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Hurley: 20 Improvements I’d Make As MLB Commissioner

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Bud Selig (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bud Selig (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — Major League Baseball needs a new commissioner, and apparently, none of the three finalists for the job is particularly worthy of the position.

The candidacy of Rob Manfred, the COO of MLB, is being opposed by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who is apparently rounding up a faction of MLB owners to block Manfred from securing enough votes to replace Bud Selig. You don’t hear much about the second candidate, MLB executive VP of business Tim Brosnan, so his candidacy seems pretty weak, too.

And then there is Tom Werner. The New York Daily News’ Bill Madden eviscerated the Red Sox chairman’s candidacy this weekend, and The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy can’t take Werner seriously as a real possibility for MLB commissioner.

“Tom Werner for commissioner? Please,” Shaughnessy wrote. “The Red Sox ‘chairman’ is a nice guy, but he ran the Padres into the ground 20 years ago and nobody ever has been quite sure what he does for the Red Sox, even as John Henry and Larry Lucchino have spent too much precious time trying to make sure folks know he has done a lot.”

This comes after Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti couldn’t keep straight faces when discussing the news last week.

So with no clear-cut choice, and with an inevitable deadlocked vote on the horizon, I humbly offer my services to the game of baseball to serve as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball.

I’ll come right out and present all of the knocks against me. I majored in journalism and therefore I have no business background. In fact, I struggle to file my taxes properly each year — so many numbers! I have never owned a baseball team; the most expensive thing I’ve ever owned is my Honda Civic (#Humblebrag). I sometimes go three or four days without shaving my face, therefore giving off a vibe that does not scream “big-shot executive.” I can hear pretty well, which is apparently something MLB commissioners shouldn’t be able to do. Also, I don’t own too many suits, so that’s going to be a hurdle for me.

With all of my weaknesses out on the table, here’s a list of things I’d change within the first year of becoming MLB’s commissioner.

Get Rid Of The One-Game Playoff
The newest addition to MLB’s postseason is also the worst. Oh, sure, it’s wildly entertaining for the fans to watch this three-hour carnival, but it’s wildly unfair for a team’s entire season to be decided by one game. While it is true that such a possibility existed prior to the postseason change, the old way was actually Game 163 of the season, not Game 1 of the playoffs. To have a team’s fate decided by one game is to allow 0.6 percent of a season to determine the outcome of a team’s entire year. By comparison, the lowest possible season-length percentage to determine an NHL or NBA team’s season (four games) is 4.8 percent of the season, while football teams’ seasons are decided by one game, or 6.3 percent of their seasons. Baseball is not a sport where anything should be decided by just one game. Scrap this idea before a lousy 85-win team catches some breaks and eliminates a 98-win second-place team from a ridiculously strong division.

Add More Day Games To Every Team’s Schedule
Baseball was meant to be played under sunny skies. It’s a fact — you can look it up in a book, if you’d like. We need more day games, especially in the summer when kids aren’t in school, and we need more Saturday afternoon games. “But we have to go to work on weekdays,” you say? “But you can call in sick and enjoy a hot dog while watching the ballgame,” I’ll reply.

Replenish Entire Umpire Pool With Guys Who Don’t Have Giant Egos; Add Umpire Watchdog To MLB Staff To Ensure They Stay In Line
There are just too many MLB umpires who love to puff out their chest and act like King Kong. I’m sick of these people, you’re sick of these people, players and managers are sick of these people. So not only will I be adding a ton of fresh blood to umpiring crews, but I’ll be hiring an official Umpire Watchdog to work at the league office and review umpire’s behavior. Those who make themselves too much a part of the game, those who refuse to admit they made mistakes, those who are wildly inconsistent with their handling of disagreements and confrontations, and generally just those who seem to be awful people will get punished. If they get punished enough, they’ll have to enter the real world and get real jobs like the rest of us.

Restrict Players From Fixing Their Batting Gloves After Every Pitch
Look, Dustin Pedroia, you’re a great player and all, but let me explain something to you: Velcro works. It just does. You attach that strap on your batting glove once, and it’s good to go, OK? Just trust me, you don’t have to step out, unstrap, readjust and restrap after every pitch. You’re wasting everyone’s time.

This is a problem that’s really gotten out of control. Remember how much flak Nomar Garciaparra used to get for his glove-fixing habits? If you pull up an old game on YouTube, his post-pitch ritual seems downright quick compared to players of today.

My new, non-huge-ego-having umpires will be allowed to call a strike to any player deemed to be wasting everyone’s time. That ought to get players to realize that Velcro works rather well.

Force Pitchers To Throw The Ball Within 12 Seconds Of Previous Pitch
I’m not going to add a “pitch clock” in the same vein as the NBA’s shot clock, because that would look tacky and out of place in baseball. However, I’m giving the umpire the authority to call a ball if — like with batters and their batting gloves — he deems the pitcher to be wasting everyone’s time. If he’s taking too long, the ump calls a ball. This rule currently exists (with the bases unoccupied) but it is never enforced. I’m changing that. People have places to go.

Clone Vin Scully
Look, I don’t know where you stand on genetic modification and everything, but here’s one thing we can all agree on: Vin Scully is a national treasure. Let’s get the best science guys and gals out there (you hear that, science? We need your guys!) to work on creating a few more Vin Scullys to fill the dead air on MLB broadcasts throughout the country. It’s unfair that only those in Los Angeles (and not even everyone in Los Angeles) get to enjoy the sterling pipes, perfect cadence and impeccable delivery of Mr. Scully.

Remove Any Real Value To All-Star Game; Add Skills Competitions To All-Star Week
Awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the league which won the All-Star Game was an idiotic idea when Bud Selig created it, and the fact that it persists to this day remains unfathomable. Get rid of that nonsense immediately. This is an exhibition game. Get real. The best record gets home-field advantage, end of story.

And I’m also adding some skills competition to spice up All-Star week. The home run derby is fine, and it can stay, but it needs to be shortened to an hour at most. I’ll add something for the outfielders, maybe a Tom Emanski-inspired throw from the outfield into a trash barrel at home plate. And we need to find a way to get these infielders to show off their unbelievable skill. We live in a YouTube/gif culture where people flock to see short snippets of incredible feats, and the interminably long home run derby doesn’t appeal to that audience. We’ll fix that by letting some slick glovework and impressive arm strength take center stage.

Allow Teams To Trade Draft Picks
… because why in the world is that not allowed? We saw that teams greatly value their first-round picks now, as evidenced by every team being unwilling to take a flyer on Stephen Drew in the offseason. Allowing draft picks to be moved would create for an even more exciting and interesting trade deadline every year.

Ban The Red Sox From Playing “Sweet Caroline” If They’re Losing By Five Or More Runs In The Eighth Inning
… because that’s embarrassing.

Move The Right Field Fence At Yankee Stadium Back 20 Feet
because this is not Little League.

Trash The Replay System And Start From Scratch
Selig’s efforts to allow video replay review to fix missed calls is commendable, but the execution has been awful. Let’s start this thing from scratch, because it’s August and people still aren’t clear on the rules. I’ll suggest that we employ a fifth umpire — one who is trained in operating our video systems — to sit in a booth, keep an eye on every call, and signal to the field to fix the call immediately if it’s missed. In situations where a fair ball was ruled foul or where a hit was initially ruled to be a catch, common sense will apply in placing base runners in their proper places.

Require National Broadcasters To Give Some Education About Keeping Score
This may not seem important, but the entire practice of keeping an official scorebook hangs in the balance. Much like bowling alleys now having computers to keep score automatically, therefore rendering the idea of filling out frames by using a pencil to be a foreign concept, the advance in technology in baseball is likely leading young fans to not know how to record a game with a pencil. It may not seem important, but it is. When the grid eventually goes down, we’re still going to need our statistics.

Allow Little League Teams To Use MLB Team Names
A few years back, MLB started enforcing its trademarks pretty hard, and caught in that crossfire were Little League teams that were named after big league clubs. As a result, towns that weren’t flush with cash were forced to change the Tigers, Mets and Phillies to names like the Bears, Eagles and the Bulldogs. The Cape Cod Baseball League also had to change the names of several teams, because MLB wasn’t cashing in on the Chatham A’s and Orleans Cardinals.

Well, that’s silly. MLB makes a lot of money, and many kids become fans of the namesakes of their Little League teams. Let’s not be petty. We are, after all, a baseball league here, and we’re not that important — we can share the names. We’re not losing any money because little Billy from Hudson, Ohio is on the Padres.

Fix The Warning System
All too often, Team A’s pitcher plunks Team B’s best hitter, and the umpire comes out and warns both benches that another beanball will result in an ejection. It’s unfair and puts too much power into the hands of umpires, who really shouldn’t be the ones in charge of settling scores. If a guy gets hit in the butt then so be it — we can’t live a life petrified of someone getting hit in the head. We’ll just be harsher with suspensions — none of this five-game slap-on-the-wrist garbage for starting pitchers — to serve as a deterrent for such actions, but sometimes a little eye-for-an-eye action helps square things up.

Remove Joe Maddon From Being The Manager Of The Rays
The man is just too grooooovy for MLB.

No More Artificial Turf Fields
It’s 2014. We’ve sent a man to the moon! You can grow and maintain real grass.

More Retractable Roofs
Rainouts are the worst.

Add The Designated Hitter To The National League
You’ve got 15 teams in each league, and you’ve therefore got interleague games happening all the time. It’s time we go ahead and adopt the designated hitter in the National League. It’s borderline asinine that MLB has significantly different rules for half the league anyway, and it’s time to end it. The purists will cry, “Oh, but the strategy! The double switches! We cannot lose this strategy!” To that, I say that I prefer watching good hitters take at-bats when I watch professional baseball. Seeing a pitcher flail weakly at every pitch isn’t exciting, nor is “strategy.” Watching professional hitters facing professional pitchers, on the other hands, is exciting.

Take Back The Marlins Franchise, Put It Into The Hands Of People Who Really Care
What’s going on down there is sick.

Raise The Salary Of The Commissioner
Hey, this ain’t a charity I’m running. Plus, I need some new suits.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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