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Dear Mr. New Baseball Commissioner

manfred ballPitchers and catchers report in a few weeks and Rob Manfred has taken over as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Bud Selig’s departure has been a long time coming, though he will still get a $6 Million annual salary as Comissioner Emeritus. Good work if you can find it.

Manfred is a long time MLB exec and I suspect, unlike his predecessor, knows how to use email and is more contemporary in thought and action. But he has many challenges ahead. While he’s not asked me for my advice, I have several thoughts for him to make a great game better. I shared most of these in a 2013 Struming, and alas Selig didn’t bite on these. Perhaps Manfred will.

Dear Mr. Commissioner:

I love Major League Baseball. And while I am an avid sports fan in general, Major League Baseball has always been my favorite. I write a weekly blog called Strumings and I often write about baseball though largely about my beloved Yankees. However, these thoughts are not based on my love of the Yankees.

One of the many great qualities about baseball is its traditions, many of which should always remain. But in order to make a great game even greater, things also need to change. Here are 5 brilliant ideas (I proclaim humbly) that will make baseball an even better game.

1. DH in both leagues

Imagine the AFC playing with the 2 point conversion, but not the NFC. How about 3 pointers for Western Conference in the NBA but none for the Eastern Conference? That’s what’s been happening in baseball since the 70s, and I don’t get it. There are purists who want the pitchers to hit—I respect their point of view. In fact deep down I agree. Others say that most pitchers are automatic outs and that makes the game boring. Here’s where I stand—I am a realist and I know that the Major League Baseball Players Union will not allow the DH to die since there are a handful of players whose sole value (and talent) is hitting. The elimination of the DH would push them out of baseball. So whether you like the DH or not, it is a reality. Therefore, let’s bring some unity to the rules and make the NL and AL rules the same and have the DH in both leagues.

2. Expand to 32 teams and change the playoff format

Yes I know there are some weak franchises of the 30 teams now, some of which are struggling to survive. Solving the overarching problems of baseball will help them to some degree. Many of the problems weaker franchises face are self-inflicted–Bad stadium locations, owners which suck the enthusiasm out of the market, and poor performance are among the reasons. These need to be solved individually. But from a macro perspective adding 2 more franchises bringing the total to 32 would change the structure of the leagues in several ways. I would suggest that MLB adopt the NFL model of 8 divisions–4 in the AL and 4 in the NL. Easy peasy. Here’s how the playoffs would work:

Division Winners make the playoffs, along with 2 Wild Cards in each league. That’s 12 teams in total. Actually 2 more teams than the current 10. Those in the Commissioner’s Office who want meaningful games for more teams later in the season ought to like this idea.

Then give a first round bye to the top 2 NL division winners and top 2 AL division winners (a major incentive to play hard until the end of September even if they’ve clinched their division early). Then make the first round a 3 game series (all 3 games at the parks of the remaining Division winners to reward them), and then move the final 8 teams into the traditional Division series, League Championship Series and World Series. 5 game series for Division Series and only a 5 game Championship Series, then 7 games for World Series. This ends the season at roughly the same time, but allows for an extra round, rather than the one-game wild card which I hate.

3. Cut WAY Back on Interleague Play

4 games a year per team max. That’s it. (I’d prefer it be eliminated entirely) But playing just 4 interleague games is enough to have a small taste. It truly stinks to have interleague play all throughout the year, but the current 15-team leagues forces it. Interleague play diminishes the World Series and the All-Star Game (by the way having the All Star Game “count” is a joke—it’s an exhibition). The solution for who gets 4 World Series games is simple– the team with the best record hosts 4 games.

4. Make Penalties for PED use harsher

The penalties need to be much harsher. MLB needs to make PED use so painful and costly that fewer abuses will occur. The Players Union might now be open to doing this. Baseball needs to move the dialog away from PEDs, as it takes the focus away from the game and focuses it on cheaters. The irony is that Jose Canseco, one the game’s true creeps, was right all along years ago. If there was a more credible spokesperson years ago, perhaps we’d be past the issues by now.

5. Set a maximum team salary cap of $200 Million (and a minimum of $100 Million)

Yes this would hurt my beloved Yankees who’ve been the biggest spenders in the last 15 years, but they will live at $200 Million, as will the Dodgers who’ve overtaken them in the spending department. But conversely this idea will force every team to spend a minimum of $100 Million on salaries. Taking these actions will move the discussion away from salaries and “buying championships”, which by the way is impossible to do. Having a floor also might be more palatable to the Players Union who would not like a ceiling. And you can index the celling so it can increase annually

Baseball is America’s pastime. Baseball is American History. Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson are American legends. Though the game certainly became financially stronger in the Selig era, in other ways it has been usurped by the NFL as the most beloved. Help baseball win back the love of the American people Mr. Manfred. I am happy to do my part.

Sincerely,

Lonny Strum




More Strumings

3 Comments

  1. Harley says:

    How about this:

    MLB should EXACTLY copy the NFL in number of teams, divisions, playoff teams, format for inter-league play, something close to the salary cap and revenue sharing models, and franchise and transitional tag player designations.

    If an owner doesn’t reach the playoffs 10 consecutive years, they are forced to sell the team. Any team that is in the bottom 5 in attendance in 5 consecutive years will be re-located to another city.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Probably unrealistic to think salary cap can be imposed without Player’s Union approval which is not forthcoming. Best solution is a ceiling and a floor which makes cheaper teams invest more but keeps top 2-3 from going over $200Million. Maybe sell-able.

  2. ks says:

    I get your point on the DH and reluctantly accept its inclusion in the modern game. Still, I don’t like it. Pitchers are ballplayers and they should bat – end of story. Plus, having pitchers bat helps to self-police the cowards who deliberately throw beanballs, since they know they’ll have to face consequences at the plate themselves.

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