What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Back in his first stint at the World Wide Bottom Feeder, back in the days when Bud Selig had yet to seize complete control of baseball, Keith Olbermann used to refer to him as “Acting Commissioner for Life.” As much as Olbermann is the definition of “smarmy ass-hat,” he was absolutely right. But now that Selig’s two-decade-plus reign of terror is coming to a close, Major League Baseball finds itself ready to select it’s new leader.
There’s three leading candidates for the job.
1) MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred
Manfred is considered to be the favorite, which is no surprise considering he’s spent the majority of the last two decades as Selig’s lickspittle.
2) MLB Executive Vice President for Business Tim Brosnan
Known as a savvy negotiator, Brosnan is another lawyer who has been the force behind most of what has made baseball a big-money venture over the past ten years.
3) Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner
Werner made his dough as a television executive, and has been part of two ownership groups; first with the San Diego Padres and now with the Red Sox.
While these guys all have their pluses and minuses, they have one thing in common: they represent “more of the same.” Manfred is a Harvard-educated lawyer who likely already has a to-do list form Selig. Brosnan’s major claim to fame is that he figured out television can be lucrative. As far as Werner is concerned, didn’t Selig already teach us what happens when you let an owner become commissioner?
So, if you think that Bud Selig was good for baseball, and you want to see more of it, then you have no problem with any of the three candidates I’ve mentioned. If you don’t really care about seeing another decade of baseball ruled by Selig’s Taliban, then there is no point in your reading any further. But if you are a baseball fan who is tired of watching baseball being treated as a second class citizen in the country which invented it, then I ask you to consider the following proposition, and if you agree with it, I would ask you to contact Major League Baseball and demand as a fan that I be installed as Commissioner.
Here’s the agenda for my term as Commissioner.
The Mission: To Restore Baseball as “America’s Pasttime.”
That mission statement is not only possible, it’s actually quite achievable by enacting the following points. All of the actions I will list below are all bout three simply tenets: improving the quality of the game, increasing the global appeal of the game, and insuring peace between labor and ownership.
1) The “De-Seligization” of the All-Star Game
First and foremost, the “Mid-summer Classic” must go back to what it was intended to be; an exhibition for the sake of the fans. Using it to determine who gets home field advantage for the World Series is so ridiculously short-sided; the implementation of that idea was simply Selig’s reaction to calling this game a tie back in 2002. What it ignores is that baseball needs to find ways to re-claim the attention of the sports media in September, and the more games that matter one can create after Labor Day can only help. In other words, home field for the World Series will go to the team with the best regular-season record.
2) A New Approach To Television
Baseball has been missing it’s opportunities with television for decades. The model the NFL uses has plumbed that league with hot and cold running money; the key has been the NFL has a national presence which allows it to control the revenue television generates. The main challenges baseball faces in forming a similar model are twofold:
The second problem is actually the easiest to fix. The key is to revamp the structure of broadcast packages at the time the come due to re-negotiation; the key being a partnership between major league baseball and the regional cable networks. The structure will be that all games of a team will be carried in their home markets by the regional cable outlet, while a “National Game of the Day” package will be offered to over-the-air stations across North America.
The target for the broadcast station concept would be MeTV. If you aren’t familiar, MeTV is a network of over-the-air stations which was born of the digital broadcasting age. The idea was that local stations figured out they could operate multiple stations of one transmitter, they could fill up a channel with cheap programming in order to sell more advertising. MeTV simply networked this concept; it has outlets in most major markets. By offering a reasonably-priced baseball package to MeTV, it could fill up three hours a night with something that will draw more advertising dollars that forty-year old re-runs of “Adam-12.”
To keep the big cable networks happy, the plan would be to allow them to keep their “prime-cut” national games, the weekly Sunday Night Red Sox-Yankees festival can stay the parlance of ESPN, and Fox Sports One can keep the Saturday afternoon regional coverage until those contracts are up; then both are open to the highest bidder. I have no intention of giving up the revenue the big cable outlets pay to broadcast baseball. Rather, the idea is simply to increase baseball’s television exposure by letting MeTV fill up the nights “big cable” doesn’t want.
The regional cable outlets will play a role in this partnership. Their feeds for all home-market coverage will be used to power the MeTV package just like they are used to provide the content for the subscription-based League Pass. These networks would provide one game per day on a rotating basis so that all teams get an equal amount of exposure to the MeTV package. A second network will provide another game to be part of the MeTV package in the first network’s home market so nobody ends up giving away the revenue from home games. The networks providing the MeTV package programming will get a cut of the ad revenue from all MeTV games which reach viewer via cable/satellite; MeTV would retain all revenue from over-the-air broadcasts.
This would work because the pricing for the MeTV package would be deliberately cheap as to increase the number of games available in each household. MeTV also would not incur any new costs because they wouldn’t have to provide any programming resources, like announcers of camera crews. It simply serves as a vehicle to widen the audience.
It is also time for baseball to be the first major sport to embrace the entire spectrum of internet-based subscription services available on outlets like NetFlix, Hulu Plus, and even the newer gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation; the latter would open the door to some interesting possibilities for interactive gaming and/or fantasy applications.
3) Fix Instant Replay
I tried to warn you that instant replay in baseball was a bad idea, and I was right. There’;s nothing like watching four umpires huddles around a head set waiting for a somebody to make a call from a remote location. The irony is that the same people who bitch about how long baseball games are happen to be the same crowd who loves instant replay. That means two things: I know the replay genie is out of the bottle, and it isn’t going back in. In other words, we have to find the best way to use replay. This won’t happen overnight.
4) Fire Bad Umpires
This was a central theme in my argument against replay; it doesn’t solve the bad umpire problem.
Here’s the big problem…Joe West with a replay screen is still Joe West. Country singin’, call-blowin’, manager-tossin’, Joe Fucking West. Major League Baseball is full of guys who have no business calling anything let alone a ball game, but the umpires are unionized so there no such thing as holding them accountable or hitting the eject button on such incompetents as Country Joe, C.B. Bucknor, Bob Davidson, or Angel “I gotta toss the guy who sang Take Me Out To The Ball Game” Hernandez.
Now, if we could only get Country Joe to be the singer Hernandez tosses.
The argument is the same then as now, except that as Commissioner, I would have the power to tell the Umpires Union that either they find a way to let me review the performance of umpires and fire the ones who don’t measure up, or I dispense with the union and replace them competent, non-union labor.
5) The National League Adopts the Designated Hitter
There’s two major reasons to do this. First of all, adding a DH would be an “olive branch” to the Player’s Union. I’m going to need that because I’m likely going to end up in a war with the Umpires Union, and I can’t have problems with both. Secondly, I’m going to need both leagues to have uniform rules but there’s more on that coming in a bit.
6) Expand Rosters to 30 Players
This is another straight-forward concession to the Players Union, however in return for this expansion, I want the major-league minimum income dropped to $250,000 per year from its current $400,000. This is the first step in an attempt to control salaries, which under current configurations is going to be a long process that will have to start from the bottom and work up.
7) Adding Another Designated Hitter
To be honest, I used to be an ardent anti-DH guy, but this is another example of the genie being out of the bottle. If the argument is nobody wants to see weak-hitting pitchers flailing at pitches, then why not have the ability to replace another anemic bat. Every team has a catcher or a shortstop who is almost as equally inept at the plate, so why not have a DH for them as well? If people are telling me they want more scoring in baseball, then why not give it to them. Selig tried to do that by ignoring the steroid issue, and look where that got us.
8 ) Regionally-Based Reorganization
Remember the argument that was used when we got Inter-league Play? By giving “regional rivalries” a chance, we could increase the interest in baseball? Well, why not take that to the next level? Instead making Yankees vs. Mets a six-game sideshow in the middle of the season, why not have the possibility of those two team meeting in the final series of the season with a trip to the play-offs on the line. ESPN could never ignore a Yankees-Mets play-off race like they do almost any other.
The only obstacle to this is the difference is rules in leagues, but if that is eliminated as per point #5, there’s no good reason not to do this. Not to mention, this model would fall right in line with the new approach to television based on regional cable outlets. Not to mention, an idea similar to this was why the owners ousted Fay Vincent and installed Selig in the first place. so you know it has to be a good idea.
The new arrangement would have five divisions of six teams each.
9) New Regular Season and Play-off Format
Obviously, such a re-alignment would require a change in both the regular season and the post-season. While the purists may be horrified with this, the bottom line is the season is too long. This is one of the main reasons how the NFL took the month of September away from baseball. This is why we need to shorten the season as port of a greater plan to create more baseball games that matter. That’s one reason why I’m moving to a 142-game schedule that would break down as follows:
Obviously, the owner’s aren’t going to like a reduced schedule at first. Neither are the television people. But this is in order to accomplish some important changes, which will have some big benefits down the road. The following bullet points are just a few examples.
I’m going to do enough things that will have the “purists” spewing bile, I need to do some things to appease them as well. Let’s be honest, Selig and the rest of the Taliban devalued Opening Day by spreading it across the globe, and moving it into March.
I already alluded to this in the previous point; it just makes sense to have the Opening Day for our “national past-time” on North American soil. This doesn’t mean I am against expanding the global exposure of baseball; in fact as you will see later, I am all about expanding that exposure. But Opening Day needs to be restored to the virtual national holiday it once was.
Apologies in advance to places like Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, but having an Opening Day in 38-degree weather and snow flurries doesn’t do anybody any favors. If you really insist on letting teams alternate having home openers on Opening Day, then there’s two alternatives: moving Opening day back to mid-April, or teams in cold-weather cities can build a roof.
Again, this is all about weather. By continuing to push potential Games Six and Seven into November, we are just increasing the chances we have to move a World Series because of a snow storm. Just think what would have happened in 1991 if Minnesota hadn’t had the Metrodome.
There’s two reasons to do this. Baseball needs to have more day games in order to be more “family-friendly,” and double headers only increase the open space in the regular season. This is necessary for the aforementioned moves for Opening Day and the end of the World Series, but also for the next point.
The growth potential in any major sport is in the global arena, and if you hadn’t noticed, MLB rosters themselves are getting a more foreign flair every day. It’s time to embrace that with more than just a few token games here and there, or the usual off-season tour of Japan with a team of stars. With the increased amount of open space before, during, and after the schedule, there’s going to be all sorts of opportunities to promote exhibition games between teams from various countries.
The first thing that has to happen is to make a top priority out of developing the World Baseball Classic into a major event. This will help grow baseball in the overseas markets. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to partner with the Little League people; they obviously understand what it takes to build an iconic global baseball tournament.
It’s also time to take a page from the world soccer people…there needs to be more interaction between the American baseball at all levels and baseball in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The level of interaction would depend on the level of development. For example, Europe doesn’t have professional clubs ready to play American teams in exhibition play, but Asia and Latin America a full of them. Imagine the television audience (and concomitantly the ad revenues) that could be drawn in Asia for a series between the Japanese champions and our World Series winner. The possibilities are endless here, and they must be explored.
The play-offs would consist of three rounds, each being decided by a seven-game series. The teams eligible for the first round of the playoff would be the five division winners, then the teams with next three best overall records. this cuts the number of play-off teams, but increases the number of post-season games.
More post-season games means more revenue, and a tournament formatted in this fashion would feature 49 potential games; 28 in the first round, 14 in the second round, and a 7 game World Series. This is opposed to the current format which features only 43 potential games.
The post-season tournament would also be offered at low prices to international carriers in order to grow the potential audience. That, combined with the expansion of involvement with international baseball should guarantee major growth for baseball on a global level.
Some people will recoil in horror at some of these suggestions, and some will embrace them. Frankly, I expect the average reaction to be a combination of the two. Some of these points are negotiable, such as the Designated Hitter. some of these points are not, such as the revamping of the regular and post-season and the commitment to expanding international baseball. In any event, the entire purpose of my proposed tenure as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball would be base on the three tenets I mentioned earlier: improving the quality of the game, increasing the global appeal of the game, and insuring peace between labor and ownership.
Major League Baseball will be making it’s decision on the new Commissioner on Thursday, and if you don’t let your voice be heard, you can expect more of the same that Bud and the Baseball Taliban brought you.
The bottom line is that somebody needs to step up and start taking Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ mantra of “the best interests of the game” to heart by understanding that means what is good for baseball, not just six or seven major league owners.