoroughly absolved Derek Jeter of skipping this year's All-Star Game.
"There isn't a player that I'm more proud of in the last 15 years than Derek Jeter," Selig said Tuesday. "He has played the game like it should be played. He's even been a better human being off the field, as good as he is on the field.
"So any concerns . . . that I keep hearing about Derek Jeter, I know why 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."
Jeter, elected the starting shortstop for the American League team, opted not to come because he said he's still recovering from the right calf injury that sidelined him for three weeks. The fact that the Yankees open the second half against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, which features one of the two remaining artificial turfs, also factored into Jeter's decision.
Joe Torre, the former Yankees manager and current executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, acted as an MLB emissary this past week and spoke with Jeter. While many industry folks were rankled by Jeter's decision, the Yankees' captain always had full support from the very top.
"Derek Jeter has brought to this sport great pride," Selig said. "He's become a role model. Earned it. And he's still earning it.
"And so any suggestion that I or anyone else is unhappy with it is just false. And I'm proud of what he's done. I told him last Saturday on the phone. I've told him quite often. And I continue to tell him."
On Saturday, Jeter picked up his 3,000th career hit, going 5-for-5 and delivering the winning single for the Yankees.
In general, Selig predictably downplayed the story line of players skipping the All-Star Game. He pointed out that 79 of 84 selected players attended the Midsummer Classic festivities. Four of those five no-shows -- Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia -- are Yankees, with Atlanta's Chipper Jones the fifth.