MLB: Open Letter to Commissioner Manfred

January 1st, 2017

Dear Commissioner Manfred,

RE: Changes for Baseball in 2017

You had a great 2016 getting labor peace for five years with a new collective bargaining agreement signed and made the all-star game a meaningless spectacle again (which I mean in the best possible way – home field advantage in something as important as your championship should be decided by most regular season wins, not an exhibition game). This is progress and baseball needs more modernization in some areas to continue as the tradition-laden game fans are flocking to have as part of their summer ritual. The suggestions here – are just that, suggestions – but are meant to encourage dialogue and keep your momentum going in helping to grow the sport. While it may look like a Top 10 list, it is really a list of 10 suggestions to take under advisement as you seem to be a more open and inclusive leader than your predecessor in the Commissioner’s chair.

  1. Make it a wild-card round, not a wild-card game: If you have been a fan of a team that has lost the wild card game, you will know what I mean. Living and dying with each pitch in September as your team claws its way to a ‘playoff’ berth only to see it snuffed out in a one-game, winner-take-all format is cruel. Having the wild-card round be a best-of-3 with the lower seed hosting first and the higher seed having two chances in Game 2 and 3 to potentially close it out at home gives teams more of a feeling of post-season accomplishment (and owners will support the idea getting more revenue that comes from adding 2 more games to the television playoff package).
  2. Retire Chief Wahoo and change Cleveland’s team name: Blue Jays announcer Jerry Howarth made waves (… well maybe a small ripple) when his 1992 decision to stop using team names that had the potential to offend Native Americans became a story in the 2016 ALCS between Cleveland and Toronto. Sports, as you know, can have massive social impact and if Cleveland could get out in front of this and be an example for Washington’s NFL team, baseball would be better for it. It’s time to bring back the Cleveland Spiders. Sure, the worst winning percentage in a season ever of .130 is part of the Spiders legacy but no other team in major sport claims the Spiders moniker and Cleveland could have a brand all to themselves that everyone could support.
  3. Help facilitate a Marlins sale: It’s time to encourage Jeffrey Loria to take a gigantic windfall and exit baseball for good with his legacy of annoying the two markets where he owned teams – ironically for not getting a new stadium built in one (Montreal) and for getting a stadium built in another (Miami) that is seen as a gross use of public funds – something to leave in the past. The Marlins need a new strategy to make the most out of a market with more potential and the current owner / most hated man in baseball with his amount of baggage is not going to get that done.
  4. Tampa Bay’s ball: Sticking in Florida, the Rays are a depressing situation and in need of drastic change. Last in attendance by about 3,000 fans (or 18.3% worse than 29th place Oakland) plus the worst regional television deal, the economics in Tampa must be addressed for this team to compete. With Charlotte being the market leader in minor league attendance, is it fathomable to suggest the Rays move to North Carolina and adopt the logo, uniform and Clawford of their High A affiliate, the Charlotte Stone Crabs? (Granted, it’s a different Charlotte but Stone Crabs would be a great team name).
  5. Bring Back the Expos: As your personal favorite for expansion Mr. Commissioner, it is time to line up a deep-pocketed owner and expand / re-engage with the Montreal market. Successful exhibition games are one thing but this market is ready for every day baseball and has the market size to support it.
  6. Let’s Add a Team #32: Montreal will need an expansion cousin, although some leagues feel like they can make it work with uneven numbers. There are some great markets to help grow the game – Charlotte (see point #4), Austin (fastest growing urban market with no professional team in the Big Five leagues), Portland (the Pacific Northwest needs a second regional team) and even explore the feasibility of a Mexico City team.
  7. End Interleague Play: With two expansion teams, an American League and National League would each have 16 teams and no reason to intermingle. The current set-up with 30 teams makes interleague play a necessity but end it as quickly as possible. The two expansion teams would pay a hefty price to join MLB but a bigger benefit would be the end of every-day interleague play.
  8. Find the way to San Jose: Yes, Golden State Warriors are leaving Oakland for a shiny new arena in San Francisco. Plus, the Raiders are more likely than not to be the Las Vegas Raiders in the near future. The A’s could have the East Bay sporting landscape all to themselves but there are more lucrative spots in that particular metropolitan area to draw from as far as corporate sponsorship and luxury boxes that would be good for all of baseball.   The San Francisco Giants lay claim to the territorial rights of San Jose in a long-running battle but surely something can be done to ensure that the Giants continue to keep their revenue streams from the area and that the Bay Area A’s can thrive, instead of relying on revenue sharing every season.
  9. Help Baseball Succeed in Other Countries: While ‘World Series’ might be a misnomer, there are markets in the hemisphere in Mexico, Puerto Rico and possibly Havana that could benefit from some kind of Major League Baseball presence. In an effort to grow the game and with GDP appropriate-level tickets, teams could help develop markets for the next generation of fans to follow interconnected franchises in multiple countries.
  10. The NL should remain DH-free: It is one of the oddities of modern baseball that one league has a DH and the other does not but it is a quirk that works. On any given summer evening, you can find a game on basic cable that shows two types of the same game being played and it is a tradition worth keeping.

Thanks for reading this far Mr. Commissioner and here’s to you and baseball (and my loyal readers) having an excellent start to 2017.

Your friend in baseball,

Simon

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