Last week news broke that the MLBPA was discussing possible changes that it might approve or bring up at the next collective bargaining agreement, which ends after next season.
Several of the discussion points I wholeheartedly endorse, while others I feel are simply grasping at straws.
Baseball is a great game. It is my favorite game. MLB executives think the reason fandom has waned is because games are too long — nevermind the fact that the average fan is old enough to remember watching Mickey Mantle play. While the NFL and NBA are drawing in a young crowd, baseball’s general fan base is aging and dying.
Executives still, however, want to shrink the length of games, pulling out ideas like a pitch clock, limited mound visits or capping usage of relievers.
While on the surface these all seem fine, those are not the issue. The real reason games last so long? Commercials. But hey, a smart business does not turn down revenue for the sake of a better product.
Baseball’s actual problem has more to do with the current labor issues. The reason Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are not already signed with 10-year, $350 million dollar contracts isn’t because they aren’t worth it — they are — but rather because MLB owners have begun silently colluding to make more money. Baseball is a $5 billion a year industry, and wages have stagnated over the last five years while revenue has jumped. That’s not the players fault — and let’s face it, the players are why we go to the ballpark, and never the owners.
A strike is likely in 2021, which will be unfortunate after over 25 years of labor peace. The last work stoppage nearly ruined the game, and the only thing that saved it — home runs from steroid users — is now looked at as a bad piece of history in which anyone connected via side-eye is a cheater and should be banned from our national consciousness ASAP.
But let’s get back to the intriguing rule changes.
First, the universal designated hitter. Yes, yes and yes again. For those that feel that the DH is killing baseball, I hate that you like seeing the pitcher spot account for a .105 batting average. That’s what’s truly ruining the game.
Let hitters hit, let pitchers pitch. And if someone can do both, like Shohei Ohtani or Michael Lorenzen, then a manager should be able to DH for his weak-hitting shortstop. But I digress.
Next, the 26-man roster. While yes, it creates 30 new MLB jobs, the real number should be 30. And no 40-man roster. Active day rosters could remain 25 players and the DL, now known as the IL would only allow for a 60-day stay or longer. A guy has a calf strain? Leave him off the daily active roster. After three guys get hurt, then decisions would have to be made.
This would also rid the use of shuffling players back and forth to the minors. If a guy is actually struggling, then no trip to the minors to correct it — he would have to be waived and get a chance to sign elsewhere.
Changing the draft rule to eliminate tanking. Again, yes, yes and more yes. The World Series champ should get the top pick. Make every team fight every year for that top pick — and a championship. Every team going for it, every year should always be the story of the season.
Starting extra innings with a runner on second. I will scream from the mountains forever: NO! Before starting a runner on base (nevermind the statistical annoyance it would create), instead maybe allow re-entry of players — maybe one every three innings. Double switch in the seventh? Well in the 11th the lefty can come back into the game. And how’s this for something crazy — it can be to a different spot in the batting order.
I sense the pitchforks already parading down the Times driveway, so excuse me while I sneak away.
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and believes that first-day workouts in Spring Training should be livestreamed. Adam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.