That’s right . . . baseball has finally named a new commissioner to follow in the footsteps of Bud Selig. Someone who will step into the office at the end of the 2014 season, when Selig’s contract expires. Someone who will take on the task of keeping harmony between owners & players, fans & teams, media & … well, no one really gets along with the media. And, you heard it here first … the new commissioner of baseball is:
Okay, so maybe that’s just wishful thinking. But, can you imagine being the one to sit at the head of MLB’s table? To be the one who has that kind of power in this sport? Kind of fun to daydream about. But, I wanted to do a little more than just muse about it. I’d like to propose to you the top 5 things I would change about the game, if I really were the commissioner. Five areas of the game that don’t make sense to me, and I would change almost immediately after taking office. So, here they are, in order of what I believe to be the most important to the least.
1. The DH – I despise the DH. First of all, I don’t think it enhances the game, as was originally intended. In fact, I think it makes the game less interesting. A large part of what makes baseball more interesting to watch than most will give it credit for, is the strategy: infield & outfield alignment, pitch choices, when to steal bases, hit & runs, etc. And, the DH takes away one of the more intriguing portions of strategy that every manager in the NL has to deal with – the double-switch. It impacts a manager’s decision-making especially late in the game. And, since I’ve always contended that baseball is a thinking-man’s game, taking one more strategic element out of the game is ridiculous. Second, it has lost a lot of its luster over the last few years. The average DH spot in the American League this year is batting all of .246. That doesn’t really exude offensive prowess, which has always been the primary argument in favor of the DH. Most team’s DH’s are barely more than an easy out – which is exactly what you would consider most pitchers batting in the NL. Lastly, the DH creates an enormous amount of confusion and controversy when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. Many of the voters won’t even consider a DH, no matter how good of a batter he was, because he rarely played in the field. So, what’s going to happen with a guy like David Ortiz? He could very well end up with 500 career home runs, yet has played in the field in less than 15% of his career games – primarily because he has been viewed as more of a liability in the field. And, is it fair to consider Ortiz’ 500 home runs on the same level as others who achieved the same mark, and had to play the field day in and day out? Players who suffered injuries on the field? How can you possibly compare a guy who’s participation in the game was so singularly focused, to guys who played the whole game? Let’s end the debate, by putting an end to the most meaningless position in the game.
2. Season Length – I have always been in support of the Wild Card teams in the playoffs. I also appreciate the addition of a second Wild Card team, and the one-game Wild Card round of the playoffs. I think it gives the division winners the appropriate advantage over the Wild Card teams. All that being said, however, I do not enjoy the fact that the playoffs now consistently go into November. Baseball is not a cold-weather sport. Let football have November to itself. In fact, let football have late October to itself. 162 games is such an arbitrary number, and it’s just too many, now that the playoff system in place is so much longer. It’s absurd to have baseball games in Minnesota, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, etc. when it’s 45 degrees outside with a wind chill of 30. And that doesn’t just apply to the end of the season either – early April is no better. My solution is a 140-game schedule. No regular-season games would be played prior to April 15th or later than September 15th. This accomplishes a number of things: a) Prevents the likelihood of having games “snowed out” in colder-weather cities; b) Makes August a much more meaningful month for baseball – a month which, by the way, isn’t meaningful in any other legit sport, giving baseball an entire extra month of interested viewers; c) Brings back a lost portion of baseball’s history – the double-header. Each team would play 8-10 double-headers during the regular season, in order to allow them enough off/travel days in the 154-days from April 15-September 15; d) The playoffs are finished right around the time the NFL is really getting rolling (week 6/7), thus preventing the loss of interest by some viewers. Some will complain about how this will effect the record-books, or what this does to HOF voting once a player has played an entire career in 140-game seasons. But, as much as I love the numbers of this game, isn’t it time we started doing what’s best for the sport, rather than holding on to the way things have “always been done”?
3. The All-Star Game – I’ve always said that the All-Star game impacting who has home-field advantage in the World Series is one of the dumbest decisions ever made by baseball. Why should a bunch of players in July (most of whom won’t even sniff the playoffs, much less the World Series) have any impact on the championship of the sport? This is especially bothersome to me in light of the fact that everything else about the game screams exhibition – not meaningful game. The fans vote on who gets to start the game – a notoriously biased group in favor of certain teams and players regardless of their worthiness. And, every team has to be represented – regardless of whether or not anyone on the team even deserves to be called an “All-Star” (take a look at Miami and Kansas City’s rosters right now – it’s a stretch to name anyone on either team that deserves to be in the game this year). So, my solution is an either/or situation: a) Scrap the whole home-field in the World Series nonsense and go back to rotating home-field, and letting the All-Star game be the exhibition it’s set up to be; OR b) If the players and owners really like home-field being determined by the All-Star game, I’m a reasonable man. As commissioner, I’m willing to allow that continue, but only if we take the exhibition side of the game out. The vote will be determined in 3 parts – the fans, the coaches, and the baseball writers. Each will be given equal say, which is much less biased, and more likely to actually get the best players in the game. And, if a few teams aren’t represented – so be it. If you want to see your team represented in the All-Star game, then call your team’s owner and tell him to start putting some talent on the field.
4. Playoff Format – this is a fairly minor change, but it’s one that has become more obviously needed to me over the last few years. The 2-3-2 format of the LCS & World Series is not as advantageous to the team with home-field advantage as it should be. I would much rather see MLB implement a 2-2-1-1-1 format, as the NBA has done for many of their playoff series. If the first two games of the series are split, for example, the team without home-field advantage now gets to go home for 3 games, in the 2-3-2 format. They could either win the series at home, or expect, at worst, to have to go back to the opponent’s home field, and be up 3-2. Additionally, game 5 is frequently a pivotal game in a 7-game series. It could be an elimination game, or it determines who breaks the 2-2 tie. Why would we allow such an important game to be played on the home field of the team without home-field advantage? Just think how different the ’06 or ’08 Series might have been, had the Tigers or Rays, respectively, had the chance to come home for game 5, instead of being forced to face elimination on the road. Or, what might have changed had the Yankees been able to go home for game 5 in ’03 with the series tied 2-2, instead of playing that pivotal game on the road. Let’s make home-field advantage mean something in the LCS and World Series.
5. Mascot Races – no more. Milwaukee can keep theirs, because from what I understand, theirs was the original, and it’s been going on for more than 20 years. But, no more Presidents Race (WSH), or Pierogi Race (PIT), or Dot Race (TEX), or racing of Pepsi products (TB), or generic hot dog races (CLE & KC), or any other races of any kind!!! Not only is it possibly the dumbest between-innings ritual I’ve ever seen, but I can promise you that at least 3/4 of the stadium isn’t paying any attention to it. Let Milwaukee keep it as something unique to visiting their stadium. It might be cheesy, but if that’s the one place you get to see it, then it might actually be fun to say you got to see the Sausage Race in Milwaukee. But, when everyone else is coming up with their own lame version, it’s just becomes sad and pathetic. So, enough is enough already.
What do you think? Be sure to have your commissioner voice be heard, and vote in the poll below!