MLB: Get Your House In Order

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: August 12, 2005

EL CERRITO, CA –Major League Baseball keeps stubbing its toe by making many mistakes. These mistakes could be avoided with strong positive leadership. Baseball is the only sport that has thirty different companies with thirty different agendas. Football, Basketball and Hockey are all under one company, one roof and have one goal with one set of rules to improve its individual sport.

Major League Baseball just seems to drag its feet on every issue. This could be the reason why baseball has fallen from the number one sport (1948-1994) in America. It is literally hanging on to the number three spot. This year hockey gave itself a shot in the foot when it went on strike. The (NHL) National Hockey League could have easily overtaken baseball this year.

What can the MLB do to improve? Here are a few suggestions

1. Replace the current baseball commissioner, Bud Selig.

Being an owner causes a conflict of interest therefore he should not be commissioner. Selig will resign after 2006. A commissioner should be for the fans, players, and owners. Selig is the commissioner of baseball not the commissioner of owners. His decisions are perceived as owner appeasing.

Major League Baseball should have a real commissioner, one who is player friendly. Likely candidates for this position could be former baseball players, Frank Robinson, Bill White and Don Baylor, along with sport announcers Bill Costas, Peter Gammons and George Will. Add my name to that list too.

The new commissioner should love and promote the game and not waste time defending it. Major League Baseball has to resist the establishment of new teams for the next twenty to thirty years. Uniformity should be established in both leagues before expanding again.

1n the 1990’s, baseball created four new teams who had to pay an entrance fee. These fees were created to subsidize existing teams. This economic plan did not work because the MBL had two or three existing teams that were not receiving enough revenue to keep its franchise in the black.

2. Baseball’s deficit spending.

Resist any contracts unless it is financially feasible. Examples of this are the two Florida teams (Marlins and Devil Rays), the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, and the Houston Astros. Major League Baseball should have an outside accountant agency to take a yearly audit of any team that is allegedly having trouble honoring existing payrolls.

3. Remove baseball’s reserve clause.

When that is accomplished you will have a true and honest trading format. The New York Yankees, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Los Angeles Dodgers would no longer be allowed to purchase the superstars of the game each year. Each team would than have to trade players of equal playing ability. Congress should have revoked the reserve clause years ago to make the playing field level and baseball accountable to America’s fair trade practice laws. It seems like every time Congress mentions the reserve clause act Major League Baseball changes its rules to temporarily appease or hold off Congress. The most recent steroid scandal could have been avoided if Congress had enforced this act.

4. Create a Racial Diversity Program.

Baseball’s future goal should be to help inner city children learn the art of this awesome sport. Young African American males are not playing baseball as they were 25-30 years ago. Young African American children find it hard to acquire baseball equipment needed to play. Incidents as that of San Francisco’s Giant radio host, Larry Krueger of Station KNBR who made racist statements about Latino players would be limited or eliminated.

5. Establish a hard salary cap.

This would prevent super power teams from being formed. The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves could no longer hoard players year after year. This would create a chance for every team to be in the phenomenal fall classic. It is obvious that with the current system this will never happen. It would be awesome to see the San Diego Padres play against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the World Series.

Create a four team and a four division league. Win your division or go home. The current wild card system was created for teams that do not have enough wins to be awarded a divisional crown. The reality of is all is that the wild card just increases playoff revenue for the owners. It is not about the players or the team.

6. Either have the designated hitter rule for both leagues or not at all.

This rule makes sense to baseball purist and makes many American League managers lazy. Most fans love the double switch. Some fans love to question when to take a pitcher out of any game. Major League Basketball, Football, and Hockey have unified league rules while baseball has diverse rules between leagues. Baseball might want to follow the National Football League standard (rule). When the NFL merged in 1969-1970, they combined the young American football League and the old National Football League into one set of football rules.

7. Reduce intra-league play into a 14 game two-week format.

These games tarnish what the World Series means. Presently the only interest in intra-league games for most baseball fans are the inter-city rivalries. Those of interest are the New York Mets-New York Yankees series, Chicago Cubs-Chicago White Sox series, San Francisco-Oakland A’s series, Los Angeles Dodger- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim series.

The intra-state rivalries like the St Louis Cardinals-Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds- Cleveland Indians, the Texas Rangers-Houston Astros, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays- Florida Marlin series and the newly formed Baltimore Orioles- Washington Nationals series.

Undoubtedly, the question would be how to schedule the rest of the league. This includes Atlanta, Arizona, Colorado, Seattle, Toronto, and Milwaukee. There has to be a fair and equitable system for intra-league play. If Major League Baseball wants to keep this system then let them stay in the same division. One recommendation could be that the National East Teams play American East teams; National West teams play American West teams, etc.

8. Have a comprehensive and complete drug testing program.

When a player gets caught, the very first time, they should be suspended for a year. Then baseball would not experience the sad events of the past few months. Make an emphatic decision on players that have used steroids. The Records of this era (1992-2004) should not be counted. Records of players having used steroids during this period should, put an asterisk (a starlike sign to use as a footnote) by the players name just as Major League Baseball enforced in 1961 with Roger Maris’s 61 season homerun record.

9. Return baseball to the common fan.

Give the average American baseball fan, (who can no longer pay the price of a ticket) an opportunity to attend the games at the ballpark. Teams should lower ticket prices, have family fun days, and more weekday games. The Oakland Athletics have been doing this since the 2000 season.

10. Schedule playoff and World Series games at an earlier time do that young children can watch their favorite team on television or at the ballpark.

Let us all remember that they will be the fans of the future. That is how I became a New York Met and Oakland A’s fan some thirty-five years ago.

These are the 10 steps Major League Baseball should take it they want to get back into the hearts and minds of Americans. This sport has to become serious and GET ITS HOUSE IN ORDER.