Monday, November 21, 2016

After A Great Year, Baseball Could Be Even Better


I'm not sure about you, but I'm still flying high after the Cubs won the 2016 World Series.  I've been surfing YouTube checking out fan reaction videos and "mashups" and it still gives me goosebumps to see that wild celebration after the Game 7 victory in Cleveland. How great were the playoffs in general?  How can people say baseball is boring?  Amazing post season all the way around and a great showing for MLB. 

With that in mind it's been tough to 'turn the page' on '16, but we need to get ready for 2017.   First thing is first for baseball, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and the Players Association expires December 1, 2016.  While there isn't much concern over a work stoppage, many new things could come into play, such as roster expansion, a limit on call ups in September and other things involving International Signings.  I'll include some links at the bottom of the page, so you can read up on the latest information from the many extremely talented baseball writers around the country. 

About 3 months ago, I was traveling back to Chicago from New York where I was doing an MLB Plus broadcast for MLB.com and I started thinking.  Yes, sometimes that can be a very dangerous thing, but in this case I used my sometimes wandering mind for good, not evil.  I love the game of baseball.  It's the first sport I truly gravitated to as a kid.  I love the strategy, the games within the game, and all the tradition involved.  The game could still be better. So I thought of a few improvements I'd like to see made, whether they be part of the new CBA or not, these are my thoughts ordered as they came to me in a stream of conscienceness.  Again some of these thoughts have been articulated by writers far better than me, and I'll have those links available at the bottom of this article. 

1. Make the All-Star Game what it was intended to be again, AN EXHIBITION...

I know, this stupid rule actually helped the Cubs in the World Series, being able to use Kyle Schwarber in four games rather than just three, and it paid off.  I've seen some artcles recently where Commissioner Manfred said he's fine with the All-Star Game counting.  I say its just his way of protecting the legacy of Bud Selig, who was embarrassed in his home town of Milwaukee in 2002 when the game ended in a tie. He over reacted, plain and simple and now we're left with a rule that doesn't belong in baseball. 
Bud Selig (Daily Herald)


Since each team has to be represented, is it really fair to count the game?  Is each All-Star roster made up of the actual best in each league? Players come up with 'injuries' to miss the game wanting instead to spend some rare in season off time with their families.  You have situations that come up where a retiring player is treated with meatball pitches down the middle to make that player shine.  In some cases players have admitted before the game of that intention, so how can you do that and still make the game count?   I would much rather see the best of the best, showing us why they are so great. Show off those skills and let the guys enjoy themselves. Eliminate this nonsensical rule. 


2.  Modify roster numbers...

Baseball has used a 25 man roster for a long time.  According to the Baseball Almanac, rosters were set at 25 in 1914.  Maybe its time for a change? Recently teams were able to carry a 26th man for Day/Night Doubleheaders, so maybe the time has come for a couple of more players to be added. This would please the MLBPA, meaning more money for more players.  I think it would please ownerships/front offices too, with roster flexibility and not having to burn 'options' on players or risk exposing players to waivers if they are out of minor league options. 

Joe Maddon has been in favor of a change
to the rule of rosters expanding to 40 players
September 1. (MLB.com)

My suggestion would be a roster of 28, allowing basically a manager to keep an extra pitcher, catcher and position player. 
Especially early in a season it would be nice for teams to have a little extra as teams try to figure out their best combinations.  April weather and rain outs also factor in, plus pitchers tend not to go as deep in games early in a season as they will later in the year.  

For September 1, eliminate the 40 man expansion to the roster and keep it at 28.  If that wasn't agreeable, I could see a situation where you could expand to 35 and use a 30 man "active" roster to keep it more on line with the rest of the regular season rules. 


3.  Do something to enhance Interleague Play...

I think the current incarnation of Interleague play has run it's course. In the beginning it was new, fresh and exciting.  Now, well not so much. I don't buy into having an inter league series every day, I think it's bad for the game and the traditional matchups. I mean the Cubs opened up the 2016 in ANAHEIM. Really?

It has become reality due to the 15/15 team split with both leagues having an equal amount of teams. There has to be a way to make it work where you can play more games within your division or league during the season to eliminate those holes in the schedule.  Go back to the way it was, with each NL division playing a certain AL division and that's it.  Of course there would be notable exceptions with Cubs/Sox, Yankees/Mets, Dodgers/Angels and Giants/A's. 

If it has to stay in its current form, why not add a different twist to the games?  When an IL series is in an NL park, why not play AL rules and vice versa?  Give the fan bases a chance to see the other league's rules first hand. Could be interesting. 


4. Shorten the season...

The schedule is another bone of contention, not because of it’s effect on the players or coaches but on the overall money to be made with more games.  The season lasts about 6 months, and each team has around 18 days off.  Because of rainouts and other unforeseen situations, teams are forced to extend themselves past the mandated maximum of 20 games in a row without a day off.  A lighter schedule could help alleviate some of these extended stresses. 

Baseball used a 154 game schedule until 1961 in the American League and 1962 in the National League.  To mitigate the loss of revenue the new schedule could be enhanced to include a couple of day-night double headers, two games, and two gates to appease the owners. 

Trust me when I tell you, having traveled with a major league team for the better part of 12 years, it’s a grind, physically and mentally. 


5.  Install a General Manager in charge of umpires

Never has a group of men been in mainly everyone’s cross hairs than today’s baseball umpires.  It’s a thankless job with no home games, but also no real accountability.  I’ve always thought, if a player isn’t cutting it at the big league level, he’s sent down to Triple-A, and another player comes up to take his place.  Why not do the same with the umps? 

Joe West (Getty Images)
The union representing the umps will never let this happen, they have it too good.  First class travel, no meetings after a game to go over it, like college basketball refs and other arbiters. But come on, with all the new technology and ‘umpire strike zones’ being generated by some teams to use in their pitcher/catcher gameplan meetings, can’t we set a standard for umping?  

Name somebody outside of the MLB  offices as the “GM of the umps”, he can have a staff that covers games and grades performances based on the previously mentioned new technology and the old fashioned charting an ump’s performance in person. hey, if a guy is consistently miscalling the zone, get him out.  If he’s constantly being overturned by replay, get him out.  If he’s resting on previous laurels, get him out.   This would set up a better game over all with an umpire calling it like his job depends on it, because it would in this ‘pipe dream’ scenario of mine.  I’d love to see it happen, but it won’t. I think I'll call it the Joe West Rule. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS…

  • SPEED UP REPLAYS BY HAVING A ‘5TH UMPIRE’ IN THE PRESSBOX TO MAKE A SWIFT AND DECISIVE DECISION RATHER THAN GOING TO NEW YORK FOR A DRAWN OUT DECISION. 
  • ALLOW TEAMS TO TRADE DRAFT PICKS.  EVERY LEAGUE DOES IT, AN EASY WAY FOR A GOOD TEAM TO STAY GOOD AND A BAD TEAM TO IMPROVE QUICKLY.  MAKES SENSE DOESN’T IT? 
Again just my thoughts on how to improve an already great game! 


Here are some links to great stories by the very talented baseball writers around the country...

Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) of Fox on the possibility of a change in roster numbers in the new CBA...

Jason Stark (@jaysonst) of ESPN examines why MLB's 2016 Postseason was a "game changer"...

Scott Miller (@ScottMillerBbl ) of The Bleacher Report thinks this is the 1st of many MVP Awards for Kris Bryant...

Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) of the NY Times reports on CBA Progress between MLB and the Players Association...



As always would love to hear your thoughts and comments on these posts so feel free to let me know what you think. I appreciate you checking out the blog! 

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