Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bud Humbug

Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post writes that Commissioner Bud Selig has appointed a 14 man committee to "analyze ways to improve baseball." Mr. Boswell writes, "After the various embarrassments of this year's postseason, piled on top of a recession-plagued year with sinking attendance, MLB has decided to get serious about correcting its problems, many of which have festered for years. From excessively long games to bad umpiring to World Series games in November to the intractable DH rule, Selig says, 'There will be no sacred cows.' " You can read the entire article here.

The committee will consist of managers Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia, Jim Leyland, and Tony LaRussa and executives and owners from Philadelphia, Toronto, Atlanta, St. Louis and Baltimore. Also, Frank Robinson. Mr. Boswell then lists 10 ideas for fixing the game, including more instant replay, a proposal to make mid-inning relief pitchers pitch to at least two batters, other proposals to speed up the game by a time-saving 15 or 20 minutes (Mr. Boswell apparently thinks this 15 or 20 minutes is "the elephant in the room," not scheduling games in November and not awarding the World Series home team advantage to the winner of the All-Star team. Mr. Boswell is very enthusiastic about this committee, comparing it to a "holiday gift."

Forgive me if I don't share Mr. Boswell's enthusiasm. Bud Selig has never done anything for baseball that does not involve getting more money from the public and stuffing it into billionaires' pockets. Starting games in November that run until 1 am on school nights on the east coast? As long as tv wants it, that is not going to change, unless tv decides that they want them to START at 1 am. Tony LaRussa on a committee to decide whether to make relief pitchers pitch to at least two batters? Has Mr. Boswell ever seen Mr. LaRussa manage a game? I could see how they could collectively decide how to make life less comfortable for the umpires, but you know what? I really could care less. I get burned as anyone when a call doesn't go the Giants way, but hey, we could make it like football and basically have the game be run by video (see stories about the Dallas Cowboy stadium on How boring. Speed up the game by 15 minutes? First of all, no one, NO ONE would then think that baseball would become lively if they think it is boring now. Second, how much do you want to bet that that 15 minutes would not be filled up with trying to sell you more crap. That is what the problem with the time in baseball is - the fact that playoff games take 6 hours because 3 and a half hours of commercials are crammed in.

Are they discussing revenue sharing and how they should set a minimum salary level if they want competitiveness? I think it is obvious that some teams make more money off of revenue sharing than they pay out in salaries, never mind ticket sales and tv revenues. How do the fans of these teams feel? Are there any fans on the committee? No? How unsprising. Are they going to address the DH? No, they are going to deal with crap that is marginal and then trumpet their "findings" while ignoring the stuff they should fix.

So, over your Irish coffees, what would you change about baseball games? What do you think should be changed that actually could be (in other words, a shorter season is a non-starter)? Happy Holidays.


M.C. O'Connor said...

No, they are going to deal with crap that is marginal and then trumpet their "findings" while ignoring the stuff they should fix.

(Sounds like the Giants front office.)

1. Games are too long. Enforce the rules--don't let batters dawdle between pitches. Limit the number of conferences. Call strikes instead of "time out" and call balls after too many step-offs by pitchers.

2. Pitching changes are fine--have as many as you want.

3. Have the same rules. DH for everybody or not-DH for everybody.

4. Use replay, but limit the applications and decide IMMEDIATELY whether to over-rule the field ump or not. If you can't tell, then let the call stand. Require umps to conference on close calls.

5. Shorten the season, and go 7 on all three series. Travel days only, no off days in the post-season. Best record = home field advantage. Day games on weekends, night games during the week.

6. Eliminate the draft. Make all players free agents from the start.

7. Force teams to have a minimum floor salary. Spread revenue around for small-markets but require them to spend it on players.

8. Use pitch f/x to evaluate umpires and get rid of lousy ones.

9. Spend money on science, nutrition, fitness, biomechanics, trauma and rehab, PEDs, etc. etc. Learn. Publish the findings. Help athletes play longer, stay healthier, and be healthy in retirement. This benefits all people.

10. Force the owners to use private money to build ballparks. Cities can help with land and infrastructure, but taxpayers shouldn't fund luxury boxes and corporate play space (er, I mean ballparks).

Bob said...

Great blogging, friends. The passion stays alive over the hot stove as the winter solstice nears.
I have nothing in particular to add.
Maybe we should suspend health care talks and the Copenhagen conference and instead address the weighty issues you are discussing.

Zo said...

Jolly Christmas humor on 5-7, 9 and 10. Ho Ho Ho! I'm glad to see your fun loving sense of humor is intact.

Just don't hold your breath.

JC Parsons said...

How does eliminating the draft help? Won't the rich just get richer? Does any other major sport (soccer doesn't count) operate that way?
No DH.
Balanced schedule, no interleague play.
Baseball is fine the way it is.

Zo said...

As usual, Jon sees right through the crap. Of course no one is going to get rid of the draft. If everyone were a free agent, it would cost owners more, so it is a no go. I think interleague play has actually been a big money maker in the cities (or regions like the Bay Area) where there are two teams. Then again - Giants vs. Kansas City? Snoozeville. Jon Miller said it well once, "If playing the A's is so damn important, why not just play them six times a year and the hell with the rest of it."

M.C. O'Connor said...

I think total free agency would actually lower costs because the pool of players would be larger (for each club to pursue). You could regulate the number of "affiliated" farm clubs, requiring every team to have the same stable of Rookie, A-/+, AA, AAA, etc. with a cap on roster sizes so richer teams couldn't corner the market. The international players would have to be scouted and signed just like now, but there'd be less incentive to develop the big acadamies like they have in the DR because teams wouldn't "own" players or the rights to sign them. The MLB could have international "combines" or tryouts which would give all clubs equal access. Right now the Yankees can spend more on player development and salaries than anyone else, that won't change. But the players would have more choices, and there freedom to move around and not be "blocked" in their upward movement to the big leagues. They'd probably sign shorter-term minor league commitments so they could jump at any ML-opening. I think that might help competitive balance. If the MLB anti-trust exemption went away, then you'd see some radical changes, but that's just a fantasy.

Baseball is the best game, and always will be, but there needs to be changes to keep up with the times. The season is too long, and the World Series is played in cold weather unsuited to the game. Some use of replay for things like HRs and foul balls is inevitable, and doesn't have to be bad (think of tennis, for example, with line judges), in fact, could help correct egregious calls. The games are too slow, and that isn't because it is a slow game. It is because the umps don't move it along. They should, and TV will have to follow suit, esp. if a strong commissioner (another fantasy) tells them to. MLB should tell TV when the games are--no the other way around.

Try five 6-team divsions, fully integrated (no leagues), where the 5 winners and three wildcards make your playoffs. The teams play 16 games (home and away, 2 sets, 4 games each) vs. the division, that's 80 games. The remaining 20 teams you play one 3-game series, home alternate years, and away alternate years. That's 60 games for a total of 140, leaving 2 weeks for the first two playoff rounds. That way the schedule is balanced, divsion games matter the most, and every team gets to go to every park in two years and every fan gets to see every team in two years. The season can start a little later in April and end in the first two weeks of October.

Here's the divisons: SF, OAK, LAA, LAD, SD, SEA in the west. ATL, FLA, TB, BAL, HOU, TEX in the south. NYY, NYM, BOS, TOR, PHI, WAS in the east. STL, KC, CHC, CHW, COL, AZ in one central and PIT, CIN, MIN, DET, CLE, MIL in the other (or some close approximation of that).

Hey, you asked.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Whoops, bad math. There would be 24 other teams x 3 games or 72 games. 80 + 72 is 152, which is even better than 140, and still allows for Series to get done in Oct.

JC Parsons said...

MOC! You are such a commie!!! That "draft" plan of your's is pure SOCIALISM. You should call it "Obamaball".
The only reason I like the draft is because THAT IS ALL WE DO RIGHT LATELY!!!

JC Parsons said...

Boy, did the Nationals get hosed in your new allignment or what?

M.C. O'Connor said...

I was thinking if MLB added 2 new teams (Las Vegas and ??) then you could have 8 divsions of 4 teams each. That way everyone would have a 1-in-4 chance of making the playoffs.

Zo said...

Las Vegas is not big enough to support a MLB team by a long shot. Also, Baltimore is north of Washington.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Well, yeah, but I recall something about LV being the fastest growing city in the US. Soon--assuming MLB can handle the proximity to (gasp) gambling facilities.

And I'll happily switch BAL and WAS in my scheme.