The All-Star break is as good a time as any to list my suggestions on changing major league baseball.
I prefer the old-style All Star games in which the starters got to play most, if not all, of the game. Ted Williams won a game in 1941 with a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth. Fourteen years later Stan Musial won a game with a twelfth-inning home run. Pitchers would routinely go three innings unless lifted for pinch hitters. Sometimes pitchers would even bat. If the game went into extra innings, plenty of pitchers would be available.
Today, managers cope with contradictory tasks. There’s pressure to win because the representative of the league winning the game gets home field advantage in the World Series; yet, at the same time, managers are expected to play everyone on their teams in nine innings.
I would do away both with the rule and the practice of letting anyone into the game, including guys filling the roster for being the only representative of their teams.
Let the game be what other all-star games are—exhibitions.
If MLB really wants to spike interest in all-star games, it could add a second game, this one featuring teams representing North America and the World. It would be interesting to see how the best Australian, Latin American and Asian players would compete against the best Canadians and Americans. A little more than 50 years ago, there used to be two All-Star games, and MLB survived. Now that there are more teams, cities would not have to wait several decades between hosting all-star games. You could schedule the games back to back in American and National League cities relatively close like, say, Cleveland and Cincinnatti or Kansas City and St. Louis.
Adding another all-star game would be the first of nine changes I’d make.
Second, I’d do something about the designated hitter. Either abolish it or let both leagues use it. Now that interleague games will take place throughout the regular season starting next year, MLB should let the fans decide one way or the other the way the fans decide who plays in the all-star games. I’d phase out or phase in the DHs within, say, five or seven years to give time for either good-hitting NL pitchers and DHs to finish their careers.
Third, I would take seriously the quip by a sportswriter who commented that now that Magic Johnson is a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, maybe MLB should adopt something like the 24-second clock in basketball. Actually, last I looked, the National Baseball Congress World Series requires pitchers to deliver pitches within 20 seconds or so to speed up games.
It’s ironic that in the old days when life was slower-paced, nine-inning games could take place within an hour and rarely over two hours while in the fast-paced 21st century, games sometimes take over four hours to play nine innings.
Football teams are allowed only six times out a game. I’d give baseball teams nine of them, excluding pitching changes. Managers would be allowed three umpire challenges a game; failed challenges would count as times out.
Each game would have its own instant-reply umpire stationed in front of video equipment. No need for an ump to walk to the video equipment to second-guess his own call; there’s something of a conflict-of-interest in that, anyway. An instant reply decision should be made within 3 minutes or the allotted time for commercial breaks.
I’d let umps ask for instant reply whenever they want.
Fourth, I’d phase in salary caps. As in pro football, all teams would have about the same amount of money to pay players. Teams like the Royals, Pirates, Astros, Blue Jays and Twins might not have to wait 20 years or more to get into the World Series.
Fifth, I’d do away with the one-game-winner-take-all wild card game to start next year. Too much riding on just one game. A three-game series would be better.
Sixth, I’d make the rest of the playoffs seven-game series. The quarter-final seven-game series would be without travel dates—up to seven games in seven-days. Teams with the best records would probably be the teams with the best five-man rotations and would enjoy advantages over teams with more spotty rotations. That would be a good thing because the best teams would be more likely to advance.
Seventh, I’d re-align major league baseball geographically. All five California teams would form one division, the Mets would play the Yankees more and so would the Cubs and White Sox, Reds and Indians, Royals and Cardinals, Brewers and Twins, Marlins and Rays, Giants and A’s, Dodgers and Angels, Mets and Yankees, Nationals and Orioles, Cubs, and White Sox. Teams would spend less on travel and save energy while players would be spared far fewer trans-continental flights and have more time to sleep.
Here’s how the teams would re-align:
1. Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals
2. Braves, Marlins, Rays, Astros, Rangers
3. Phillies, Pirates, Indians, Reds, Blue Jays
4. Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Brewers
5. Royals, Cardinals, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Mariners
6. Giants, A’s, Dodgers, Angels, Padres.
Eighth, I’d expand home stands and away trips to two weeks instead of one. That would let players have more time with their families and less time traveling to road games. East coast teams could spend two weeks on the West Coast and vice versa.
Ninth, I’d balance schedules more. Each team would play other teams in its division 13 times for a total of 52 games, each team in its neighboring division 6 times for a total of 30 games, and each team in the remaining 4 divisions 4 times for a total of 80 games.