|MLN's newly elected Commissioner, Rob Manfred (photo by Richard Arduengo/AP)|
Saturday, August 16, 2014
The New Commish Can Make A Significant Contribution to the Game With Some Immediate Changes
With Rob Manfred now unanimously voted in as the next MLB Commissioner, Bud Selig has completed what is most likely his final significant act as the leader of the game. I've got to hand it to him, he was able to unify 30 divided owners through a few hours of negotiations and get them to all approve of his man. That takes negotiation skills. That takes some persuasion.
Going in, it looked like the baseball owners summit in Baltimore would be contentious as several such owners such as Arte Moreno, Jerry Reinsdorf and John Henry had already voiced their preference of Tom Werner over Selig's man, Manfred. Reports going in didn't look promising for the departing Commissioner's preference but Selig worked his persuasive magic as the white smoke emerged from the chimney of the Baltimore Hyatt Hotel after the third vote. 30-0 was the tally as MLB's papacy was announced.
Manfred has been known as a keen negotiator and labeled as the man responsible for maintaining twenty years of labor peace in the game. For that he's to be commended, but MLB is facing some upcoming obstacles, with first and foremost the collective bargaining agreement that will sunset in 2016.
"I have very big shoes to fill," said Manfred immediately after his election. It was the right thing to say, but something that many of us couldn't disagree with more. I've made no secret of my disdain for Selig over the years, best chronicled in my 2011 open letter to him on this forum when the McCourt ownership fiasco sat at his doorstep. LINKED HERE
Selig was responsible for ramrodding the McCourt ownership through the voting process in 2004, choosing to ignore the breach of MLB's rules when it was clear that his team purchased was leveraged through loans. For more of his tenure, Selig ignored the game's drug problem in favor of the all mighty dollar until it became so embarrassing that he was forced to do something about it. And that's not all:
The All Star game home field advantage idiocy was a Selig invention. So was Inter-League play-ruining decades of baseball tradition. The ruination of sacred baseball records tarnished by steroids happened on his watch and the informal clash with Peter O'Malley that influenced his departure from the game occurred too.
There's more, definitely more, but the past is the past, and Selig will be out of the game by February of 2015. This is a new horizon and Rob Manfred has an opportunity to set his mark on the game. Here are a few suggestions from yours truly:
1) Stop the All Star game "home field advantage" nonsense. It is ridiculous to have an exhibition game determine the HFA for the pinnacle of the sport.
2) Announce that Shoeless Joe Jackson has been pardoned by MLB. The evidence is there. The punishment was too severe. On the same vein, Pete Rose should not be forgiven. He lied for too long and he never fully came clean. The Rose story is a sad one, but should serve for years as a lesson that great players/managers can't cross that line and engage in activity that will destroy the game.
3) Propose even stronger sanctions for performance enhancing drug violations. The system in place still doesn't levy penalties strong enough to keep players from testing their luck that they'll slip past the testing process. The massive contracts are too much incentive for players to try to cheat. A first time violation should be a one year sanction. A second time and you're banned for life. That would stop the players like Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Melky Cabrera, and others from attempting to cheat.
4) Negotiate a certain percentage of the TV revenues, maybe as low as less than 1% to be donated towards the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) to help retired players that are in need of medical care or assistance. A few million dollars would go a long way here and do a lot of good.
5) Do something about the deplorable financial compensation of minor league players. Arrange for per-diems to be tripled and ensure that no minor league player is living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sleeping on host family couches. This is a dark spot on the game that could easily be remedied by distributing some of the game's wealth into the lower trenches and development areas of the sport. Some of those kids are making less than minimum wage when you factor in the amount of hours worked and the low level contracts that they signed.
6) Enforce the "pitch-every 20 seconds" rule. The game needs to be sped up and by enforcing this rule, you'll see a significant change in the pace of the game. Additionally some changes could be introduced that limit the amount of pitcher-catcher mound visits. These two moves alone would speed up the game substantially.
7) Endorse the World Baseball Classic for the month of November, after the World Series. There are enough warm weather countries that can host the game in the late Fall each year and warm weather U.S. Cities that can host as well. Breaking up Spring Training has resulted in an awkward event with players getting injured in their rush to be ready by mid-March. The WBC has been more of a distraction than anything else. A November tournament will have players that are in baseball shape, and if they are injured int eh tournament, they'll have time to recover for the coming season.
8) Tell the Giants to take a hike with regard to their territorial rights over San Jose and permit the A's to move there. This is one of Selig's dumber non-moves as the the A's should have been allowed to move years ago. The Oakland Coliseum is a dump and the fan base is in need of revitalization. Some Silicon Valley investment and a modern stadium in that sunny region will be a very positive move for baseball. Give the Giants a draft pick in exchange and move on.
9) Change the rules with regard to Cuban exiles that escape the island to play major league baseball. Allow them to come directly to the U.S. and apply for open bidding into the game. The system in place has created an underground human trafficking operation that is rampant with criminal figures, risking lives and forcing extortion and kidnapping in seedy third world countries.
Those moves would be a start. Feel free to add a few if you are so inclined.