Bud Selig is set to step down after 22 years as commissioner of Major League Baseball. If you look back at those 22 years, he really didn’t accomplish much to upgrade the game. He expanded the playoffs and instituted instant replay and, outside of making a lot of billionaire owners even richer, that’s about it.
That leaves the new MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, with a pretty big to-do list if he is going to make the game better for the fans. Here are five issues that come to the top of my list.
1.Resolve the DH issue: In 1973, the New York Yankees Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate as the first DH. In National league parks, the pitcher still hit. It was suppose to be a test of which format the fans liked and both leagues would use the winner. Forty-one years later, the American League still uses the DH and the National League still lets the pitcher bat. I happen to like the DH better. Watching the pitcher take three lame swings with bases loaded is not much fun. Others like the strategy of the National League game. I could live with either one, but please make a choice and standardize the game between both leagues.
2. Speed up the game: There are countless ways to speed up the game. Make the batter stay in the box for the entire at bat with no timeouts except for injuries. Don’t give the relief pitcher any additional warmup pitches once he enters the game. Don’t let the pitching coach go to the mound during any inning. Give a pitcher a certain amount of time to throw a pitch or it is called a ball. The list could go on and on but right now, all major league baseball has done is lengthen the game with instant replay.
3. Institute a balanced schedule: As much as the Tampa Bay Rays love the crowds that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox bring to Tropicana Field, it is competitively unfair to have the Rays play a disproportionate number of games against the tough American League East. Right now, the Rays play almost half of their games against AL East teams. A balanced schedule would let teams play each other about an equal number of times, approximately 15 in total, and even out competition. That’s an extremely important factor when the wild card is in play. If that means interleague play goes away, so be it.
4. Revenue splits for away games: Small market teams are always looking for more revenue and new stadiums are rarely the answer. One answer would be to adjust the revenue split for away games. When the Rays go to New York to play the Yankees before 40,000 plus, they get 15% of the gate. That’s ridiculous. In the NFL, the split is 60/40 and I have yet to see an NFL team go under.
5. Oakland Athletics stadium: This one is a little off-track because it involves only two teams, but it is a shining example of how incompetent the Bud Selig era was when it came to solving problems. The A’s have played in a cesspool, literally, of a stadium in Oakland for years. It isn’t even a baseball stadium as the A’s share it with the Oakland Raiders. Finally, an opportunity came for a new stadium in neighboring San Jose. San Jose is an Oakland/San Francisco suburb and home to many technology giants including Cisco. The deal was in place for the stadium. And Cisco would have the stadium’s naming rights. Only problem was that the Giants had marketing rights to San Jose and were not going to give them up for nothing. Bud Selig’s answer was to create a “blue ribbon panel” to study the situation. Eight years later, the panel is still investigating and the A’s are still trying to figure out if their locker room will be filled with sewage on any given night. Thanks a lot, Bud!
The list could go on and we have not even broached the mega issues such as a salary cap, cost of tickets, and realignment of teams. Major League Baseball simply doesn’t want to address controversial issues important to the game as long as owners are raking in millions of dollars in profit each year. It’s about time for a commissioner to start thinking about the fans and the game and not just about the greedy owners.