So, here’s the deal. Consider this post part of a fictional world where yours truly has just by some miracle been named Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The game is in its exact same state. I am now just the man sitting in the Commissioner’s Office, and not only that, but I have full autonomy. I am not shackled by the owners, players, or anyone else in terms of what I can do, although at times I will take their needs into account.
The last time that we got together on this topic, I spoke on what rules changes we were to implement to help the game become more appealing. You can find that here if you missed it. Today I finish this series with talk about our league structure. Want to tell me how great my ideas are or how horribly wrong I am? Leave a comment of contact me on Twitter @DJLJR26.
Without further delay, part three, the finale of my open letter to the baseball world as Commissioner.
Good Day to Baseball Fans Everywhere,
For the final installment of my first communication with you as our new MLB commissioner, I wanted to talk to you about league structure and administration. You may ask though, what does that really mean?
Well, let’s start here… in my last letter I wrote heavily about the rules of the game and how we may or may not change them. And with all of these rules, we need someone to enforce them. Umpiring is an incredibly important part of our game. To put it simply, we need men and women with impeccable eyesight and quick decision-making skills. We are going to raise the budget for new and existing umpiring personnel by 25% and are looking to employ new staff starting in the minors right now. Specifically, if you have a history as an Air Traffic Controller, Firefighter, other Emergency Personnel, or ex-military your name will go to the top of the list, assuming other basic qualifications. We will take any qualified personnel from any background but think individuals of these backgrounds will serve us particularly well.
With all of that being said, umpiring will remain a job that is done by humans, NOT by artificial intelligence. We want our game to have every single call humanly possible (emphasis on “humanly”) be accurate, but we want those calls to be made by human beings. This game, like much of life, is still about relationships and human interest. The game will continue to have a soul if it has storylines, and among those storylines is going to be adversity of every sort including bad calls. Perhaps this is a really foolish thing to say as commissioner, but the game is better off with us getting as close to 100% accuracy on calls as we can without actually reaching 100%. Anything more would just be clinical.
With the investment we are making in umpiring as well as my above feelings about keeping what people usually refer to as “the human element”, we will not be expanding instant replay. In fact, we will require that any instant replay review taking longer than 1 minute defaults to the call on the field. If the reversal isn’t obvious, we are moving on. Action needs to continue.
Lastly, the opportunity for managers to challenge whether a baserunner momentarily came off a base during a slide is hereby banished. Calling a baserunner out for coming off of a base for a split second during his slide is outside of the spirit of the rules and something that our rule makers would have never envisioned over a century ago. Its also just a cheap way to get an out.
With officiating settled, let’s move on to league structure. Namely, how the American and National Leagues may look different within the next few seasons.
The Oakland Athletics have 4 years to come up with a league approved plan for a new stadium in the Bay Area. This is doable, we know plans continue to be in the works right now,. I by no means want to take the As from Oakland, but the situation with their current ballpark becomes less an less tenable by the year. Facilities with problems the level of Oakland’s ballpark, such as its known sewage problem are not good for the game or its public profile. If this issue isn’t resolved by Dec 31st, 2025, the league will be prepared to facilitate their relocation to one of the following cities: Portland, Orlando, Sacramento, Charlotte or Montreal. The league encourages the Athletics to help with the funding of the stadium and is willing to funnel any revenue sharing dollars that the Athletics receive to a fund to help with said funding so that the entire burden isn’t placed on the taxpayer.
As a brief aside, I am for the sharing of financial burden between our league and the public on new stadiums. I encourage a 50/50 split whereby the public may also use the stadiums to their benefit during the off-season.
Moving back to structure, league alignment will remain the same for the moment, but regardless of the outcome of the Athletics we plan to add 2 ballclubs from some combination of the five markets I mentioned in time for the 2026 season. Bidding on those expansion teams begins today and we hope to announce the two lucky cities by 2023. If I had to pick favorites at this point they would be Portland (growing city, would have perfect natural rival in Seattle) and Montreal (baseball has a long history there, and its shameful that we ever left). Everything I said above about stadium financing applies.
This move will lead to re-alignment that will see MLB remain with an American and National League but will return to East and West Divisions only. Teams will play 12 games against their seven division opponents and 8 against the eight non-division opponents in their league. That will still equal 162 games. Interleague play will be abolished. The intrigue of that gimmick wore off in about 2001.
I find that there is merit to both the argument that watching pitchers hit is downright depressing, and there is a certain charm to having to strategize and prioritize pitching against pinch hitting. In short, both having and not having the designated hitter has appeal. For that reason, the DH will remain in the American League but not in the National League. We will have our cake and eat it too.
Also, in the name of the interleague conversation, the All-Star Game will now be preceded not just by the Home Run Derby, but by a skills competition, much like we see for NBA All-Star Weekend. This can include competitions such as throwing to targets (perhaps a matchup where pitchers compete against position players) and a fielding game of H-O-R-S-E where each participant has to catch grounders/flyballs in the same style following their successful opponent.
I will be taking other suggestions for competitions from my cabinet (more on that to come), but more than anything, we love home runs, but want to highlight other talents within the game as well.
Wrapping up the league re-alignment portion, the top three teams in each division will make the playoffs. The fact that the schedule is balanced will lead to more integrity in our league standings and allow for the lack of need of a Wildcard. With 6 teams in each league making the playoffs, the first round will be a best of three where the 2nd seeds will play the opposite division’s 3rd seeds. The 2nd seed will host all games and start the series with a 1-0 advantage. The LDS will follow by having the 1st seed with the best record face whichever team that won in the first round that had the worse regular season record. The 1-seeds will also start out with 1-0 advantages in the LDS, but these series will be best of 5 and include the travel schedule we are accustomed to. LCS and World Series formats will remain as they are today. Hopefully, by giving the advantages we have to the teams with better records we will be able to emphasize the importance of the 162-game season. Being successful over that many games should matter in crowning a champion. Granted, we will not start this format until the 2026 expansion.
And with that along with my other letters, you have every change (or not change) that I want to make to our game at this time. Granted, I am certain there will be unforeseen consequences and new problems as my time progresses and these changes take shape. Actually, I can pretty much guarantee it. In the new and recurring issues that are to come, I am going to need help. All decisions are ultimately made by me, but I am going to need help with getting all the right answers.
For that reason, I am issuing an open invitation to the following experts that upon their approval will serve as my cabinet moving forward. These individuals are:
- Mark Shapiro, current CEO for the Toronto Blue Jays (highly respected executive in the game, suggested as commissioner at time that Manfred was hired)
- Andrew Friedman, current Team President for the Los Angeles Dodgers (architect of both the Rays and Dodgers, would be integral to talking about how teams are built in 2021)
- Theo Epstein, former team executive for Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs (has spoken of his desire to help improve the game survive since leaving the Cubs, the more we can learn about the tips and tricks teams use, the better)
- Chung Un-chan, former President of South Korea and current KBO Commissioner (most impressive resume on the list… former President!, KBO has a huge young adult female following, we want to learn from him on that as well as the overall fun culture of KBO)
- Michele Meyer-Shipp, MLB’s current Chief People and Culture Officer (integral to keeping us culturally relevant and on the right side of history)
- Dr. Justine Segal, Doctor of Sports and Exercise Psychology, the first woman to be a coach in MLB (trailblazer and expert on mental health, this needs to be a focus for us moving forward, has also worked on the game in both Japan and Mexico)
- Ken Griffey Jr., Hall of Famer, and current league employee (the coolest ballplayer of the last half century, we need his perspective)
- Curtis Granderson, former player, and current league ambassador (the ballplayer version of Shapiro, highly regarded by all, gives non-superstar perspective and integral to youth initiatives)
- Ichiro Suzuki, former player and current coach, first Japanese position player to star in the Majors (another trailblazer with the ability to bring perspective as a foreign-born player from the Far East)
- Mel Rojas Jr., current player in NPB, former player in KBO and in minors (able to provide perspective as a minor leaguer as well as foster relationships with our foreign league partners who he has played for)
- Freddy Rolon, head of ESPN Deportes (America’s Hispanic population grows and is a big part of our fanbase, we need to learn how to better market and present our game to them and he has been highly successful at ESPN)
- Meg Rowley, Managing Editor at Fangraphs (the perspective on new-age American media such as podcasting and community-based web interaction will be hugely important as well as a background in finance)
- Richard Wang, Asia Media Correspondent for International Baseball and Softball as well as the first announcer for an English broadcast of the CPBL (help foster the relationships to do international broadcasts, can help put together our web presences as he did during the pandemic of CPBL)
- Jimmy O’Brien aka Jomboy, current owner of Jomboy Media (help leverage the internet and the idea of “going viral”)
- Two fans to be named from each league that will serve four-year terms and will be decided on by a combination of fan vote and league approval.
We feel the combination of talents, backgrounds and personalities that have been put together will help allow myself and the league to look at problems from several different angles such a diversity, player, team, league, media and fan relations among them.
And you read that right. Four spots on my cabinet are reserved for regular, ordinary fans. If they are passionate and knowledgeable about the game, they have a chance to join. Applications will begin on our website tomorrow. The ability to understand complex issues will matter and we will only be taking the best of the best, but we still specifically want these roles to be held by fans- people outside of the game that have spent time in their daily lives enjoying our product. If this describes you, we want you to apply.
And I will leave you with that, as I had started. This game is here to serve the fan and be the best representation of itself that we can be. I thank you for your time, and here’s to the beginning of another great season that is up and running.
Dan Lembke Jr.
Hypothetical Commissioner of Major League Baseball