There seems to be a great deal of anger/irritation/looks of death aimed at Commisioner Bud Selig these days (actually almost all days), so I thought I'd ask what it is that you'd do differently if you were the Grand Poobah of MLB.
Personally, I love this game. I love major league baseball, I love the minors, the indy leagues, heck, if I have nothing to do on a nice summer day I've been known to hang out and watch a few little league games. However, that doesn't mean I don't want a few things fixed.
If I were in charge, this is my laundry list (in no particular order)
- Equity. Baseball needs to be more equitable. The disparity between the haves and have nots has never been greater. Sure, you have a bunch of small market clubs making incredible pushes this year, but how long can Arizona, Colorado, Milwaukee, and Cleveland hold on to these young talented players? As soon as Tulowitski, Fielder, Young, and Sizemore are due for their first big money deal - are these teams going to be able to compete with the big dogs at keeping their home grown talent? Some will stay for the hometown thing, but many will leave for the dough. It's just sad that once proud franchises like Kansas City, Cincinnatti, Pittsburgh, Baltimore... aren't able to compete year and year again because they can't afford to sustain a team that matches Boston, New York, LA, LAA, and even the Cubs. Every once in a while they produce a great young player - Beltran, Dunn, Giles... but how long are they able to afford them? Sure, they can beef up to be competetive every once in a while like Florida, but that's lightning in a bottle. Isn't anyone else tired of the Yankees and Red Sox? Perhaps there needs to be a salary cap. However, LISTEN UP TAMPA BAY, there needs to be a minimum too or Commisioner Hector's moving your double A team to Vegas.
- Steroids and steroid related crap. I don't know what to do about it, I don't understand the science of what can be tested for and what can't, but something needs to happen. I sure hope for the little bit of integrity that Barry Bonds didn't shoot into his oversized head that this Mitchell investigation shows results that help restore a small amount of honor and respect to this game. In my league, you get caught, you get a year off, no pay, and if you ever want to play pro ball again, you have to tour every elementary/middle school in your team's area explaining to kids the negatives of performance drugs, why you lied/cheated, and how you let your teammates down.
- Showboats. I love emotion. I love passion. I jump off the couch and scream when my team gets the big K or knocks in the run in a tight game, and I love it when my team's guys do the same. When Marmol gets out of a jam and screams, I love it. When Ramirez hits a walk off and the whole team meets him at the plate to celebrate, I love it. When Zambrano gets all heated and emotional, charging himself up for that big pitch, I love it. That said, Manny Ramirez needs a 2x4 to the head after the garbage he pulled last night. You know what you arrogant turd, your team was still down four runs and inching closer to elimination - run the bases you idiot. I sat there wishing, hoping, praying that some sort of Field of Dreams magic allowed an in his prime Don Drysdale to magically appear on the mound for Manny's next AB. I wanted Big D to bruise Manny's pancreas with a fastball from Hell. "It's just Manny being Manny." Screw that, it's Manny being a disrespectful A-Hole and it's got to stop - from all of them. The Sammy Hop, the Bonds glare, the Macarena dance that Valverde does, all of it. Fine and suspension for showing up the other team if the sitution doesn't merit celebration.
- Cold weather. Baseball is not a winter sport. We have expanded this game all over the country. There are 15 teams that play in (at least moderatly) warm climates or domes. (SD, LA x 2, Ari, StL, KC, Cin, Hou, Mil, Atl, Fla, TB, Tor, Min, Sea, Tex) Open the season in those places, stay inside and down south at least until Jack Frost heads off to spring break in the Northern cities. Playing baseball in Chicago in March is the dumbest thing this side of bringing in Dave Veres and Mark Guthrie to stop the bleeding in a playoff game. Commisioner Hector would hire a band of retarded monkeys to make the schedule - they couldn't make less sense than what we have now.
- The Designated Hitter. That's not baseball. I'm sure every American League fan would argue with me with the ever present questions - "Would you rather have the pitcher bat? Who wants to see Sean Marshall hit when you can have Jim Thome?" Me, that's who. That's the game, that's how it works. Baseball involves strategy. It involves playing the odds, it involves thinking, it involves making decisions. Baseball was not inteded for aged muscle bound sluggers, who pile up ungodly statistics, but only play half the game. Baseball players play the field and hit, if you can't do both - I'm sorry, thanks for the memories, but it's time to retire. To appease the players union (who would throw conniption fits that'd make a game 6 Moises Alou look like a comotose sloth), I'd allow the rosters to be expanded to 26 players. One more job, but not a ridiculous role that doesn't fit with the spirit and intentions of the game.
- Interleague Play. I actually like the concept. However, it needs to be tweaked. I do enjoy seeing the Yanks, the BoSox, the DRays, and the Rangers come to Wrigley. I enjoy an excuse to see my boys on the road in a stadium I wouldn't normally see. I enjoy the opportunity to watch players I'd never see otherwise. The issues that I'd fix, though is the stupid regional rivalries. Those need to go. I'm tired of Cubs/Sox, Mets/Yankees, Brewers/Twins. Play your regional rivalries in the same rotation as you would the other teams in their division, six times a year is watering it down and making it meaningless. Year in and year out, the Cubs have to play the Sox (who are usually pretty good) while the Cardinals get six games with the Royals (who have sucked since George Brett hung it up) and the Astros get the Rangers (who haven't had a starting pitcher worth his jock since Nolan Ryan ninja kicked Robin Ventura). Figure out a way to have the East play the East in a balanced way, the West the west, and the central the central. Then rotate it every year. I know it's not terrible for the Cubbies that they have to miss Boston and New York next year, while most of the division gets at least one of them - but, for fans, it stinks. I want to see the Cubs in Fenway. Next year is the last year for Yankee Stadium, now it's official, the last time the Cubbies played there was the '38 World Series, they'll never make it back to Ruth's house to avenge that loss. Even if it means a string of two game series, I want each division to play the same interleague rivals as close to the same number of times each year.
- The Unbalanced Schedule. I admit, conceptually I liked the idea of winning your division by beating the teams in your division, and if the schedule makers do a good job, it makes for some incredible races in September, but I still don't like it. I'd try to anticipate divisional rivals and match them up late in the season, but I'd go back to the balanced schedule. As a fan, I want the opportunity to see all the teams in the league come to my town often. I don't want every other homestand to Pirates, Reds, Astros over and over. I'm tired of seeing the same five teams a zillion times a season. I want more Mets. I want more Nationals. I want more Dodgers. There are great players in the other divisions, great teams, that we don't get to see more than six or seven times a season anymore. Trying to spark the rivalries and making divisional play more important was a good concept, but it doesn't work for me. I want a balanced scheudule that gives me plenty of opportunity to see all the teams in the league. Besides, the balanced schedule usually handicaps one team or another when it comes to wild card races (obviously, this year was a huge exception).
- The Playoffs. I'm loving this right now. Colorado and Cleveland? Hell yeah. They're kinda spoiling some of my arguments about parity (but we'll see how many years the Rox can stay competitive for before we fight that battle), but I love this small market, David kicked Goliath's heinie thing. Of course I wanted the Cubs to win, but the next best thing is rooting for underdogs. Down go the Yankees. See you in the spring Big Papi. Have a nice winter Halos. That said, I have a few complaints. Put the playoffs on free, national TV. Everyone deserves to see the playoffs, this is the national pasttime for Pete's sake. Start the games at a decent time for everyone. No one should be watching baseball at 1:30 in the morning no matter what time zone you live in or where the game is being played - it's ridiculous. Also, where the heck did these extra days off come from. The World Series is in November for the love of God, treat the playoffs like they've always been and skip the extra off days.
- Replay. It's time to get with the program people. Technology is here and there's no reason a baseball game has to be decided on a bad call. If casual fans walk away knowing names of fans and umps, someone messed up. Bartman, Jeffery Maier, Don Denkinger, Bruce Froemming. The Rockies run is incredible, but Matt Holiday didn't touch the plate. On top of that, Bartman reached over the rail, Tony Tarasco would have caught the ball, and Jorge Orta was out - by a lot. I don't want to slow the game down with a zillion replays, I don't even want coaches challenges with litte red flags. All I want is an extra ump, in the press box, with access to the same replay we see on TV. I want an appeal call, similar to asking the 1st/3rd base umps for help on a check swing or when they huddle up to confer on a call. I want a quick 10-20 second ruling on safe or out at 1st and home, fair or foul, homer or not, and fan interference or not. That's it. If an umpire is 100% certain he made the right call - no appeal, the ump on the field has the right away - if he feels that it was too close, up to the replay ump (just like a check swing appeal). I don't want three minutes of a man with his head in a weird padded TV box contraption, I want an extra set of eyes for close plays - only this extra set of eyes happens to get a close look at every play. In most respects, I consider myself a baseball purist, but this is my big exception. I'd rather use technology to get potentially game changing calls right, than have the human factor alter the outcome of a game/series/season.