How I Would Change Baseball

Stew Winkel@stew_winkelSenior Analyst IApril 2, 2008

Baseball season is now underway. Watching a number of different games over the past few days got me thinking about what would happen if I were in charge (and of course if there were no Players’ Union, owners, or TV Networks to stop me).

Here is a list, in no particular order, of 20 things I would change about the sport.

1. I read the story about how the Yankees have three players who make almost as much money, if not more, than the entire Florida Marlins team. This is where I would start.

A few years back, MLB put in a salary cap of sorts with penalties for teams that go over it, however this has not slowed down spending at all.  I would increase the penalty for going over the cap, although keep it reasonable.

I believe in competitive balance, but also think that if teams want to invest their money in major league players, they should not be completely restricted from doing so.

2. I also acknowledge that it isn’t fair for the big market teams to basically pay for teams that are not even trying to spend money. I would therefore put in a minimum amount teams need to spend.  If teams wanted to spend less, that is fine, but the difference would come out of the money that teams receive in revenue sharing.

For example, if the minimum was $40 million and the Marlins decided to only spend $35 million on salary, and revenue sharing was $10 million per team, then the Marlins would only receive $5 million in revenue sharing.

3. It drives me crazy when I watch a National League game, and I see a team string together a few hits, only to see the other team pitch around the eighth batter, get to the pitcher, and then end the rally.

Sorry to the so-called purists who hate the DH, but I would have the DH in both leagues.

4. I don’t hate inter-league play, but there is way too much of it. Right now teams play six inter-league series per season. I would cut that down to four (for a total of 12 instead of 18 games).

I understand Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Angels-Dodgers, Giants-A’s are all natural rivalries, but we would stop calling series such as Rockies-Twins natural rivalries.

5. I know this time it counts, but I have a crazy idea for how to determine home field in the World Series: best record.

6. I would ban the hockey-style catcher mask. For no other reason than I hate hockey.

7. Watching last night's Red Sox-A’s game, Jason Varitek hit a ball that appeared to be a home run, but none of the umpires saw where the ball hit the wall. Instead of guessing on home run calls, I would institute replay (and thinking about last year’s Rockies-Padres playoff game, for plays at the plate).

I hate the argument that this will slow down the game—it can’t take any more time than a manager arguing, umpires huddling and explaining to one manager what they are doing, then walking across the field and explaining to the other manager what happened.

Home runs and plays at the plate are important. Use replay. Get it right.

8. I’d take MLB off of Fox. I know I would miss the brilliant in-game reporting of Ken Rosenthall, the creative “Slider” character that teaches us that a fast ball is a ball that is thrown fast, and the insight of Kevin Kennedy, but I would do this mostly so I don’t have to sit through any more baseball games announced by Buck and McCarver.

9. Speaking of in-game reporting, I would ban all in-game interviews with managers, bench coaches, and hitting coaches. I don’t know who came up with the idea, but it is now going on in virtually every baseball telecast I watch.

Not once has anything meaningful been learned that could not have been learned without having to interrupt the manager who clearly does not want to be doing the interview in the first place.

10. TV rules the world and trumps even common sense, but I would limit the off days during the playoffs. In the 2004 playoffs, one of the great things about the Red Sox-Yankees series was that it was every day. It was amazing to see relief pitchers who had thrown multiple innings the night before, starters pitching on short rest, and both catchers catching every inning day after day.

Last season, in the ALCS, there were off days in the middle of a series even when no travel was involved. Simple rule for the playoffs: no off day unless there is travel involved.

Games 1 and 2, off day, games 3-5, off day, games 6-7.

11. I would tell the Houston Astros that I don't care how they do it or how much it costs, they have to remove that stupid hill and flagpole from centerfield. It never should have been done and it never should have been allowed.

12. I am sick of hearing every year how the top player in the draft wasn’t drafted until the 28th pick because the first 27 teams decided they could not afford him.

Similar to the NBA, I’d institute a pay scale that can be adjusted each season. The number one pick gets x-dollars, the second pick y-dollars, and so on. Realizing that some rookies are drafted to be able to contribute at the Major League level right away, I would figure out some formula as part of a rookie contract to add salary to a player as he rises through the different levels.

13. A large percentage of Major Leaguers are international players, yet these players are not part of the draft. I don’t like hearing about teams throwing millions of dollars at 14 year olds, and I really don’t like the bidding process that goes on for certain players (like the Red Sox did with Daisuke Matsuzaka).

Once a player is 18 he can enter the draft. Each player must go through the draft at least once. If not drafted, then the player can be signed by any team.

All players—whether after high school or college, or from outside the United States—must go through the draft, giving more than just the rich teams chances to have talented international players.

14. I know teams like to host opening day, but if at all possible, I would restrict opening series from taking place in cold, outdoor stadiums.

15. Out of respect to one of my favorite web sites,, I would have press credentials taken away from any reporter who writes a story about how gritty David Eckstein is, about how tough Darren Erstad is because he punted at Nebraska, or about how someone who knows what OPS means and plays fantasy baseball must live in his parents’ basement.

Not only are all these articles terrible, but they have been written 500 times already.

16. I would fire any umpire who, during an argument with a player or manager, acted in a way to incite the player or manager. I am not a fan of Larry Bowa; in last night’s game he was out of control. But while members of the Dodgers attempted to pull Bowa away and into the dugout, the umpire could be seen trying to get around Joe Torre to get back at Bowa.

This is unacceptable. You can’t touch an umpire, you can’t scream at an umpire. If you do, you will be kicked out of the game and maybe fined and suspended.

The umpires have the power—they shouldn’t also be inciting the situation.

17. I would end the relationship between MLB and and ban any team from partnering or selling advertising with online ticket brokers. The only way this can happen is if MLB forces these online brokers to limit the amount of money a ticket can sell for (maybe no more than twice face value).

If MLB wanted to, they could do this. The Music Industry pays lawyers to do nothing but monitor TV, radio, and movies to make sure songs are not being used without permission. Baseball and the teams, if they cared, could monitor these web sites to at least try to help average fans get to more games.

18. I’d get rid of the Gold Glove award. It is clear those voting are guessing and voting on nothing more than reputation a majority of the time.

19. Fire any announcer who talks about how much better the old days were when pitchers would throw at batters who watched home runs. Watching a home run may be obnoxious at times, but I’d much rather see that than watch a guy get hit in the head with a fast ball.

20. Lastly—and I hope we can all agree with this one—I would not only kick out any fan talking on a cell phone while waiving wildly when sitting behind home plate, I would ban that person from all future baseball games.

And if I could, I would sentence these people to be my butler.


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