5 July 2003

Changes I'd Implement If I was Major League Baseball Commissioner

And if I actually had supreme power to institute these items even in the face of potential owner revolt.
  1. Expand the field of playoff qualifiers to 16, 8 in each league. Deep down inside, I'm a baseball purist and would actually prefer the old setup where teams played in an 8 team league (or division) and only the league winner advanced on to post-season play. But I'm a pragmatist too, and accept that Americans love playoff elimination contests and that regular season games grow increasingly ho-hum with the sporting audience. Too many teams exit out playoff contention way too early, transforming Indian summer and fall game nights into meaningless slumberfests. The recent wildcard setup has been ridiculously ballyhooed, considering that one spot is fought over by just a few contenders. Additional playoff teams would grant smaller market teams a greater chance of making it to the big dance along side the financially brobdingnagian squads like the Yankees. To answer criticism that I'd be killing the playoff exclusiveness that is emblematic of baseball over sports like hockey and basketball, see next proposal.

  2. All playoff series should be best of nine instead of best of seven. There is historical precedence for this - the first world series between the Americans and the Pirates in 1903 was a best of nine series. Baseball would be still enjoy a special hallmark, a distinction for having the most grinding playoff slate. How on earth are all these games going to fit into a summer's schedule? Read on.

  3. Begin the post-season playoffs in September. Complete the regular season at the end of August. With the other game enhancement items (best of nine, increased playoff field), it will be necessary to slide the regular season back a few weeks. Still, with a maximum of 36 post-season games, in the rare case that a world series entrant will have endured a game #9 throughout, a champion could will be crowned by mid October, in stark contrast to the current playoff structure where world series games are dragging into November.

  4. Eliminate the designated hitter rule. It's just not baseball. Fans can debate whether or not it adds to managerial strategy, but I don't care either way. If you don't field a position, you shouldn't occupy a batting lineup slot. Let pitchers bat and face off against the opposing hurler and permit the possibility of payback for any brushback pitches he's thrown while on the mound. Also, I don't believe it's required anymore as a tool to boost offense, as it was originally intended. Newer ballparks with shorter fences and less foulground area have more than offset the additional runs the designated hitter presently provides.

  5. Schedule more doubleheaders. Nothing beats summertime enterainment than a twi-night doubleheader or a weekend day doubleheader. Two games for the price of one and the net addition of more baseball played in a shorter duration. Get those bench players some more playing time!

  6. Shorten the season to 154 games. With the other proposed recommendations (i.e., doubleheaders, expanded playoffs), sacrificing a few games off the schedule may be needed. But it would have the added benefit of adding to the luster of new season records.

  7. Enforce a consistent strike zone, from the knees to the arm pit. No special privileges for established veteran pitchers or preference for low strikes or high strikes. Evaluate the umpires on their compliance and dismiss those that won't call the game as the rulebook states.

  8. Dump the superstation "grandfather" clause for national broadcasts. Or compel those channels (WOR, WTBS) to carry broadcasts from the other 28 MLB teams. It's absurd that a Cubs fan or Braves fan can tune in to their team's games for the price of basic cable whilst all other fans must pay for a satellite subscription. It's wrong and further strengthens a feudalistic system of haves and have-nots.

  9. Permit an intentional walk to be auto-intentional. That is, don't force the pitcher to toss 4 pitches - if the defensive team wishes to intentionally walk a batter, then give him first base without going through the rigaramole of 4 pitches.

  10. Ban game play domed stadiums and forbid the use of artifical surfaces. Baseball is meant to be played outdoors on grass. Anything else is an abomination. Yes, it gets sickeningly hot in southern cities and rain is a big factor in others, but there's doubleheaders, sprinkler mist systems and night games to address those issues.

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