I am not the god of baseball. But you already knew that. I don’t want to be “Commissioner for a day.” What’s the fun in that? I mean, after all, if I’m Commissioner then I have to deal with Michael Weiner and the MLBPA. No, I want to do whatever I please without anything getting in the way.
So, if I had the powers to do whatever I please, what would I do? Here’s a sampling:
Abolishing the DH
Let’s get the easy one out of the way: I’m killing the DH. It’s time for the NL and AL to play by the same rules. Yeah, you’re going to get more bunts than before and guys like Thome and Manny have shorter careers, but it’s time to put a fork in it if for no other reason than to keep AL pitchers from looking like fools in the postseason when they come to the plate.
Expanded Instant Replay
If there are boundary calls for homeruns, let’s go one step more and say that instant replay should be used for foul balls. It’s not going to go as far as some would like, but at the very least the gaffe that Phil Cuzzi made in Game 2 of last year’s ALDS doesn’t happen anymore. When you look at how bad that call was, it’s an easy decision to make. I’m sure Joe Mauer agrees with me.
The Luxury Tax in Reverse
I can’t take credit for this one, but in a lengthy discussion with ESPN’s Jayson Stark, I came to really respect his idea of using a scaled tax at the bottom of the revenue scale, much like the Competitive Balance Tax at the top. In this instance, there’s a minimum payroll threshold to which clubs must adhere. You can opt to go below it, but if so, you get taxed for every dollar below. The change would keep clubs such as the Marlins from pulling in such high levels of revenue sharing, while fielding low player payroll year after year. You could do – just as is the case with the Luxury Tax – increased tax rates for those that go below the threshold in consecutive years.
Teeth in the Luxury Tax
While we’re at it, I’m tired of the Yankees thumbing their nose at the Luxury Tax and busting through the thresholds each and every year. It’s time to make it so painful that they throttle back. If I have my way, the tax rate starts at 50%, escalates to 70% for breaking the threshold a second consecutive time, and 90% for each consecutive time thereafter. I think I just heard Hank Steinbrenner faint… either that or punch a wall.
Loria, the Nuttings, David Glass, and Frank McCourt
Gentlemen, thanks for playing… you’re all fired. Time to get some owners in position that either want to be competitive instead of getting fat on Luxury Tax dollars, or (as is the case with McCourt) realize that coming into ownership leveraged deep and then going up to your gills in debt isn’t good for the best interests of baseball. Go ask Tom Hicks what I think of him.
Giving Mark Cuban a Chance
I’ve written repeatedly that Mark Cuban will never be allowed to be part of the ownership brethren during the Selig tenure and likely with his successor. Since Bud and the owners don’t have any say in this fantasy, I’m letting Cuban buy the Pirates after the Nuttings are removed. I have a stipulation, however… Cuban has to wear a shock collar, and if he gets any closer to the field than lower bowl concourse during a game, he gets hit with high voltage. I figure this will put an end to any notion that Cuban goes all “NBA on the umpires” like he’s done with the refs at Mavericks games. Come to think of it, this in-game entertainment might be more fun than the Sausage Races. I imagine that given time, Cuban couldn’t help himself and would take the volts rather than bite his tongue.
Putting a Limit on Mound Trips
Watching the postseason last year, I think Jorge Posada spent nearly as much time on the pitching mound as some of the relievers. I’m putting a cap on the number of trips a catcher can make to the mound at 4 during a game. The number likely gets you two trips for the starter, and two for the relief staff. That should be plenty.
Balancing the Divisions
As baseball god, I’m giving this one to the people. But no matter how you realign the league, the AL West has to go from 4 to 5 and the NL Central from 6 to 5. Make the league 6 Divisions of 5. I’m sure you’re creative. Let’s hear your comments.
Postseason Games On Sat. and Sun. Have Daytime Starts
FOX will pitch a fit, but I don’t care. This is about growing the game for the next generation. I’m will to compromise and give you weekdays for prime time, but on the weekends, 3pm ET starts allows the youngest of baseball fans to catch 9 innings, and maybe a couple more if extra frames are needed before hitting the rack. You’ll thank me when kids that have become more in-tune with other sports start getting hooked on MLB again.
Using a Clock for Exhibition Games
The game needs to pick up the pace, but I’m not ready for a “pitch clock” for games that count, and that includes Spring Training. But, the SEC added not one, but two play clocks in tournament play this year, and I want to see how big league players would react. It’s a good thing Nomar’s retired.
No More Home Field Advantage with the All-Star Game
If the league wants to allow fans to vote up to 25 times for All-Star selections, then I want no more of the winner of the Mid-Summer Classic having home field advantage in the World Series. Pure and simple, the team with the best regular season record gets it. Figure out another way to incentivize the players. Here’s something novel… The winning team gets a hefty bonus. Make the “purse” a selling point. Start with $1 million and escalate the amount each year to the winners. That should redefine, “This time it counts.”
Adding 2 More Teams Into the Postseason
MLB has the fewest percentage of their clubs advancing to the postseason of any of the other Big-4 sports. I say, add in two more Wild Card teams. To keep owners that have teams missing the playoffs from pitching a fit about lost games, the regular season will be compressed on the calendar by adding a novel suggestion: Bring back more day-night double-headers.
Death to Blackouts
There’s certainly more that could be monkeyed with here. I’m sure I’ve missed something (I never addressed Tim McCarver or Joe Morgan). But of all the things I’d change, I end with the most important of the lot: I’m killing off MLB’s television blackout policy with the exception of the postseason. There are so many regular season games played in MLB that the idea that blackouts will drive fans to the ballpark is bordering on lunacy at this stage. When you throw in the arcane and often times expansive broadcast territories, there’s nothing beneficial for the fans with the blackout policy. And if the league would catch a clue, you grow your product by making it readily available to the masses, not by restricting consumers, which should made dissolving the blackout policy a win for the owners, as well. Oh, and FOX and ESPN… Sorry, your days of national exclusivity deals are history. To baseball fans, I am releasing you from bondage.
Finally… What would you change?
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for freelance and looks forward to your comments.