Baseball is fantastic as it is, but it could be better. Over the years, my friends and I have discussed ideas about how the game could be improved. Some of these suggestions are practical; others are a bit off the wall. But these suggestions would make America’s Pasttime even more fun:
1. Increase instant replay
It’s not acceptable to dismiss poor umpire performance as “the human element” of the game. With the technology we have today, there’s no reason not to get calls right with a high degree of accuracy. Why are we settling for less?
Instant replay should be vastly expanded to cover almost any contested play. A fifth umpire could handle replay duties. Challenges from managers could be limited, or umpires could have the discretion to review plays as they see fit. The details are unimportant. What’s needed is more accountability for getting calls right.
2. Runners shouldn’t have to stay within the basepaths
Why should runners be confined to a narrow strip of land that’s arbitrarily enforced by the umps? It drives me crazy when, in the middle of a thrilling rundown, the runner is called out because he had the audacity to try to avoid the tag. Enough already. Let runners be free to dodge tags in whatever way they want. If enacted, this rule change wouldn’t change the game much because the fastest path between two bases is a direct line, and runners usually prefer to get to the next base as soon as possible. MLB should let runners run. It would make the game more exciting.
3. Change the structure of the commissioner’s office
Bud Selig has ruled as MLB’s all-powerful commissioner since an owner’s coup in 1992, and he has held office despite repeatedly saying he would step in. There’s a reason he’s called “commissioner for life,” and in January he received a contract extension through 2014. While I support many of Selig’s initiatives — interleague play, realignment, the wild card, the World Baseball Classic — he has also catered to the owner’s interests to the detriment of the fans.
A better system would decentralize power and make baseball more democratic by creating a five-person committee to oversee the game’s governance. As suggested my friend Erin from squaretender.com fame, two committee members would represent owners, two would represent players, and the fifth would be the key: the fan’s representative. The fan’s representative would case the tiebreaking vote in disputes between owners and managers, acting for the benefit of the game itself on behalf of the customers who pay billions of dollars to watch it.
4. End the idea of sacrifice flies
MLB Rule 10.08(d) allows batters who hit flyouts that score runs to not be charged with an at-bat. Unlike a sacrifice bunt, these batters get credit for a sacrifice fly even though it’s difficult to tell whether they were actually trying to sacrifice themselves to score a run. In many cases, batters are trying to get a hit, not a sacrifice. When a batter hits a fly ball that scores a run, he should get an RBI, but he should also be charged with an out and an at-bat.
5. Eliminate the designated hitter
There are many good reasons for consigning the DH rule to history, but one stands above the rest: the game is more strategic and interesting when pitchers have to hit. I would be happy if, in exchange for the killing the DH, each team were allowed to expand its roster from 25 to 26 players. This move would go a long way toward accommodating the players’ union.
For more game-changing ideas, check out a three-part series that ESPN published: