If I Were Commissioner of Major League Baseball...
Bud Selig takes a lot of flack.
I can't recall a commissioner of a pro sports league getting this much criticism no matter what he seems to do, but the critics, myself among them, are not without merit.
A quick rundown of his tenure:
- He owned the Milwaukee Brewers, which would seem to create a conflict of sorts as he is supposed to be an impartial overseer of the game. One of the reasons he has pushed for a salary cap is to help small-market clubs (like the Brewers) compete with the big-spenders.
- He brokered the deal that allowed every major league club to purchase the Montreal Expos, essentially making them the AAA affiliate of the rest of the league. The sale to the new owners of the Washington Nationals not withstanding, the team is still one of the worst in the majors.
- He ended an All-Star game in a tie, which is not a bad thing, as it is an exhibition, but then inexplicably linked the outcome of the All-Star game in the future to home field advantage in the World Series.
- He allowed the Players' Union to become one of the most powerful in the history of the country, effectively stopping any regulation of PED's and institution of salary control. This caused not only the ballooning of player salaries, but player heads and muscles as well.
- Hmmm, what else? Oh yeah, he's presided over the worst cheating scandal in the history of American pro sports. While every other major sporting league was implementing and enforcing a doping policy, he allowed steroids and other performance enhancers to run unchecked through every level of the game, only finally deigning to address the subject when Congress threatened to do it for him.
That being said, the game is still very profitable and successful, and shows little sign of slowing down. But I think it's been stunted to a point by Selig's reign, and here's how I'd do things differently:
1. I would not look like Skeletor. Selig's very appearance I believe is bad for the game. He looks like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, without the cartoonish super-villain finger-steepling (at least in public). He often looks like an old, befuddled ex-used-car salesman (which he is).
2. I would institute a salary floor. Most people believe that allowing the larger market teams to spend freely is bad for the game, but I disagree. There are more Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs fans than any other team, and those teams successes are good for the game.
However, quite a few teams are spending less and less and keeping the profits from the luxury tax the top teams are playing. A salary floor in addition to the luxury tax will ensure that the tax money is going into player salaries at the lower levels, and not the owners' pocketbooks.
3. I would break the Players' Union. Not get rid of it, but break the stranglehold it has on the game. Allow a strike to occur, let the minor leaguers play for a while, and see how long the big-timers can live without their salaries.
One of the best things that ever happened to the NHL was the willingness of the league to let the game stop until the players would listen to reason. After one season of no salary and no alternative league to play in comparable to MLB, they'll come to the table and agree to my terms. Which leads me to...
4. I would get a blood-test and stricter doping policy. HGH testing would begin immediately at all levels from A-ball on up. First violation of the drug policy will result in a 50 game suspension, second offense the season, third offense a lifetime.
Anybody who tests positive once will be subject to random, frequent testing for the next two years. Maybe the cheaters will always be a step ahead of the testers, but I'll stop making it so damn easy to be a cheater in my league.
5. I would universalize the DH. Either both leagues should have it, or neither should have it. If one thing the results of the All-Star game the past 15 years, or interleague play, or the World Series, has taught us is that the AL has a distinct advantage over the NL in most instances.
It's time the game stopped being the dinosaur league that has different rules for different divisions and grow up. The DH is a success; it allows older players or less defensively skilled players to have a place in the game, and keeps pitchers from hitting, which is one of the ugliest spectacles in pro sports.
Don't tell me you'd rather see Jake Peavy sac bunt than David Ortiz hit a homer, because if you do I'll call BS on you.
6. I would take over the Hall of Fame. One of the greatest farces in sports is the voting in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The fact that sports writers, which these days is a fancy way of saying "fan with a typewriter," are allowed to keep deserved players out of the Hall is ridiculous.
From now on the only people allowed to vote are Hall of Famers and a select committee of baseball executives, with veto power resting in the commissioner's hands. And there is no limit on who can get in each year; if you've got the votes, you get in. I would also segregate the eras.
One room for the early years, one for the "deadball" era, on for pre-integration, one for the "steroid" era, and so on. Much as I don't like it Barry Bonds does belong in the Hall of Fame, as does Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa.
They may be cheaters, but how many people they played against were doing the same thing. We don't know, so put them into the room they belong in and let the people judge them on their merits.
We've got a great game in baseball, but it's been stagnant for too long. The NFL has eclipsed it in both popularity and profits, becoming the most popular sport in the country.
The reason behind this erosion of baseball's popularity is that it resists change and evolution, whereas the NFL embraces it and reaps the benefits.
We need a leader who will bring the game into the 21st century and ensure that the children of this country will enjoy it as much as we have. It's time to stop being the crotchety old man and become the dynamic forward-thinking young person the game can be.
So while I'll probably never be commissioner of baseball, I can hope that one of the very intelligent people who reads this article will take my ideas to heart and become commissioner someday, and make the changes that need making.
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