Sep 20, 2010

The Blog Bat Around: If I Were Commissioner Part 1

This is one topic where I could write a thesis on, and I think I almost did.

This is not the dream job that it once was for me. Of course, in my extreme youth, I wanted to wield the all-powerful hand upon my favorite sport. Then words entered my vocabulary that had not been mentioned before as I read the about the travails and battles of union vs. owners….lockout, strike, missed World Series, replacement players. Well, these problems weren’t hindered by the presence of the current commissioner, so who better to replace him than me? (with all my apparent qualifications)

The On-the Field Side

I’m not sure how much influence the commissioner has in this manner. I do, however, like that “best interests in baseball” clause. How many do you think I can get past the owners without a vote (or even better influence them).

1. Instant Replay
Instant replay in its current form is merely a good start. Anything pertaining to ground rules should be replayable automatically because there are unique rules for each ballpark and each one should be enforced without question.

For me, it’s a matter of getting it right whether the first time, the second time, or whenever. Luckily, in baseball there are way less technicalities and vagaries to specific rules than the NFL (everyone seen the controversy over the Calvin Johnson catch ruling from Week 1?).

The goal is to keep the solution simple. Keep the fair/foul home run rulings, add other fair/foul rulings (reminiscent of the Joe Mauer call from last year’s playoffs), home plate safe/out rulings may be challenged , other base calls may also be challenged. I would like to keep strike/ball calls out of this. Umpires have a pretty good evaluation system, and it’s remarkable how many they get correct.

Teams should get two challenges per game. The crew chief will contact another umpire in the replay booth so that there are two perspectives on the play. A decision then has to be made, decisively, within 90 seconds. The same precedent will apply in the NFL, if there is no conclusive evidence to overturn it, then the original call will stand.

As you can see, I haven’t thought about it too much.

2. Batting Lineups

Contrary to most (probably), I want to keep the personality of the league play and keep the DH in the AL and keep it out of the NL.

However, in the World Series, the rules will be the same throughout the series. This will be pre-determined based on the previous year’s champion.

3. Roster Construction
I abhor the 40 man roster in September. Lately, it creates a parade of relief pitchers and fills the bench with defensive specialists and platoon hitters. This was not the original intent of the bylaw. However, baseball has a history of changing rules that have been abused (witness the elimination of the spitball and the institution of the infield fly rule for examples).

I propose that a 28 man roster should be in effect until April 30. This should allow an extra look at that newcomer or keep a hot bat at the major league level for an extended period of time. The 25 man roster will be in effect May 1-August 31. On September 1, rosters can be expanded up to 30 players for those prospects who deserve a chance to play after their minor league season ends.

4. The All-Star Game and Related Events
The all-star game should not determine home-field advantage of the World Series. There also shouldn’t be any ties. It is an exhibition game of the stars voted by the fans, players, managers, and internet. I would say that they can keep the roster as large as it is now. In addition, the one player per team rule works for me as well. I remember staying up late to watch Von Hayes pinch hit in the all-star game. I wouldn’t want to deprive future generations of that. However, I would say that in the 7th inning of the game, the managers have the discretion to re-insert players to decide the outcome of the game, including pitchers. Musial and Williams played the whole game. Let today’s stars be involved in indelible moments like Williams’ winning HR in the 1941 ASG. Wouldn’t it be much more awesome to see Pujols vs. Hernandez in the 9th inning in addition to the 1st inning? Intriguing individual matchups are what makes the ASG so memorable.

For the other events, I would keep them as is…except with a shorter HR derby.

5. Playoffs
I like that baseball has few teams in the postseason. There are few cases in the wild card era in which deserving teams (>90 wins) have been left behind. But there is a way to add even more excitement. Add a round robin set of games with all three second place teams from all the divisions participating. This is a little crazy but it really gives credit to division winners. You don’t want to finish in 2nd because then you have to play at least four more games in order to crack the final four of the playoffs. In detail (for example): Day 1: East at Central, Day 2: West at Central, Day 3: East at West, Day 4: Central at West, Day 5: Central at East, Day 6: West at East… record advances. Wouldn’t that be a fun week? Other considerations such as travel time and deciding who chooses where to play first still haven’t been worked out.

The other piece of this is divisional alignment. There should not be a 6 team division in a world of 30 teams. Somehow this can be worked out (see part 2 later this week)

6. Scheduling

I’ll say this first. I like interleague. I like the different matchups (yes, even Pirates vs. Royals); I like how when you have a match-up you can either remember history (Cubs vs Tigers 1909 retro day) or make a new history (Rockies vs. Rays). The scheduling of interleague just has to be more equitable for divisional rivals. They already play an unbalanced schedule to emphasize the importance of the divisional alignment. Why are the interleague schedules so different. Yes, some natural rivals must be maintained, especially in the same region. But the rest of the games should be divided exactly the same.

The next point with the new playoff system mentioned above is that the length of the season (in days) will be longer. I agree that the 7th game of the World Series should be no later than October 31st. Therefore, there should be at least one Turn back to the Clock day per half for each team featuring a Saturday twi-night or day-night doubleheader. Also, there should be no off days (except for obvious travel days) in the first two weeks of the season. Why is there an off day after Opening Day for most teams?

Speaking of Opening Day, the traditional Opening Day in Cincinnati should be the kick-off for the season. The international opening day, while nice, comes before this and should be better integrated into the season.

7. Quick hits
Eliminate the intentional walk as a strategic element. You should pitch to everybody. If you walk him on 4 pitches, you walk him. The unintentional intentional walk exists, it’s just more risky, especially against Vlad Guerrero.

Limit catcher visits to the mound to once per inning per pitcher.

Institute a throw clock for pitchers of 30 seconds (is that too much?). The clock could be reset by pitching the ball or throwing to a base. The penalty would be a ball for the batter. Batters would also have to comply with the clock. Their penalty for being out of the box when the pitch is thrown would be a strike. If there are already, 3 balls or 2 strikes, the penalty would carry over to the next batter. It’s a team effort to keep the pace of the game alive. (there will of course be extenuating circumstances to consider)

Deliberate pitches to the head are an automatic ejection for the pitcher. Deliberate pitches below that are a warning the first time for both teams. The next deliberate HBP will be an ejection.

That’s all I have for the on-field baseball aspects. Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow where the things that lawyers and economists are normally more concerned about (I am neither of those things).

World Series day games, bring them back.

Divisional Series day games, do not schedule two at once, maximize exposure.

Anything else you’d like to discuss? Would any of the owners accept these? Also, where can I find the time for all this? The answer lies in a paradox machine, of course. Part 2 will have the non-ballpark centric elements.

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