Baseball is prospering, but there are changes that could improve the game, starting with the All-Star Game. Here are some suggestions:
¤ Take the All-Star voting from the fans. This system was always open to abuse, but it’s become intolerable with the advent of online voting. Clubs tell their fans to vote multiple times. They do, with some fans voting hundreds of times.
¤ Extend the All-Star break so it doesn’t impact starting rotations. Every year, there are All-Star pitchers who, at best, are available for only one inning because they’ve pitched two days before. It’s happened this year with Tim Lincecum and Justin Duchscherer. So make the All-Star break five days, with the game itself on Wednesday. I’m sure MLB could find more silly events to fill the days. Pitchers would not only get their rest, but players would get a break that would keep them fresh for the rest of the grind.
¤ Drop the idea of having the winning league also be the home team for the first two and last two games of the World Series. Commissioner Bud Selig did this because he wanted to make fans think the game meant something, but there’s a better way. Instead of telling managers they have to get every player in the game, tell them to manage as if it’s a regular season game they’re trying to win. That’s the way it used to be. In the first All-Star Game I saw in 1961 at Candlestick Park, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente played key roles in a 10th inning rally that won it for the National League. The key is that they were all still in the game. That’s the way it was, and everybody was really trying to win the game. Now, starters are out of the game early, so they shower and get out of there. Think they care how the game turns out?
As for the rest of baseball:
¤ A division winner that finishes under .500 — hello, NL West! — can’t be in the playoffs. Take the second-best wild card.
¤ Do something about the schedule. It’s a mess. One example: The A’s have played 55 home games already. In the second half of the season, they’ll have only 10 home games in each of August and September.
¤ Make the National League adopt the DH, conforming with the rest of professional baseball, high school and colleges.
I can hear the screams from National League fans. “We’re playing the game the way it was intended to be played.” Good thing these fans weren’t making the rules for the NFL or we’d still have one platoon football.
In fact, NL baseball is nothing like the early product, when gloves were tiny and the ball was so dead it could hardly be hit past the infielders. Want to go back to that?
NL fans say they want players to play the whole game, but pitchers don’t.
If a manager had a serviceable starter who won 13-14 games but didn’t get a hit all season, do you think he’d take him out of the rotation? Of course not. He’s a specialist, in the lineup for one reason. If you substitute a DH in the batting order, you’re just replacing one specialist with another.
It’s time for the National League and its fans to enter the 21st century.