Having been a lifelong baseball fan and having umpired from 1970 to 1984 (including the minors), I have concluded that Organized Baseball needs a bit of a facelift and updating.
First, we need to expand by two franchises to cover up and coming metropolitan areas. One is the Winston-Salem North Carolina area and the other is Portland, Oregon, both of which now have minor league teams so we know there is interest there in the game. That would bring the total teams from 30 to 32.
Second, we need to exploit regional rivalries to create and maintain passion among the fans. So I would put the eight teams into four leagues: Northeastern would have Toronto, Boston, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington. Central would have Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinatti, and Denver. Southeastern would have Tampa, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Winston-Salem, Kansas City, St. Louis, Arlington. West Coast would have Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego and Phoenix. Another advantage is it would decrease travel expenses and player fatigue because of shorter distances.
Third, we need to redo the schedule for a longer season and less playoffs. So I would have each team play 63 games in each half (three three-game sets against each of the other teams) in their own division and 24 games (one four-game set at home in one half and one four game set away in the other half) against each team in an “outside” division which would rotate year to year. Example: year one, Northeast plays Southeast teams, year two Northeast plays West Coast, year three Northeast plays Central At the end of the season, the playoff would have the team with the best record in each division playing the best in another division rotating year by year. Then the two teams who won each playoff would play in the World Series. Example: Northeast champ plays Central champ in year one, Southeast in year two, West Coast in year three, etc. This would eliminate the “wild card” idea and would insure that only a team that won its division would make it into the post-season.
Fourth, I would have six umpires on all games with seven man crews-each umpire would work six days and have a day off instead of in-season vacations. I would also raise umpire salaries to a minimum of one half the minimun player salary (meaning a rookie umpire would earn about $150,000) and peg the maximum to one-third the average player salary, which I believe now would work out to a senior umpire making about $900,000. I would also raise physical fitness and health standards for umpires (including rules against intoxication, smoking and junk food), and insist that players, coaches and managers show a great deal more respect for the umpires.
Fifth, I would start a cable & satellite TV network also viewable on the Internet for every team, every game, on a paid subscription basis at some reasonable rate, in addition to present broadcast and cable contracts.
Sixth, I would crack down on beanballs and any other practice not related to playing the games but calculated only to injure opposition players. A team invests heavily in its player personnel and that investment can’t be jeopardized with bad behavior. For the same reasons, I would institute mandatory, random test-anytime drug screens of blood, breath or urine, and immediately remove players from competition who test positive.
Of course, in the future I am sure I will have more ideas, but this is a start.