Dan's Dugout: MLB Should Turn Back the Clock • Latino Sports

Baseball

Dan’s Dugout: MLB Should Turn Back the Clock

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I’ve been a rabid baseball fan since 1957 — long before Rob Manfred has been on this planet.

Since experience is the best teacher, I want to contribute to the Manfred-started discussion on pending changes to the game.

Let me start by saying I love the game. I would rather watch minor-league baseball than the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, or NCAA Final Four basketball game.

Bud Selig was a lightning rod for controversy during his 22 years

Bud Selig was a lightning rod for controversy during his 22 years

That being said, just because I love the game does not mean I love the myriad of radical changes implemented primarily during Bud Selig’s Reign of Error.

Although Selig is virtually certain to win Hall of Fame election from the Veterans Committee this winter, his litany of changes deserves closer scrutiny. Most of them, I believe, have hurt the game.

Sure, there’s more money in baseball now than ever before. It is omni-present in the print and broadcast media. It still draws decent crowds to its showcase events.

But the bottom line is that baseball could be a whole lot better. All it would take is a mandate from Manfred to turn back the clock.

Rob Manfred contemplates big changes in baseball

Rob Manfred contemplates big changes in baseball

Determined to be his own man rather than a Selig disciple, the second-year commissioner says he’s going to make changes. But the betting here is that changes of the Selig stripe will make things worse.

When I grew up in Northern New Jersey during the ’50s, the two leagues had eight teams each, no divisions, no wild-cards, no inter-league play, no designated hitters, no Sunday night games, and no five-man rotations or pitch counts. Players picked All-Star lineups, the winning league did not get home-field advantage in the postseason and games were faster, smarter, and more fun.

The best teams in each league actually advanced to the World Series without passing GO, collecting $200, or engaging in weeks of tedious playoffs that may improve the bottom line but hurt the health of pitchers taxed too heavily after a season’s worth of work.

Such a system allowed the Yankees to win five straight World Series

Could the Yankees win five straight World Series now? Photo Credit: Daniel Budasoff/Latino Sports

Could the Yankees win five straight World Series now?
Photo Credit: Daniel Budasoff/Latino Sports

from 1949-53 rather than fall short of the finish line because of a bad bounce, or bad umpire, in the playoffs (see Eric Gregg, 1997 NLCS).

Baseball can both restore order and retain its new revenue by expanding to 32 teams, restructing to four eight-team leagues, and pitting the pennant winners in a round-robin playoff to produce World Series participants.

The wild-card, like the designated hitter, would be confined to the scrapbook of wild ideas, joining the 1957 Edsel.

To accommodate the end of the DH, increase rosters by one, thereby creating 30 new jobs to replace the 15 lost designated hitters. How could the union possibly object?

Players, managers, and coaches should pick the All-Star lineups, as they did from 1958-70, and All-Star managers would complete the rosters. The site of the game would alternate between leagues every year, avoiding the 2016 spectacle of National Leaguers wearing road uniforms in a National League park.

And World Series home-field advantage would rotate too, as it did before FOX foisted its ridiculous idea on MLB in a failed effort to increase ratings.

Rob Manfred worries about length of game and other issues

Rob Manfred worries about length of game and other issues

Want to increase ratings? Show showcase games on weekend afternoons and start weekday postseason games early enough so that young fans — tomorrow’s ticket-buyers — can see the end.

Manfred is right that reliance on relief pitchers and ill-conceived defensive shifts delay the action but misses the fact that musical overtures played for each batter has the same detrimental effect.

The 46-year-old baseball czar, who earned his job through years of protracted contract negotiations with the powerful players union, faces another winter with a deadline for a new Basic Agreement.

Since some of the changes — perhaps a restoration of the 154-game schedule — will need to be included, they could become part of the game as early as next year.

Let’s hope Manfred is the right man in the right place. He can make a good thing better. But he can also make it worse.

In addition to talking to the union, the television people, and the corporate interests that sponsor the game, he needs to get out and hit the campaign trail. Talking to the common man — the guy who sits on his rocker outside and listens to games on the radio — would be the best thing the boss can do to boost baseball.

I’m a big believer that if something ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

Baseball needs to do a “system restore” and get back to the way it used to be before the 30-somethings decided to raise the decibel level in the ballpark.

Bring back the organ. Bring back The Good Old Days. Make baseball The National Pastime again.

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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