Under Selig and newly formed committee, the fix is finally in for baseball
My holiday gift came early. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced Tuesday, to the surprise of many inside the sport, that he had appointed a 14-man special committee to fix the sport. Of course, Selig didn't say "fix." His group will just "analyze ways to improve" the sport. In other words: fix.
After the various embarrassments of this year's postseason, piled on top of a recession-plagued year with sinking attendance, MLB has decided to get serious about correcting its problems, many of which have festered for years. From excessively long games to bad umpiring to World Series games in November to the intractable DH rule, Selig says, "There will be no sacred cows."
With three seasons left before his term as commissioner is over, Selig is determined to do all he can to put the game "on the field" in as good of shape as possible as part of his legacy.
"We're not just reacting to things in October," Selig told me Wednesday. "I've been thinking about this for years."
The proof of his seriousness is in the superb quality of his committee.
His group includes four managers who've at some point won World Series: Tony La Russa (St. Louis), Jim Leyland (Detroit), Joe Torre (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Mike Scioscia (Los Angeles Angels). "You guys are on the field. You live this every day. We need your input," said Selig, and the four have already been batting ideas among themselves for two weeks.
The committee also includes elite executives such as John Schuerholz of Atlanta and Andy MacPhail of Baltimore as well as owner representatives like Paul Beeston (Toronto), Bill DeWitt (St. Louis) and Dave Montgomery (Philadelphia). Frank Robinson, who has studied issues like slow play, is on board.
These are baseball's brand names. Any issue on which they offer a consensus proposal will almost certainly be adopted by the sport. If this sounds like the NFL's powerful Competition Committee, it should. And it's about time.
"We're open to talk about anything," said Selig, confirming that issues such as pace of play, quality of umpiring, expansion of instant replay, November World Series dates and some surprisingly fundamental rule changes are all fair game.
For example, to reduce excessive use of specialty relievers and speed up the game, could you change the rules so a pitcher would have to face at least two batters? "Nothing wrong with that," said Selig, not endorsing, of course, but sounding enthusiastic.
The committee's first brainstorm session will be at the owners' meeting (Jan. 13-14) with all GMs invited. Expect some changes by next year. Others may take a year or two. " 'Expeditious,' is the word," said Selig. At least an in-depth process is finally underway.
So, let's get busy and fix this sport. Here are 10 places to start: