Everyone that thinks MLB is perfect as-is: The door is over there. Everyone else? Let's talk.
Bud Selig's successor will be named Thursday, and will very likely be interested in the status quo because the status quo is pretty damn good for ownership around the league.
While I disagree with some of the doom and gloom from outsiders about the sport -- a good friend insists that "it's just not a 21st century sport" while all of us have heard about the MLB All-Star Game and MLB Playoffs/World Series ratings cratering over the past decade -- I hardly think the MLB is perfect.
The biggest opportunities to improve the game and the sport are to speed it up, make it more nationally appealing, improve the sense of fairness across the board (revenue, PEDs, the DH rule, bad umpiring, etc), and to make it more obviously FUN for all involved.
I don't plan on being universally loved, but I do plan on making a LOT of money for the league, for ownership, and for the players. Here are the fifteen things I would do as commish, which I tweeted out this morning.
We have to fix the television problem.
My new MLB commish to-do list: 1. Destroy RSN and blackout rules. Better coverage of Sunday baseball on network TV.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
Seems easy enough, if not for the 20-year deals and billions of dollars at stake around the country. Simply put, the mess created by the RSNs for local viewers and the inequitable deals created by each team make the sport harder to enjoy as a national occasion. I'm gonna fix that.
Bring back PEDs.
2. PEDs should be ok. Weed too. Use at your own risk. Everyone is jacked. All enhancements ok. Let's talk about robotic ligaments.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
The future is coming, and that future is genetically-enhanced, robotic-enhanced athletes doing beautiful, previously impossible things. Chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and recreational choices should fall under this future. Also, it ends stupid witch hunts and unfair suspensions -- not to mention making the game more exciting with eye and vein-popping feats on the field.
No question, we have to speed up the game. Here's how:
3. Games under 3 hours. Pitch clock. No stepping out. IBBs count for 2 bases. Pitching change cap. Ties after 10 innings.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
We have to speed the game up. We MUST. I don't want to hear about long NFL games since they have so many of the other issues here already figured out. It's going to take much more than a pitch clock, too -- batters tightening their gloves after every swing, endless right-lefty pitcher matchup shenanigans (That we have an acronym for ONE OUT GUY should be a red flag to everyone), and more time-wasting things all need to be addressed. And please, if the game isn't decided after ten innings, just call it a tie. Save the players, save the bullpen, save children on a school night, let people go to bed.
We're going to expand to new (and old) markets.
4. MLB in Portland and Montreal. One for each League.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
I love baseball and we need more professional baseball. With a larger-than-ever international pool of talent, now is the time to grow the sport to two cities that need it. I'll listen on Nashville, New Orleans, Charlotte, etc. I'd also start planting seeds for teams in Mexico City, London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Rome, Seoul, Rio De Janeiro.
Both leagues will play by the same rules.
5. DH for both leagues.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
Or neither, I guess. I like the DH because I like fat guys playing sports, but I get the argument about all nine players batting. One other thing: one free out would certainly speed up the game. We're just going to pick one. If the MLBPA has a problem with it, we can point out how the traditional, career-extending DH is basically dead and has become a spot for platoon manipulation. Perhaps we can get this one in exchange for higher salary floors, something I'm going to do anyway...
Team salaries are too far apart and I'm going to fix it.
6. Better, higher revenue sharing. Higher salary floor ($120M). Lower ceiling ($150M).— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
The other side of destroying RSNs is making things more equitable for all teams. I don't want to hear about Loria and Glass stealing Yankee dollars any more than I want to hear about the Yankees, Dodgers, and Tigers all blowing past the field. Spare me the idea that it backfires (hi Phillies, Angels!), too. Let's just get a $30 million range we can agree on and make this a bit more fair for everyone involved.
Patriotism is great but jingoism is bad for business.
7. Will make people uncomfortable, but MLB needs to stand down with all the jingoism, slightly crazy patriotic stuff. Anthem yes, ATB no.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
7. (cont.) Honor soldiers with good seats and with a respectful nod. Not camo unis and ugly promotions.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
I shouldn't have to say it, but I think the United States of America kicks ass and I'm proud to be here, love my rights, and think we're an overall positive force for good. Probably. I'll listen to your disagreements, whatever. The point is that every time we brand MLB as an essentially American thing we limit its potential scope on an international stage. The other thing is that so many of the tributes to our national heroes -- soldiers, firefighters, etc -- come across as crass and an attempt to make money off of them. Keep the anthem, that's cool and one of my favorite parts of going to a game. We can't be singing America the Beautiful on top of that, nor can we be plastering stars and stripes over every one of our logos. Let's be proud of the country but let's sell the game, not some perfunctory Pavlovian response to American Exceptionalism.
Create the savviest, friendliest, most sharable media of any sport.
8. Friendlier relations with ALL MEDIA trying to promote the sport. More videos, GIFs, player access.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
Stepping out of commissioner character here for a second only to note that you wouldn't BELIEVE the obstacles MLB puts in the way for media of all types to promote its product. As commish I'll have a duty to ownership but also to the game, and part of that is making it as easily accessible to as many people as possible. See: better national TV coverage, fewer/zero blackout restrictions, appealing on all social fronts with sharable content -- and encouraging things like GIFs and easily sharable video.
Pitcher helmets. NOW.
9. Pitcher helmets. NOW.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
We're not going to debate this one.
We're going to talk about fashion.
10. We can stop with the managers in baseball pants thing. Even if that means Belichik-style hoodies. Let's just be big boys now.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
C'mon folks, this is ridiculous.
I'm going to fix the All-Star game.
11. Kill the ASG-determines-home-advantage thing. Also, ASG has quarterback club-style competitions. Farthest throw, fastest steal, etc.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
The problems with the All-Star Game are well known, so I won't belabor the point. In the interest of fairness, we do need to kill off the home advantage in the playoffs rule. There are so many ideas to improve the game, but just making it fun and interesting and compelling should be enough. Feats of skill should absolutely be a part of that, like a gigantic version of cornhole using a baseball.
We're going to shorten the season.
12. Shorten the season down to 145-152 range -- one week off the front (April) and one week off the back (Sept). Would consider even fewer.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
Everyone knows the season is too long: Players, managers, fans of horrible teams, every network that carries games. I think halving the number of games down to 81 would be an elegant solution, but $$$$$$$$$. So we'll start with cutting 5-8 games off the front of the schedule and 5-8 off the back. Shorter season, yay!
The MLB Hall of Fame is a joke, which is why I'm taking over the BBWAA.
13. Pete Rose, Barry Bonds. Hall of Famers. NOW. (I'm also making changes with the BBWAA).— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
The career leader in hits and the career leader in home runs need to be acknowledged in our sport's museum. While I'm at it, we're going to change some of the bizarre BBWAA rules that keep good, engaged, fair writers out and old/dour/sour/horrible/unfair/ancient writers in. BBWAA isn't under my jurisdiction? It is now!
Oh my god I am so done with bad umpiring.
14. Robotic strike zone, foul ball/home run calls. Sensors in the bag or something for steals. Umps can still do "SAFE!" or "OUT!" delivery.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
This is so overdue. As for how each would work, I don't know but I do know that we can hire engineers to figure it out for us in a highly compelling way. As for what to do with umpires, take your pick. Let them announce the calls if they want, or let them interpret vague and ancient rules for the fans.
We're going to be better than the No Fun League.
15. Encourage celebrations, punish retaliation. Home run trots, fist pumping, maybe dancing on home plate. All of it.— Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) August 14, 2014
I should really just broaden this out to ending all the unwritten rules nonsense, since so many of those unwritten rules either actively gum up the game with boring asides or actually put player's careers at risk. I want more gregarious personalities. I want more dumb celebrations, even if inconveniently timed. I want more excitement, more ego, more explosive personalities.
I think that should do it. We've sped up the game, made it more interesting, made it more fair, shortened the season while making it more nationally appealing, and added in a bit more excitement. What did I forget?