August 7, 2012
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he will retire in 2014. Some question whether he will or not, but if that is the case, it will be interesting to see what changes the next commissioner may attempt to employ. Baseball is a great game as it is, but there’s always room for improvement.
Here are some suggestions for whoever may take the mantle from Selig. And if Bud wants to make some of these ideas a reality in 2013, he is more than welcome.
1. Expand instant replay
Reviewing plays takes time. This is something we’ve learned from watching six minutes of commercials while NFL referees try to figure out if the halfback’s knee was down before the ball came loose. This fact makes adding more instant replay to baseball a risky prospect. After all, some would say games already last too long.
However, protracted arguments take time as well, and are futile in almost every case. How often have you seen a blown call at first base result in a 5-minute argument? And how often have you seen that call overturned?
Instead of arguing for 5 minutes, why not use that time to review the play? As Dodgers announcer Vin Scully said, after witnessing an argument over a blown call, “We have all this technology and they don’t use it because they say it would delay the game. Well, what was that we just saw?”
The logistics of video reviews should be similar to what the NHL does, with a slight improvement. Have a review official (preferably someone with previous professional umpiring experience), located either in the ballpark, or offsite, call the crew chief on a cell phone. Tell the crew chief that the play is under review. Once the review official determines the correct call, he tells the crew chief. The call is either upheld or overturned. It should take no more than a few minutes.
This should be rolled out slowly. Start by using video replay for calls at first base only. Think of how many blatantly bad calls have been made at the first base bag over the years, from Don Denkinger in the 1985 World Series, to Jim Joyce at the end of Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game in 2010.
These calls can be overturned or confirmed quickly by a replay official.
Once the execution of video replay at first base is perfected, roll it out to other bases, or to determine traps or catches, etc.
For border calls, use another technological innovation…
2. Use the MacCAM
Over the past few years, professional tennis organizations have used something called a MacCAM. It’s a high-speed camera that is used to determine whether a ball is in or out. A computer-rendered image shows exactly where the ball hit in relation to the boundary line.
Why is it called the MacCAM? Because it eliminates the kind of player-official arguments made famous by tennis legend John McEnroe when he played in the ‘80s.
This technology would be a perfect addition to MLB. Someone hits a line drive down the left field line. It appears to hit the chalk, but the umpire calls it foul. With the MacCAM trained on each foul line, it is quickly determined that the umpire was wrong, and the ball is fair. The player is awarded first base, or, if MLB wishes, it can be considered an automatic double.
No more arguing border calls, just like in tennis.
3. The All-Star Game should no longer determine home field advantage in the World Series
In 2002, the MLB All-Star Game ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings. Determined to get every player in the game, each manager ran out of players. To rectify the problem going forward, Selig did what anyone would have done.
He decreed that the winner of the All-Star Game would decide home field advantage for their league in the World Series.
Selig’s decision solved a problem that didn’t exist, and did absolutely nothing to prevent ties in future All-Star Games.
Subsequently, each league’s manager has still tried to get every player in the game, meaning the game would still end in a tie if a 2002-type scenario were to happen again. Luck is the only reason an All-Star Game hasn’t ended in a tie since 2002.
Also, if this game is so important, why are the fans still voting for the players? Shouldn’t each manager pick the players he wants on his team? And shouldn’t he care more about winning the game than getting every player on the field?
The answer is to make this a pure exhibition again. It’s still the most entertaining All-Star Game in sports, because the nature of the game forces players to play defense. This is not the case in the NBA and NHL, which are just bloated, boring shootouts. And the NFL’s Pro Bowl is so unwatchable that Commissioner Roger Goodell may deep-six it altogether.
How should the league prevent a tie? Add 5-8 more players, mostly pitchers. Call this your “Second Team All-Stars.” Their role is to wait until extra innings before being used. Afraid they won’t show up for the game? Make it financially worth their while.
Can there still be a tie? Yes, if the game goes 15 innings or so. But it will be far less likely. In fact, the All-Star Game has only ended in a tie twice in modern history. Think of what the odds would be with extra players reserved for the end of the game.
Home field advantage in the World Series should be determined by the records of the teams playing in it, not the All-Star Game.
4. Limit Catcher’s mound visits
Clocks do not belong in baseball. But slow pace of play is often an issue in MLB, especially for the casual viewer. One way to help move the game along at a crisper pace is to limit the number of visits the catcher makes to the mound.
Similar to the limitation set on visits from the dugout, catchers should only be allowed to visit with their pitchers once per inning. Anytime the catcher walks more than halfway to the mound, an extra ball should be added to the current at bat.
Pitchers and catchers will have to work harder to coordinate their signs, but it will be worth it. Not even the most loyal baseball fan wants to sit through multiple, Jorge Posada-style visits to the mound.
These are four reasonable suggestions that can be realistically implemented by Major League Baseball. These changes wo make the game we love even better.