Posted on 27 May 2009.
USA – Someday when I’m the commissioner, I’m going to fix a few things about baseball as it is today. Some will say the game is fine as it is, and others will say the game is in need of big fixes. I don’t think either is true, just by itself. The game is fine, but there are some changes that need to be made. Nothing too major or drastic, but needed just the same.
– Red Sox Tickets
This isn’t my annual (or actually, daily) tirade against the designated hitter, interleague play, artificial turf, and domes, to name a few. These are legitimate fixes that need to be made, or at the least, should be made. None of them are hard fixes, and even the union would be on for the majority of these. And that’s new for me.
So here are my 12 fixes for baseball:
1. Expansion to 32 teams:
Yes, it can be done, and should be done. There is no reason not to. This needs to be done, and should be the first issue addressed. Those who use the argument that it will further dilute the available talent are just proving they don’t actually know anything about the game. There have been dozens of studies done about the population base now vs the early 20th century. X number of people in the country in Y year gives us Z percentage of players of the population. It goes up every year. There are more people available for 32 teams then there were for 16 teams 100 years ago.
And those who complain about the increase in offense and the lack of pitching are further proving their lack of knowledge of the game. The pitching is not any worse today because of expansion. The pitching (ERA, walk rates, home runs allowed) are worse today because of issues like scorekeepers refusing to give out errors, small ballparks that inflate offense, and the players themselves (strength, conditioning, etc – the other issue is for a different time). Normalize the errors and the ballparks back to an earlier time and the pitching isn’t that bad. It just proves the old adage that no one ever has enough pitching.
One of the main reasons we need expansion. 32 teams, 2 leagues, 8 divisions, 4 teams per division.
This eliminates the wild card, which is great. If you can’t even win your own division, you shouldn’t be competing for the top prize. And with 8 division races, no on can use the argument that there won’t be close races. There will be. Maybe not in each division, but it doesn’t always happen now. But it would happen more often with 8 divisions. Plus, this gets rid of the idiocy of one division having 4 teams while another one has 6.
This will change the playoffs also, as they will be seeded. Best record in each league plays the worst record, with the other two playing. The better record gets the home field advantage, and the best team remaining gets to keep it. In other words, if the team with the best record in the league loses its first round, the winner from the other division series gets the home field advantage. The format will stay the same as now. 5 game series for the Division Series, 7 games for the League Championships, and 7 for the Series. And no more coin flips. It gets decide on the field.
The schedule will change also. As much as I don’t like it, interleague play is here to stay. So we’ll keep it. Each division will play a division from the other league. 4 games each. A 2-game home and away series. Each team will also get a traditional rival that they will play 6 times a year. 3 home and 3 away. If the traditional rival is from the same division that the team plays that year, it just means 10 games against that team. A team will play each division in the other league once every 4 years.
Each team will play the other teams in the league 9 times against the teams in the other divisions, and 10 times against the teams in their own division, broken down however the schedule makers want it.
Traditional rival – 6 games
Interleague – 16 games
Division – 30 games
League – 108 games
160 games. That’s it. Everyone can deal with the loss of 2 games. Either that, or get rid of interleague play.
So the next question is how do the divisions break down, and which two teams are added. Easy. Portland or Las Vegas gets one team, and New Orleans gets the others. If you want to know why, ask me. Either both of those teams go into the American League, or one does and Colorado switches to the American. That is the best scenario to me, but I’m flexible. Here’s how they break out:
PACIFIC: Oakland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland/Las Vegas.
WESTERN: Kansas City, Texas, Minnesota and Colorado.
CENTRAL: Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland and Chicago.
ATLANTIC: Boston, New York, Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
PACIFIC: Arizona, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles.
WESTERN: St. Louis, Chicago, Houston and New Orleans.
CENTRAL: Florida, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
ATLANTIC: New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Atlanta.
Alternatively, if Colorado doesn’t switch to the American League, then exchange them with New Orleans. Havana would actually be my first choice, but not yet.
Also, Arizona could go to the American, with Portland/Las Vegas going to the National.
Oakland – San Francisco
Kansas City – St Louis
Detroit – Pittsburgh
Boston – Philadelphia
Seattle – Colorado
Texas – Houston
Toronto – Atlanta
New York – New York
Los Angeles – Los Angeles
Minnesota – Milwaukee
Cleveland – Cincinnati
Baltimore – Washington
Portland/Las Vegas – New Orleans
Colorado – San Diego
Chicago – Chicago
Tampa Bay – Florida
Those are just examples, and that can be worked on.
3. Draft choices can be traded:
We won’t get carried away on this one, and keep it limited. Any of the first 5 picks for each team can be traded. Only once. No packaging them later, for other picks. If New York trades for Arizona’s 3rd round choice, they have to use it. And picks cannot be traded for picks. A draft pick has to be traded for a live body, or bodies.
We’ll call this the ‘Strausberg Rule’. This, to me, makes a lot of sense. The Nationals are not very good, and they need to build a farm team and respectability. Spending $10mil on one player, particularly a pitcher, is crazy. But if they don’t sign him, and let him go somewhere else, Washington is going to be brutalized by the media and their fans. But they shouldn’t have to mortgage their future for one player.
Why not trade that pick for some minor league prospects that might help right away, without costing the budget of most African nations. Or dare say someone like Phil Hughes. The Yankees have money, and are willing to spend it. Would Phil Hughes be worth the right to draft Strausberg, as they have time to develop him, and pay him? Or could the Nationals package the 1st pick, Adam Dunn and/or Nick Johnson for a farm team?
No team should be held hostage by one player. They should be able to trade this pick and improve their team, not give away the future.
4. The draft will be extended to foreign countries:
Players from traditional baseball playing countries will now be included in the draft. The countries affected will be Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba (that means the defectors, but why should they get special privileges), Panama, Columbia, and Venezuela. Any player from that country, at the age of 16 (or graduation from high school) or college players who want to play MLB will have to register for the draft and go through the process. Simple, no argument, problem solved, it’s fixed.
The only exception will be players who choose not to do this and sign with a league in a different country, or an independent league in the states. They must re-enter the draft each year, until 5 years have passed, then they are free to sign as free agents. This includes American players also. We’ll call this the J.D. Drew rule.
5. Classification of foreign leagues:
I’ll explain this one a little. There is always debate about whether or not Japanese players should be eligible for Rookie of the Year awards, and how their statistics from those leagues should be counted. Should Ichiro have been Rookie of the Year? Does he have over 3000 hits? We’re going to settle it once and for all, officially, and not leave it up to the writers to decide. Each foreign league will be evaluated and designated with either major or minor league status. This mostly concerns Japan, but so be it. If a league is considered to be a ‘Major League’, players coming from that league are not eligible for ROY awards. But there statistics will count. If a league is designated a minor league, then it will be no different than moving from the US minor leagues. I don’t see this changing a lot, but it will make if official, instead to the ‘no one really knows’ policy that is in place today.
This is the first part of a 3-part series. I have lots of ways to change the game for the better. Stay tuned.
Photo courtesy of Ratti/FIBS
Ron Rollins is a BaseballdeWorld contributor and the author of the ‘Baseball Over Here’ blog.