Here's my agenda for Rob Manfred, the next baseball commissioner.
First of all: Major League Baseball does a lot of stuff really well, and Bud Selig, for all his faults, deserves some credit. Labor peace is a huge deal. The league's digital innovation is also huge. For example, MLB's radio package is the greatest thing for baseball fans ever and the MLB Network is shockingly good. Extorting cities to pay for fancy ballparks may have been ugly and unjustified, but it was great for everyone involved in baseball, from the fans and players to management. So there is plenty of good stuff to keep in place.
How would I like to see the next commissioner build on that?
- Baseball really has a problem with strikeouts. It isn't clear how to engineer a change, but the long-term and accelerating trend toward fewer balls in play is making the game worse, at least for fans. Baseball needs to be very careful but, sooner or later, something is going to have to be done.
- I don't know if it's even possible, but I'd love to find some way to return pitcher usage, and subsequently, roster usage to the way it was a decade or two ago. By that, I mean making 12-man pitching staffs or, even better, 11-man pitching staffs the norm. A game with more pinch-hitters, pinch-runners, defensive replacements and platoons is a better game.
- Selig did everything he could to destroy the differences between the American and National leagues. At the business level, that may have made sense, but for fans it stinks. I'd really like to see the changes rolled back. Let the leagues return to using separate balls, umpires, league presidents and discipline systems, and let them experiment with implementing different rules. Today, that would also mean separate replay rules. And with it, the new commissioner should radically reduce interleague play (I'd get rid of it, but I can't ask MLB to leave money on the table, and I assume the rivalry games help). Oh, and no more league-hopping teams, please.
- Going along with that thought, it's time for another round of expansion. Baseball should add two more teams -- the last two teams. Adding one team per league would end the awful practice of constant interleague games. If it were up to me, I'd put one in the New York area ... but at any rate it's been almost 20 years since the last expansion and it's time to finish what they began when the modern expansion era began back in 1961.
- And, please, end the war on players who happened to be playing in the 1990s. I'm fine with banning whatever they want to and punishing players who break the rules. But while media outlets may have been the greatest offenders, MLB has been just awful about selectively stigmatizing some players. We know that almost every player since the 1950s used things that are banned today. It's ridiculous for Major League Baseball to celebrate some players and shun others.
OK, I don't really expect any of these things to happen. But that's what I'd like the new commissioner to work on.
What do you have?
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Jonathan Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org