Monday, September 20, 2010

Blog Bat-Around: If I Were Commissioner

[Update: This is cross-posted at my "From The Bleachers" blog.]

David at Indians Baseball Cards & Random Wax poses the following question for a blog bat-around:

The topic: With Bud Selig supposedly retiring in 2012 (and assuming the end of the world doesn't follow soon afterward), if YOU were asked to become the next Baseball Commissioner, what would you do?  What changes would you like to make, what things would you leave as-is, what would you like to see as your legacy when your retirement time came?
Baseball has been screwed up under Bud Selig far beyond the average fan's knowledge. I'll expose a number of those dark secrets below and as commissioner, I would make the following changes, unilaterally, on my first day in office:

On the field changes:

  1. Expansion to 32 teams w/ realignment. Either 8 divisions of 4 teams with no wild card, or 4 divisions of 8 teams w/ top two in each. There needs to be the same number of teams in each division. Right now, statistically, the AL West teams have a 50% greater chance of winning the World Series than NL Central teams, just by being in the AL West.
  2. Use an unbalanced, but symmetrical schedule. Baseball needs each team playing each other team the exact same number of times in division, and same number of games with all teams out of the division, both home and road, from division to division, league to league, and those numbers have to be even numbers. Teams in the same division need to have the same common scheduled teams. Having divisions logically means an unbalanced schedule. Each division needs an even number of teams so that only division play occurs the last weeks of the season.
  3. Eliminate interleague play. The players hate it. Attendance figures from largely weekend games when school's out and the weather is nice is not evidence that the fans support it either. And the argument that fans never get to see players from the other league is bogus. A majority of baseball fans live either in a metro area that already has one team in each league (the five largest markets - ten teams worth!, NY, LA, Chi, SF, and DC/Balt), or in a metro area that is a short drive from another team in the other league. (Philly, San Diego, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, etc.) Interleague play also skews the division race, as schedules are not identical. For too long, the Marlins have skated with playing six games against the hapless Rays while their division rival Mets have played six games against the World Champs. Enough.
  4. The All-Star game will no longer decide Home Field Advantage in the World Series, and will revert back to alternating HFA between leagues each year. All-Star managers aren't able to focus on winning the game anyway, because two other expectations are more important: a) keeping other managers' pitchers from being injured, and b) making sure every player on an ever enlarging roster makes it into the game. A pinch runner for the batter who pinch hit for the defensive replacement from last inning? Hey, I just put three players into the game in four pitches! That's what the last three innings of the ASG have become.
  5. Reduce the All-Star rosters to 24 max. and eliminate the "each team has one player" rule. Only one thing is less logical that requiring one player from each team, and that's the argument for it: "It's a fan's game." Uhm, the fans of the other 29 teams don't want to see your least worst player in the ASG when he's batting .279/11/36 at the break. He gets to play just because every other player on your team sucks even worse? And you want him to play in the ASG? Heck, you don't even want to see him play in your own ballpark. If you did, your attendance wouldn't suck so bad. I've lived through plenty of bad A's and Giants seasons where I was actually embarrassed for our representative to be seen in the introductions, not to mention the game.
  6. Eliminate all the NFL rules that have been adopted into baseball, like the one that made George Steinbrenner an air traffic controller. Get rid of all the NFL tie-breaking, home field advantage and playoff matchup rules. All they do is complicate things and screw playoff ticket holders out of being able to use their tickets effectively. Football has these stupid rules precisely because they have no way to decide things on the field. Using head-to-head as a tie-breaker necessarily means that the winner has a worse record against inferior teams. Hasn't anybody at MLB corporate ever taken logic 101 at their local community college? Home field advantage and matchup rules mean that ticket holders don't even know when the game is and who it's against for the ticket they're holding in their hand. Last year's fiasco that allowed the Yanks (HFA) to choose which ALDS series to play in was a great example. They didn't have to choose until a few hours after the regular season was over. But there was a rain-out makeup on Monday that forced another one-game playoff on Tuesday, still part of the regular season. They got to decide whether to screw the Red Sox in choosing which day they played - hours before their game - or to make the other team play on a couple of hours sleep on the plane while in the air at 35,000 feet.
  7. Eliminate TV ratings based playoff start times. The Yankees are guaranteed the prime time slot for every game ever, while the rest of the teams play bizarre day games in weird time zones. Every time a series is decided, the remaining series have their time slots revised according to a pecking order of prime time ratings. Several times since this has started, fans of one team with tickets in hand for tomorrow's game have gone to bed not knowing whether the next day's game would be at 1pm or 7pm because an extra inning game in the other league on the opposite coast that was playing past midnight may end that series and effect start times of all other games the next day because the ratings pecking order had to be rearranged. When you're a ticket holder for these games, you may be screwed out of hundreds or thousands of dollars because you can't sell or give away a day game ticket at the last minute. It's happened several times to me personally. Enough.
  8. Allow each home team to set the time for its own division series playoff games. Not being able to go to or even watch your own team because you're at work and you fell into a day game slot at the last minute just because some dude on the east coast wants to watch it on TV is freaking lame. Let them stay up until 2am. That way, everybody will be able to see it.
  9. All post season game dates with pre-figured division vs. division arrangement will be made prior to the season.
  10. Even though I personally don't like the DH, I would keep it for one league. It's good for baseball because it is good at starting and keeping arguments going. But the current DH rule gives the AL team an advantage in the World Series. It gets to keep using its full-time, season long hitting specialist, while the NL team must scrape a utility player off the bench for its DH. If you don't agree, please tell me you'd rather see Lee Lacy hit than Reggie Jackson. After the last game of the regular season, I would give all the NL teams the option to draft one free agent AL DH player to use as their DH in the World Series, just to even things up.
Off the field changes:

  1. Lifetime bans would extend only to the lifetime of the player. For example, once he died, Shoeless Joe would be in the HOF.
  2. Change the territorial rights boundary from a distance based boundary (75 miles) to a population based one. The existing rule guarantees the Yankees an untouchable fan base of 25 million. Even though San Jose is 40 miles further from San Francisco than Oakland is, the Giants' territorial rights can stop an A's move to SJ. Why? If small market teams have problems making ends meet, they can move to Brooklyn and/or East Rutherford, Chicago, San Bernardino, San Fernando, or San Jose.
  3. Holding the dubious distinction as the only person to have the steroids scandal occur right under his nose both as an owner and as a commissioner; and holding the dubious distinction as a commissioner who wouldn't even stand up in recognition that the greatest record in sports was just tied, and also in reference to the other 12 reasons listed above, my last act on the first day in office will be to impose a lifetime ban from baseball upon Bud Selig.

Leave as-is:

  1. Most everything else.
Legacy will take care of itself.


  1. 7pm EST start:
    School-age kids can watch the whole game.
    People with 9-5 jobs can watch the whole game.
    School-age kids can watch the whole game.
    People with 9-5 jobs miss the first three innings.

    7pm PST start:
    School-age kids miss the whole game.
    People with 9-5 jobs and need to be awake when they get there miss at least the last 4-5 innings.
    School-age kids can watch the whole game.
    People with 9-5 jobs can watch the whole game.

    Sorry, no contest. If you want "everybody to be able to see it," you have to do the earlier start time.

  2. Bo, welcome and thanks for the comment!

    Actually I understand what you are saying and wouldn't be opposed to your idea. It would mean however that all four LDS games be played at the same time, which is fine with me. I would push the time back a bit, like 8pmEST/5pmPST or 7:30/4:30. My "everybody will get to see it" was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

    As long as all the ticket holders (who have to pay thousands up front for entire post-season strip formats) know the start times before they buy the tickets in early September, then it would be okay.

  3. Although I agree with a lot of your proposals, it seems that many of the problems that you cite have arrived because MLB cannot handle the number of teams in the league, which has grown from 24 to 30 since 1976.

    I know a lot of this is because MLB hasn't properly adapted their rules to a growing league and by altering the way they do things (scheduling, for example), it will alleviate some issues.

    But I really hate the idea of expansion. I can't believe the number of people who have mentioned this in their bat-arounds. The league is watered down enough as it is and it's obvious in the play on the field. Two more teams? I know it's coming someday, but ugh!

  4. Night Owl,

    Yes, my hands were shaking when I typed "expansion." But I see it is either that, or a contraction to 24! The other option, and the one I favor over the current alignment, is to have six divisions of five teams each. Yes, it may mean at least one interleague series always being played, but the numbers work out better. Eighteen games vs. the other four teams in your division, plus six games against other divisions' teams, and six games with each team in annually rotating interleague division = 162.

    The current 14/16 team layout (4/5/5, 5/6/5) is really difficult to handle. Some teams play 18, 19 or 20 games, then other league teams 6, 7 or 9. Home and away aren't always split evenly. Divisions don't always play all the teams in the other league division, every team doesn't have a "rivalry" matchup, and each of these things seem to vary from year to year.

    As for watering down, I believe that is offset by the expanding talent pool through population growth and new talent markets like Korea, Taiwan and - revolucion! - Cuba! If we could only end the US embargo and let 'em all in to the majors somehow, that would be cool. If/when baseball catches on in mainland China, watchout!