1. A National Anthem Clock
Since we're putting a clock on everything in baseball now in the interest of making the game shorter, we need to talk about another part of the game that often drags on too long. The National Anthem. Strangely, the United States has a national song that is really only sung at the beginning of sporting events (Is there any other time that you hear it?) about a minor battle in the War of 1812 set to the tune of an English drinking song. And like any drinking song (or karaoke favorite), it can be massively over-sung by people who think entirely too much of their own vocal range. Except that the people singing the Star-Spangled Banner aren't usually loaded.
Therefore, as commissioner, I am imposing the following rules.
- 1) Please be in the microphone box when the public address announcer introduces you.
- 2) You have 90 seconds from the word "Oh." You can do a perfectly good rendition of the song in that amount of time. And yes, since you're probably at home plate, the clock will be running over your shoulder.
- 3) The word "glare" has, at most, two syllables.
- 4) You are not Whitney Houston. Or Enrico Palazzo.
- 5) Failure to comply will result in power being cut to your mic at the 90 second mark.
- 6) The last two words really are "Play Ball!"
- 7) Sorry Toronto.
2. Seven-Inning-Game Day
We've already introduced a replay system to take over for umpires (except when it doesn't), because, we’re told, the most important thing is getting the call right (except that the most important thing, really, should be our entertainment). Apparently that was the last straw for some, and so it has come to this: We are now experimenting with a pitch clock in a game where players spend most of their time adjusting themselves.
Adding more rules should be a worst-case scenario; if you want to shorten the games, shorten the damn games. Let's have a day where hitters call time and pitchers step off or throw to first at their whimsy, and fans utter nary a peep of frustration—because they're watching a seven-inning game. The importance of every pitch rises dramatically in a shortened format, and the pace of play may resume in its natural state. Of course, the real drama comes the following morning, when we'll all find out if the sun still rises, or if our sacrilege has incited a demon apocalypse. Home teams will be passing out canned goods at the gate. —Will Woods
3. Settling the DH Discrepancy
The differential rules systems of the American and National Leagues create massive issues, centered around the designated hitter, and the discrepancy has become more glaring as interleague baseball has become an everyday occurrence. The problem hits a nadir in the World Series, when teams that have been built with different structural parameters are forced to adapt their rosters for games based on home-field advantage. In no other major sport does such a blatant dichotomy exist, in which the identity of the home team alters the roster parameters for a ballgame and the championship teams have earned their way to the big dance while playing under different sets of rules. It is akin to having 12 offensive players on the football field (instead of 11) depending on whether the host happens to play in the NFC or AFC.
With this in mind, my single day as commissioner of MLB would be dedicated to creating an equal playing field between leagues. The DH debate is hotly contested, and though there are logical arguments on both sides of the issue, the game as a whole suffers as long as the blatant dichotomy still exists. I tend to side with abolishing the DH, for various reasons, but I would be more than willing to put personal preference aside in the name of solving the bigger issue, even if that means that the DH becomes a part of the permanent baseball landscape.
As commissioner, it is paramount to find solutions that are agreeable for owners as well as players, and it is easier to sell the idea of a permanent DH to both sides; the players union will appreciate the idea of job creation, and owners would appreciate the likely financial windfall that is theoretically tied to higher scoring. The fans would also win, in the sense that they would no longer have to endure pitchers “hitting,” the copious sac bunts out of the nine-hole, or the intentional free passes that are often handed to eight-spot hitters in order to bring the opposing pitcher to the dish. The strategic beauty of the game might take a hit, but streamlining the rules between the AL and NL would bring benefits that far outweigh the costs. —Doug Thorburn
4. Expand Archived Games on MLB.TV
How many times do you think you’ve heard that re-broadcasting, re-transmitting, or sharing any account of a big league game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited? Well, you’re reading Baseball Prospectus, so upwards of several hundred instances seems a safe bet. If you’re a big enough fan, you might have even tried to dig into the league’s YouTube channel or MLB.TV archives to find footage of old games. If you have, you know what MLB tends to do with the vast, vast majority of that material: a whole lot of nothing.
Major League Baseball owns the rights to every game ever aired on television and bizarrely, outside of a handful of postseason or otherwise famous contests, those broadcasts are unavailable for public consumption. It’s not that it’s difficult to find these games, or kind of expensive to purchase viewing rights to them: you can’t buy the rights even if you wanted to. Several years ago, I tried to peel back the league’s bureaucracy and get viewing rights for a mid-90’s regular season game. After roughly an hour on the phone with several different people, I learned that I’d need to have an explicit reason for requesting the footage, and that I would have to submit my formal order in writing. As a 15-year-old with neither a blog nor a credit card, I was completely out of luck.
If I were the commissioner, I would fix this. The prevalence of old All-Star and postseason games and the dearth of everything else on MLB's archived game channel highlights the previous administration’s flawed fixation with marquee events at the expense of the regular season. The World Series is wonderful, but baseball fans are raised on the daily constant of the 162-game schedule, and the most nostalgic of sports needs to do a better job of giving fans access to their memories. If I were commissioner for the day, I would expand MLB.TV to include footage of game every game ever broadcast on television.
Just don’t ask how much I would charge for it. —Brendan Gawlowski
5. Become a Character in the Show
Rob Manfred stealthily broke into the Super Bowl week news cycle, and all he had to do was put out a dumb idea about regulating where defenders are allowed to stand. It was free, though, and people were talking about baseball.
Who knows if this works for anything substantive, whether having baseball out there for dumb reasons is good. I do know that the NFL turned Roger Goodell into Vince McMahon this season, and any talk of anyone leaving the sport because of decisions the league made under his stewardship either didn't materialize or was overwhelmed by people continuing to come in record numbers.
It's unclear whether Rob Manfred can be a character in the drama that seems to get people interested, but there’s a reason the Alex Rodriguez-Ryan-Dempster game pulled a huge number for ESPN. As much as Baseball Twitter might hate it, most of the country loves a storyline. Without too many candidates to be the leading player in that story, Manfred making himself a character probably can't hurt. Keep that content train rolling. —Zachary Levine
6. Doubleheader Day
It’s been almost a month since Ernie Banks passed, and his effect on the game has been nothing short of extraordinary. His passion for baseball was exemplified both on and off the field. One of his famous catch phrases, “Let’s play two!” was a staple throughout his career and is still talked about today. As commissioner for a day, I would like to invoke a rule that each team is to play a doubleheader in honor of Ernie’s life. In addition, teams would be allowed a 28-man roster, which is double Ernie’s number 14. It would be a great honor to a man who really livened up the game during his playing career. I can’t think of any better way to honor Ernie Banks’ legacy than to have a doubleheader day each year. —Rob Willer
7. Allow Players to Express Themselves
As commissioner for a day, I have but one decree: feel free to express yourself.
It's hardly outlandish to suggest that MLB can do a better job of marketing the game, in particular their stars. It's something that the NFL does particularly well. Talk to the average person in this country, even one who doesn't follow the NFL one bit, and they know who Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are; that's certainly not the case when it comes to the likes of Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Clayton Kershaw. Clearly baseball can learn something from the NFL in that respect, but there's an area where they shouldn't emulate football.
The NFL has made a habit of trying to limit celebrating and taunting, and to an extent, it's understandable. As with everything in life, there is a line that shouldn't be crossed, but in football, it often feels as though there's a cap being put on how players express their joy, their love of the sport at which they excel. Everyone expresses themselves differently, and baseball should embrace those expressions. Fernando Rodney shooting a fake arrow into the air after a big save, Carlos Gomez getting a little puffy-chested after a long home run, these are things that may rub some the wrong way, but, if promoted properly, could also open the game to an untapped audience.
But of course, there's that line, Gomez showing a little flash and flair when thinking he's hit a long ball off Gerritt Cole is fine. Cole expressing his displeasure with Gomez is also acceptable in my view, but that's when Gomez should just smile and walk away. He's won the battle, both physically and mentally, no need to escalate the situation further. That's the line.
These athletes are entertaining us by playing a sport. They should be allowed to articulate the joy that they feel when performing at a high level in unique ways, ways that captivate the audience. —Sahadev Sharma
8. Repeal the Blackout Rule
The blackout rule is stupid, frustrating, and possibly illegal, which is why if I were commissioner for the day I'd eliminate it as soon as I finished arranging my mug and memorabilia on the fancy desk I'm sure exists. There's no reason that baseball can't be available online, always and forever, everywhere. If I'm going to pay an exorbitant amount of money to supposedly watch baseball, then I'd better darn well get the baseball teams I want to watch.
I mean, that's not all I'd do. I'd try to put more money into women's baseball, squirrel as much letterhead into my bag as I could, raise the minor league minimum, and put my feet up on the desk like a big shot, but eliminating blackout rules would ensure my popularity for… well, until people forget that there were blackout rules in the first plate. —Kate Morrison
9. Craig Goldstein's Six-Point Plan
We were probably supposed to pick one thing and provide you with all the reasons it’s a good idea. Or make you laugh, or something. I, unsurprisingly, couldn’t do any of that. Here is my six-point plan for my 24-hour reign as Commissioner.
- Kick out the Wilpons
They’re no different than the McCourt’s in most of the ways that matter. Their “Friends of Bud” halo shouldn’t have sway with anyone but Bud, and they’re actively harming their team as well as the sport. One of the main tenets of ownership should be the ability to afford a team. As for a reason, it’s likely that the Mets are in violation of MLB’s debt rules (as they were in 2011) which call for debt not to exceed 10 times a team’s annual earnings (at that time, nine teams were in violation, including McCourt’s Dodgers). If not, perhaps a discrimination lawsuit piques your interest.
- Reduce the Commissioner's salary to correspond with the MLB minimum
There’s a downside here in that it might make the position less appealing to those who are well suited to run the leagues, as anyone with that skillset can likely make eight figures doing so elsewhere. Then again, perhaps that’s a good thing, as we might want someone who truly loves the game to be in control, and be making decisions about what’s best for it. That’s a romantic notion more than it is a rational one, but it also means that if someone wants to make more money as commissioner, they can just raise the league minimum. Or repeal this rule. Either way.
- Mandate a $35,000-per-year minimum salary for minor leaguers
The figure above is only partly arbitrary. The highest minimum wage in the country is going to be Washington at $9.47 (as of 1/1/2015). Rather than making this a direct political issue, $12-per-hour seems fair given the expertise required even for minor-league ball. This report hazarded a guess that minor leaguers work up to 70-hour weeks, so I went with the high end of that. $12-per-hour at 40 hours, $18-per-hour at 30 hours, and say about eight months for the minor-league season (mid-February to mid-September) put the per-annum value around $35,000. It’s back of the envelope math at best, but the basic idea here is to give minor league players a livable wage, that kind of, barely, allows them to focus full time on their primary job.
- Create a fund that awards scholarships to low-income baseball players in the vein of what Andrew McCutchen wrote about
This is a nascent and at best half-baked idea, but given my opportunity, I’d be remiss not to address it. McCutchen hit on a serious threat to baseball down the line, and it seems the least that MLB could do is make it more accessible to everyone. Perhaps it will never be truly available to all who want to play, but we can try, right? This probably involves working with the NCAA which is never simple, but perhaps it’s as “basic” as expanding the reach of the things MLB is already doing at the elementary, middle, and high school levels?
- Open MLB's books to whatever extent possible
This is pretty self-explanatory. So much of our analysis is based on leaked documents or whatever gets divulged in court cases. We could know so much more about the health of the game if we had more access. I’m not at all clear how much the Commissioner’s Office has access to along these lines, but whatever I had, I’d make available. Then get fired.
- Resign in disgrace
It’s what I do best, after all. —Craig Goldstein