At the end of the 2014 MLB season Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is stepping down. Like the previous Pope he’s had enough and he’s calling it quits. This is the office that legend has it George W. Bush really wanted and only after he realized this was out of his reach did he settle for the office of President of the United States. So with the office vacated I would like to throw my hat into the ring and run on the following platform. Just like the coke machine in the lunch room every person who has ever run for Student Council promised, this is my list of what I would I change about America’s pastime.
1. Get Rid of Instant Replay. I fully understand reply would get calls right, that it would take umpires out of the results of the game. I don’t care. I hate instant replay. I used to watch football and really enjoyed it. I don’t enjoy it anymore for two reasons. First there are only 11 minutes of live game action in a 3 1/2 hour games (researched fact, not assumption). The other reason is instant replay.
It used to be when the Aggies or Oilers scored a touchdown I could go nuts; we scored and if there was no flag in the first 2 seconds of that celebration I knew it was real and thus celebration could be enjoyed. After reply I learned that there was a delay in my celebration. The player scored and I waited, no flag, this was good, then I waited to see if any time in the next two minutes or so a coach threw a challenge flag, now it had to be reviewed and only then can I celebrate. Who has real excitement a few minutes after the actual event? It killed the joy of celebrating and it left me on the side of the situation hoping for a flag. I was not longer watching football so much as coaches and refs were making the big plays, the actual moments of excitement and really, that’s just boring. It slows down the game and ruins the pace.
I also don’t care if they get the call wrong. It’s a game, its entertainment and I love the conversations the come up around missed calls: one guy proclaims victory while the opponent decries injustice, but again, it’s a game. With replay that conversation is gone.
Plus replay ruins the manager throwing a fit. I know these moments are not always edifying, but there is something that makes you love your manager when he goes and argues a call for your team. Hat turned backwards, dirt being kicked up, maybe a bat or two tossed onto field. It’s embarrassing, but it’s passion, it’s real emotion and instant replay removes passion from the game. Now, the manager calmly turns in a challenge request and we all wait while they look it over. No emotion. No passion.
2. Outlaw Symmetry. Basketball has a set field size and shape. So does football, and soccer is always a big rectangle. Every stadium is basically the same in those sports. Baseball is unique, every field can be difference. You want a left field that is only 315 feet, that’s fine. You wanna giant part that is hard to hit out of it, have it. You want a giant green wall, you got it. Ivy on brick, that may kill someone, but ok. A hill in centerfield with a flag pole on the field of play, that’s insane, but go for it. All of those are real fields in major league baseball. I love it. But then there are the uncreative, symmetrical “for the sake of consistent stats” people who want every field to have same symmetrical dimensions. I’m looking at you Jon Meyers.
So with my power as the Commissioner I would ban symmetry, force the Dodgers into doing something creative with their least interesting field in all of baseball. In MLB there are only four symmetrical fields left, so this would be an easy fix with some construction in LA, Toronto, Oakland and Kansas City.
However as MLB Commissioner I would overstep my bounds and require every league in the world to do this too. College fields, high school, little league, Japan, Australia, Mexico, wiffleball in the yard, yes every field.
It would give us unique fields everywhere. Little league fields should be awesome. Each town should have their own stadium quirks, not uniform metal mesh fields. Make them all different, one is great for lefties, another for righties, pitcher parks, hitter parks. Yes limits on minimum fence length, but let’s see some interesting designs. Work existing buildings not just into the background ascetics, but the fence itself.
Best Fields: Fenway, Wrigley, San Francisco’s AT&T Park, Houston’s Minute Maid Park, Camden Yards.
Worst Fields: Dodgers, Toronto, Oakland, New York
3. Wooden bats at every level. Baseball is not a futuristic sport, it has no clock, when you play time stops, you have to slow down which is weird because all at once baseball is one of the most American things and also counter-American culture of rush rush rush. But I digress.
Part of what makes baseball great are the little things, including the sound of a ball cracking against a wooden bat, I hate the ping of metal, sounds like golf. Make wood universal for bats except in the littlest of ages for the sake of being able to swing light bats. Mostly for college and high school though, wooden bats only.
4. Town Teams. Return to a time when every town had a team made up of residents. Someone organizes regional leagues for smaller towns to compete against each other with local players of any age in the summers. I’d love to see Manhattan vs Topeka or Junction City or Overland Park. Not for money, but for for the pride of home.
5. Use MLB to promote Wiffleball or some soft version of baseball. When I was watching Ken Burns Baseball documentary I was really surprised at the photos of the early days of the game. No gloves on the players hands and people standing to watch insanely close to the batter, mothers in dresses, barefoot children, bands playing music all within feet of the field and nothing to protect them.
Then it was a game that could be played anywhere without fear of someone getting killed. The ball in later years became harder and thus dangerous for games to be played in this fashion. Now we need fences to protect spectators and helmets and baseball gloves and that’s fine for organized baseball.
However, MLB needs to get develop some version of the game that makes it accessible anywhere and anytime. A recreation version that is fun for, kids, families, church picnics, city streets, etc. Wiffle is best existing option, but MLB has no relationship with the Wiffle Ball company and the generic plastic ball with swiss cheese holes are just not fun. Make a deal and promote wiffleball for the sake of baseball evangelism, spreading the joy of playing the game. Or develop something better, a softer, version of the game that replicates the actual game pretty well.
6. Make video games simple again. I want real players names, minor league teams and players, stats to be kept, I want all that stuff to be real, but I also don’t want to spend three weeks training so I can play a video game. So I would mandate MLB develop a game with only two buttons, no more. I want my old man dad and my little boy son to be able pick it up and play against each other right away. RBI baseball returning this spring gives me hope, please be simple. Baseball Stars or MLB Power Pros is what I’m thinking. I just want to see a baseball game that can serve as a fun game to be played between people rather than a second life to be dedicated to.
7. I would establish a club for people who have visited every MLB ballpark currently in use. Seems like great father-son or group of friends goal to be working towards. Some official way to register each new park visited and then an exclusive club to be in that gets fans something. Free nachos or a room in each park only for people who have hit for the Ballpark Cycle.
8. Color. This will likely be what gets me impeached, but I would mandate brighter uniforms. Why does it feel like our home team always plays the same team no matter who is in town? Oh yeah, it’s because everyone we play wears gray. Unless gray is your team’s color don’t wear it. I want to see Oakland in green when they are in town or the Astros in orange when the visit Kansas City. Brighter uniforms.
9. Player Retention. Make minimum contract length 3 years once free agency is earned, promote players staying with a team longer. Biggio and Bagwell have helped grow a love for the Astros, they are part of the fabric of Houston because of permanence.
10. More knuckleballers. Ok, no way to make this move with the support of logic or reason, but I’m in this scenario I’m the Pope of baseball and I wanna see more knuckleballers. So teams fielding knuckleballers get $5 million for each knuckleballer. We’ll collect these funds from teams with a knuckleball pitcher. That makes R.A. Dickey and Blaine Sims more valuable. This Kershaw guy is ok, especially being from Texas, but knuckleballers are really where it’s at.
11. Round Up. To get in hall of fame a player needs 75% of the votes. Craig Biggio received 74.8% of the vote this year. One idiot turned in a blank ballot trying to make some point that was lost on me. This is a problem because any ballot turned in counts in figuring the percentage. Another guy only put one name on his ballet to make a statement for last year of eligibility guy, Jack Morris. Biggio came 1.25 votes short of being the first Astros inducted into the Hall of Fame. Nothing a little rounding up wouldn’t solve. You take a math test, get 74.8%, That’s a 75 in any grade book. If we need instant replay for anything it was the hall of fame vote this year, let’s get this call made right next time.
Summary: Also I would put a coke machine in every junior high lunch room in the country. Wouldn’t baseball be great if I were the Commissioner? That’s my platform, so please vote for me. What? There is no election? I’d change that too!