I may be in the minority, but Major League Baseball’s decision to suspend the season until at least mid-May doesn’t bother me.
Long ago, as the game moved further away from the baseball I grew up with and loved, I became disenchanted with its direction. My list of gripes is long, but I’ll name just one of my dozens of complaints – the nonsensical homerun explosion. In 2019, batters hit a record 6,776 homers, 20 percent more than any season in baseball’s history. Boring!
When asked to identify baseball’s biggest problem, Pete Rose said that the proliferation of home runs tops his list. Rose said that in today’s game, every batter represents a home run threat. “You get tired of watching the highlights … every hit is a home run,” Rose said.
But for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, an owner-friendly lawyer and baseball’s chief bean counter, the more homers, the merrier. Manfred admitted that juiced baseballs, which he approved and that contribute to the tedious home run burst, should be examined and reconsidered. Time will tell if Manfred is serious about returning to the old ball, but his previous actions prove that Manfred is the traditional game’s avowed enemy.
Dinosaur fans should brace themselves for baseball to soon become more unrecognizable. Money-mad Manfred, not content with baseball’s status as a $10 billion industry, wants to expand from 30 to 32 franchises, and to open up the playoffs to more teams. Manfred is greedily eying $12 billion as his goal.
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Expansion candidates include Montreal, where baseball previously failed; Austin, Texas, which would have baseball’s smallest television market; and Mexico City, where Manfred is willing to dismiss economic, political and security negatives to boost merchandise sales. Also under consideration are Orlando (even though baseball has flopped colossally in Miami and Tampa Bay) and Vancouver.
Wherever the expansion teams land, and Manfred’s growth plan is an inevitable reality, they’ll be noncompetitive. Remember the original New York Mets, the Houston Colt .45s and the Seattle Pilots, all doormats for established teams.
Meddling Manfred has more bad ideas that he wants to foist on fans. With Manfred’s blessing, the proposal owners intend to pitch is that 14 of the 30 MLB teams make the playoffs, an increase from the current 10. Pay close attention, the confusing details follow: the team with the best record in each league gets a first-round bye and its choice of second-round opponent; the other six postseason teams in each league – four wild cards and the other two division champs – play a best-of-three first round which would replace the current one-game wild-card playoff. The bottom three wild-cards have no first-round home games.
In an outrageous reality television approach comparable to the Sunday night NCAA selection pick, the highest ranked teams would pick their opponents! Imagine this: “The Los Angeles Dodgers chose the St. Louis Cardinals.” Including rainouts and travel days, the season could begin on Valentine’s Day, and end on Thanksgiving.
Manfred is a menace. Not only is he too cowardly to adequately punish baseball cheaters, Manfred is constantly tinkering with the game, and making it less watchable with every flawed decision he makes. But fans should hunker down and expect more tradition-killing changes to come from Manfred’s office. Since the commissioner’s contract extends through 2024, Manfred will likely inflict more major damage to baseball during the next four years.
Joe Guzzardi is a Society for American Baseball Research and Internet Baseball Writers’ Association member. Contact him at email@example.com.
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