Major League Baseball owners or their designated emissaries are gathered today in Baltimore to elect a successor to retiring Commissioner Bud Selig. Apparently, there is enough back room dealing and cloak and dagger stuff going on to pique Tywin Lannister’s interest. However, that stuff will be better covered by folks who have sources and stuff. Me? I’m going to explain the five main changes that, given the job, I would pursue.
First off, good riddance, Bud. I’m sure that the owners will install another Commissioner who is every bit the empty suit that Selig has been, but that’s not enough to dampen the relief I feel seeing him go. In fact, the first three things I’d do as Commissioner are direct repudiations of Selig’s legacy. The last two are a bit more radical, and, I think, a bit more fun.
Make The All-Star Game No Longer “Count”
Few things embody the weather vane “leadership” of the outgoing Commissioner better than the knee-jerk decision to base home field advantage in the sport’s championship event on the result of an exhibition game. I’ve heard increasing grumblings about how dumb this is, and I wouldn’t be altogether shocked to see the next commissioner reverse course on it. It’s really, really dumb.
Abolish Interleague Play
I get it – Major League Baseball needed hooks to get people back into ballparks after the 1994 strike. While I don’t think it was necessarily a bad move at the time, I feel that it’s run its course. The schedules are unbalanced enough as it is (more on that in a minute), and some of the “rivalry” interleague series we’ve shoehorned teams into are comical. I also feel like it’s fundamentally unfair to National League teams who never carry a player to be a full-time designated hitter. Yes, I know some AL teams use the DH as half-day rest spas for aging players, catchers, and/or aging catchers – I am a Yankees fan – but no NL team has a David Ortiz on its roster.
By the way, this is another one of the sports topics that you could broach solely to start an argument between my dad and me. He theorizes that making AL pitchers, who never hit, pick up a bat puts the AL teams at a disadvantage. I counter that NL pitchers, by and large, also suck at hitting; think every Mets pitcher other than the de Grom kid. I think he’s brought up Chien Ming Wang’s foot injury at (then-NL) Houston as a counter to that. Anyway.
Stop Paying Criminals for Stolen Evidence
Because, apparently, this is something I would have to make explicit policy. Strange world, man.
Computers Call Balls & Strikes
Complaining about various umpires’ strike zones is as old as the game, but MLB started doing something about it by installing cameras / computers to track pitches and grade umpires’ accuracy. It’s called Questec, and it’s been around since 2001. Since 2006, there has also been an even more advanced system, PITCHf/x, that tracks the speed, movement, and spin of every pitch thrown in every Major League game.
This begs the question: We have systems with the ability to call a hypothetically perfect strike zone. Why don’t we let them call a hypothetically perfect strike zone? I love watching Derek Jeter mumble towards the ground to voice displeasure with called strikes, but I can live without it. Hell, in a couple months, I have to.
We’d still need home plate umpires for safe / out calls, but they wouldn’t be able to ruin a game ala Eric Gregg in the 1997 playoffs. They’d have to ruin it by capriciously applying the befuddling no-blocking-the-plate rule that, while I think is well-intentioned, needs tweaking.
Determine Wild Cards Based on a Balanced “Core” Schedule
Full-disclosure: My dad came up with this one. I think it’s brilliant on a number of levels.
We’ve already added balance to schedules by doing away with the gimmick that is interleague play, but, I think we can do better. Teams play a heavy portion of their games – about half – against division opponents. I’m cool with this, and the TV networks would never go for a schedule where the Yankees and Red Sox don’t play each other about 18 times a year.
However, this creates a situation where teams competing for Wild Card playoff spots play widely disparate schedules. The proposed solution: Only some of those division games count towards the Wild Card standings.
What if only your last 7-ish games (the same number you play per year against non-division opponents) against division opponents counted towards the Wild Card standings? There are two main reasons why I think this would work beautifully.
First, it’s more fair. Everybody playing for Wild Cards would do so against the same basic array of opponents. It’s not perfectly fair – weather happens, injuries aren’t scheduled – but it’s a step in the right direction.
Second, I think it would ultimately be more fun. If you make it so that the early-season division games are the ones that don’t count towards Wild Card standings, teams aren’t going to compete any less in them; they’re trying to win the damn division. It would also provide a second life to teams that have a rough start to the season. If you get knocked around in early season division play, the “core” schedule is still largely ahead of you. I think this would keep more teams in the mix later, which would stymie demoralizing trade deadline sell-offs. Plus, the last month or so of the season usually features a lot of in-division play, and this would add juice to those games.
So, there’s the platform for my run at the Commissioner’s chair. He has a dope chair, right? He has to.
For the heck of it, here are some honorable mentions – things that I’d probably look into doing, about which I feel a bit less-strongly.
- Returning to a 154 regular season game schedule
- Tweaking the aforementioned catcher-blocking-the-plate rule
- Adopting hockey’s all-reviews-are-booth-reviews system (I find challenges a bit silly)
- Expanding the strike zone (mostly upwards)
Bringing back the cool relief pitcher golf carts from the 1970’s
- Bringing back the cool relief pitcher facial hair from the 1970’s
- Threatening to change the Hall of Fame voting system if the BBWAA doesn’t get their shit together
- Related: Reinstating Dan LeBatard’s Hall of Fame ballot
- Naming Mr. Met Deputy Commissioner
- Adding Pitcher Home Run Derby to All-Star Weekend
- Showing “Who’s On First?” before lineup announcements at every game
This list is in no way exclusive, and ya’ll are welcome to add your own proposed changes to my favorite sport in the comments section below or on Facebook or whatever. Since now is the time of year where a lot of you guys re-join the baseball party, here’s to a fun last month and a half of the season.