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If I were the Commissioner of Baseball

September 2, 2014
Hugh Atkins

Hugh Atkins

On August 14 Major League Baseball selected Rob Manfred as its 10th commissioner. He will succeed current commissioner Bud Selig on January 25 of next year. Manfred will receive plenty of advice and suggestions between now and the time he takes office, most of which he probably will ignore. If I were to be the next commissioner of Major League Baseball, I would have five items on the agenda for the first day I walked into the office.

Fix the All-Star Game

The first thing I would do as commissioner would be simple to accomplish. I would discontinue the moronic practice of giving the league that wins the All-Star Game home-field advantage in the World Series. Selig came up with this cockamamie idea after the 2002 Midsummer Classic ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings.

In the first year of this travesty, the National League was leading the American League 6-4 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Greg Gagne of the third-place Los Angeles Dodgers was on the mound for the National League and he gave up a pair of doubles sandwiched between two outs to make the score 6-5. Hank Blalock of the last-place Texas Rangers came on to pinch hit and blasted a monster home run to give the AL a 7-6 lead, which wound up being the final score.

The National League was to have the home-field advantage in the World Series in 2003. But a home run by a player on a last-place team in an exhibition game in the middle of the season changed all that. For the record, the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees four games to two in the Series that year.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

The folly of such a decision was especially glaring this year when the All-Star Game turned into the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour. Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals admitted to serving up hittable pitches to Jeter, as if Jeter were entitled to be the star of the game. Jeter took advantage of Wainwright’s generosity by cracking a double that started a three-run rally from which the National League never recovered. Wainwright later back pedaled on his story, but by that time the damage was done; if the Cardinals make it to the World Series this year, they can thank Wainwright for having to open the Series on the road.

The Midsummer Classic is an exhibition game and, as such, it should have no bearing on the World Series – or anything else, for that matter. Until 2003 the home-field advantage in the World Series alternated annually between the two leagues. If I were commissioner, it would again.

Eliminate Interleague Play

If I were commissioner of Major League Baseball, I would do away with interleague play. Proponents of interleague play (casual fans, I call them) make arguments such as, “Without interleague play, fans in Atlanta would not get to see Derek Jeter play.” Fans in Atlanta who want to see Derek Jeter play can do what baseball fans in Cheap Hill, Tennessee do whenever they want to see Jeter play; they can travel to a city where the Yankees are playing and buy a ticket.

The main argument for continuing interleague play is that it boosts attendance; and as long as the numbers show that attendance increases for interleague games, there will very little movement toward ending it. But many factors affect attendance. Before interleague play became a daily occurrence, it usually started in June right about the time school let out for the summer. I hate interleague play, but we have attended several interleague games over the years. It wasn’t because we wanted to see a team from both leagues; it was because we always timed our vacations based on the school calendar.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

Eliminating interleague play also would fix the problem of the 15-team leagues. If I were commissioner I would send the Houston Astros back to the National League where they belong. And if I couldn’t get support for eliminating interleague play, I at least would sent the Astros back to the National League and make the Milwaukee Brewers go back to the American League where they were for so many years.

As a baseball traditionalist, I believe the two leagues should meet only during the World Series. This season the Atlanta Braves will play 20 interleague games, which amounts to over 12% of their schedule. That seems like a lot to me.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

Eliminate the Designated Hitter

The designated hitter has been around since the afternoon of April 6, 1973 when Ron Bloomberg of the Yankees stepped in the batter’s box at Fenway Park as the game’s first one-dimensional player. This strategy-killing phenomenon needs to go, and both leagues need to play by the same rules. I would give teams three years to get ready for the change. In that time current designated hitters could either play out their careers or learn to field; either way I’d be happy.

Restore the Players from the 1919 Black Sox Scandal

On August 3, 1921 Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis banished the players involved in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal for life. The banished players were pitcher Eddie Cicotte, center fielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil, right fielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, infielder Fred McMullin, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg, third baseman George “Buck” Weaver, and pitcher Claude “Lefty” Williams. Landis also banished second baseman Joe Gedeon of the St. Louis Browns, who learned of the fix from Gandil and then placed bets on the games.

I believe Landis did the right thing by banishing the players involved in the fix. For years various experts have cited Jackson’s .375 batting average in the Series as evidence that he was not in on the fix. But Jackson took $5,000 from the goons who fixed the Series, so that makes him guilty. If Landis was too harsh on any of the players, it was Weaver, whom he banned for knowing about the fix and not doing anything about it.

I believe players, managers, coaches, owners, etc. who bet on baseball should be banished from the game for life. But all the players banished for the 1919 Black Sox Scandal have long since passed away. Since they were banished for life, and since they all have passed away, they have served their sentences. As commissioner, I would acknowledge that these players are no longer banished and make them eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Joe Jackson, whose .356 lifetime batting average over 13 seasons, likely would be voted into the Hall of Fame the first year his name appears on the ballot; Eddie Cicotte, who won 209 games and had a career earned run average of 2.38 in 14 seasons, might soon follow. The rest of the gang will never make it in.

Adjust the Record Book

If I were commissioner of Major League Baseball I would convene a panel of experts and charge them with the mission of restoring the records set by players in the Before Steroids (BS) era. The two most obvious records to restore are Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark of 61 and Henry Aaron’s career total of 755.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

While the records of Maris and Aaron jump to the front of most fans’ minds, the larceny perpetrated on the sport by the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro cheapens the home run numbers put up by sluggers like Frank Robinson (586), Harmon Killebrew (573), and Reggie Jackson (563), as well. It seems that 500 home runs just aren’t what they used to be. Earlier this season when Albert Pujols hit his 500th home run, it received about as much attention as a pitcher throwing a shutout. And while the Baseball Writers Association of America has been harsh on Bonds, Roger Clemens, McGwire, and Palmeiro, come Hall of Fame voting time, they also punish guys like Fred McGriff because he hit “only” 493 home runs.

Selig’s lack of action when baseballs were flying out of the park like golf balls on a driving range should be his lasting legacy; but it shouldn’t have such a lasting effect on the players who played the game fairly. If I were commissioner of Major League Baseball I would at least attempt to adjust the record book.

Since I am not the new commissioner of Major League Baseball, I can only hope that Robert “Rob” Manfred takes a do-no-harm approach to his job. If he does he will be a vast improvement over his predecessor.

*I'm not sure how official any of these nicknames are.

*I’m not sure how official any of these nicknames are.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    September 2, 2014 6:46 pm

    The designated hitter should be eliminated beginning with the 2015 season. American League teams should be allowed an additional roster spot (26 man) for up to 5 years to accommodate current designated hitters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 2, 2014 9:22 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Laura. I think your solution to the DH is even better than mine. The quicker baseball gets rid of the DH, the better.


  2. Patsy permalink
    September 3, 2014 6:28 pm

    It’s ironic that I just finished retired umpire Doug Harvey’s book “They Called me God” and he really tells it all about the commissioners. I think he hit the nail on the head when he talks about when Bud Selig took over everything was about money. His aim was the corporatization of the game.

    Liked by 1 person

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