Dan Schlossberg's Midweek Report: What new Baseball czar must do • Latino Sports

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Dan Schlossberg’s Midweek Report: What new Baseball czar must do

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NEW YORK — Just days after his appointment, Commissioner-in-waiting Rob Manfred is receiving tons of unsolicited advice.

Some writers are telling him to dump the DH while others are asking that he make it universal. Late-starting, long-running games, changes to the All-Star Game and postseason play, and even the dreaded salary cap are all back in the conversation.

Everyone has their eye on December of 2016, when the current Basic Agreement between owners and players expires. Baseball has enjoyed labor peace for 20 years, thanks in part to Manfred’s ability to negotiate and even change the Basic Agreement with pushing players into strike mode.

Retiring commissioner Bud Selig might not like what he hears from his successor

Retiring commissioner Bud Selig might not like what he hears from his successor

A handful of owners, however, still wants to take a hard line stance virtually certain to spark a strike if owners insists on a payroll cap — something every other sport has had for years.

As Oakland owner Charley Finley correctly predicted years ago, free agency has spawned a free-for-all enabling the rich teams to corral the biggest names on the open market. That doesn’t always translate to championships, however.

It is not who signs whom to what but who makes the most careful investments and especially who hires the best scouts and player development people.

As for the new man at the top, at least he’s 25 years younger than retiring Bud Selig and therefore more attuned to what future generations of fans want.

Keith Olbermann, heretofore known as a political commentator, got the ball rolling in the right direction when he produced a phony TV segment that suggested what he would do as Commissioner of Baseball. Many of his ideas were right on the money, though they might cost the owners some of the $9 billion surplus they currently enjoy.

If this columnist became Commissioner for a Day, here’s what some of the executive orders might look like:

1. Dump the DH — it was supposed to be a three-year experiment to boost the offense in the American League. The experiment is over, leaving in its wake a legacy of one-dimensional stars whose Cooperstown candidacy can’t be contrasted fairly with regular position players. The 15 jobs eliminated could be replaced by expanding rosters to 28, as Olbermann suggested, but not expanding rosters to 40 in September.

Writer hopes the error of Interleague Play is coming to its end

Writer hopes the error of Interleague Play is coming to its end

2. Kill Interleague Play — Another experiment gone awry, it has distorted league and individual records, compromised the integrity of the World Series, and produced a dozen meaningless games for every “true” rivalry (such as Yankees-Mets or Dodgers-Angels). Interleague play should be for the All-Star Game and World Series only.

3. Expand Again — Four eight-team divisions (two in each league) would end the need for interleague play and create more jobs, satisfying the union when it screams about the departure of the designated hitter. It would also simplify the playoffs, eliminating both the one-game playoff for the wild-card spot and the whole idea of a wild-card, which is not a true champion over 162 games. Winners of each division would play a best-of-seven Championship Series for the right to meet in the World Series, ensuring that each league would send one of its best teams to the final round.

4. All-Star Fixes — Let players, coaches, and managers choose the All-Stars, from lineups to subs; ban them for voting for teammates; and allow one vote per man. That would end the nonsense about voting early and voting often, as if the All-Star election were a presidential race in Honduras. Start the damn game early so that kids can see the ending. And end the ridiculous practice of awarding home-field advantage to the winning league.

5. Restore the League Offices — Baseball tradition mandated two league presidents, two league offices, separate umpiring staffs, and a true rivalry during such showcase events as the All-Star Game and World Series. The Commissioner shouldn’t be a dictator and should use the wise counsel of the league presidents (Olbermann endorsed the return of Bill White, a man of ethics, as National League president).

The highly-respected Bill White should return to his role as NL president

The highly-respected Bill White should return to his role as NL president

6. Speed Up Games — Eliminate one minute of commercial time between every inning of every game and two minutes during showcase games. That would quicken the pace of games more than pitcher-catcher conferences, pitching changes, or instant replay reviews. Don’t let batters step out more than once per at-bat. Eliminating the boisterous bars of music that greet each batter wouldn’t hurt either.

7. Game Time Changes — There’s no reason on earth that ESPN should start Sunday Night Baseball at 8 o’clock Eastern, virtually guaranteeing that two-thirds of the working population won’t be around to watch the end and most morning papers won’t contain up-to-date standings on Monday morning. Except for such hot spots as Dallas, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, there’s no reason for play Sunday night ball at all. In fact, the Saturday Game of the Week should be a night game, since there’s nothing else on TV then and fans don’t have to get up early for work the next day. Four o’clock starts stink — they start too late for those who want to watch a game and go out for dinner or for those who want to eat an early dinner and then watch. MLB should NOT cave to TV programmers but should have total power to regulate the times their games are shown.

8. Lower Prices — Tickets, concessions, and parking are unaffordable for average fans, thanks to Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr, and a players union that has had MLB in a stranglehold ever since the 232-day player strike of 1994-95. Lower the prices and more fans will come, which also means more fans will follow the game. Baseball officials who complain attendance is stagnant are pricing the average fan right out of the ticket-buying market.

Timing of the World Baseball Classic, not to mention its value, is under review

Timing of the World Baseball Classic, not to mention its value, is under review

9. World Baseball Classic — There’s not one major-league manager who likes this event, mainly because it interferes with spring training every time it is held. November, normally a dead month for baseball, would be a fine time for this tournament, if it must be held at all, but March should be for spring training and spring training only. Pitchers throw too hard too soon in the WBC and hitters aren’t ready either, as the rash of WBC injuries indicates.

10. Bad Ballparks — Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay) and O.co Coliseum (Oakland) are bad ballparks in bad places and, predictably, drawing bad crowds. Both the Rays and A’s should be allowed to relocate, with such territories as Northern New Jersey, Charlotte, New Orleans, Vancouver, and even Montreal more than suitable new sites.

11. Turn Back the Clock — Baseball doesn’t need a clock but it does need to turn back the clock, to look at what made the sport “America’s national pastime” before greed and creeping commercialism forced fans to look elsewhere. The game was more fun in the ’50s and ’60s because it was a sport in addition to a business. Rob Manfred needs to recapture that image.

Elsewhere around the majors:

Even without star slugger Ryan Zimmerman, the Washington Nationals clicked at the right time, reeling off seven straight wins — most in walkoff style — just as Atlanta also got hot in the National League East . . .

Ryan Zimmerman's bat isn't missed by Nationals Photo Bill Menzel

Ryan Zimmerman’s bat isn’t missed by Nationals
Photo Bill Menzel

Is a switch-pitcher the next rabbit the Yankees will pull from the proverbial hat? Sidearmer Pat Venditte, boasting a career minor-league ERA of 2.49, thrived at Double-A Trenton this year before jumping to Triple-A Scranton and posting solid numbers there. The last ambidextrous pitcher in the majors was the memorable Greg Harris . . .

The latest hotshot in Chicago is not Al Capone but Puerto Rico native Javier Baez, a rookie infielder who began his big-league career by collecting home runs the way Capone once collected debts. A catcher, infielder, and centerfielder at his Florida high school, Baez is one of four shortstops overpopulating the position for the Cubs. Trades are likely, with the Mets and Yankees topping the list of interested parties . . .

Just wishing Ralph Kiner were around today and tasked with pronouncing the name of Arismendy Alcantara, one of the Chicago shortstop quartet. It was tough enough for Kiner when he had to call Bob Apodaca pitching to Biff Pocoroba . . .

Troy Tulowitzki, the National League’s All-Star shortstop, is shelved indefinitely following hip surgery — a serious blow to the NL’s leading hitter and the best player in Colorado, which also lost Carlos Gonzalez (knee) for the year . . .

Idled by injury since July 22, Tulo lacks enough qualifying at-bats for the National League batting title, which now is

Troy Tulowitzki, coveted by the Yankees, is down for the year with hip surgery

Troy Tulowitzki, coveted by the Yankees, is down for the year with hip surgery

dominated by Tulo’s teammate Justin Morneau . . .

King Felix, bidding for his second Cy Young Award, had made a record 16 straight starts of 7+ plannings without yielding more than two runs — until the Tigers tripped the Seattle stalwart, 4-2, over the weekend . . .

Also gone is Clayton Kershaw’s string of 11 straight wins, though he’s still the Cy Young favorite in the NL . . .

Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto would be the Cy Young frontrunner in a league that didn’t have Kershaw. He leads in wins (tied with Adam Wainwright) and is second in both ERA and strikeouts . . .

After losing Matt Harvey to Tommy John surgery last year, the Mets breathed a sigh of relief that this year’s rookie sensation, Jacob deGrom, missed only a few starts with shoulder soreness . . .

The Mets will also get Daisuke Matsuzaka back soon after his bout with a sore elbow . . .

Seattle pitcher Chris Young definitely had a better season the Mets outfielder Chris Young . . .

Best name in baseball this year: Joe Panik of the San Francisco Giants. He’ll definitely be a future manager.

The New York Times concluded a lengthy article on the new commissioner with these pearls of wisdom: “Tailoring a slowing product to a generation craving speed is no easy task but that is Manfred’s challenge.”

 

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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