Rob Manfred, the current COO of Major League Baseball, will take over as the 10th commissioner of the league in January and will face a litany of challenges and requests all wrapped in an ever changing sports landscapes.
Most importantly he will have a great opportunity to weigh in and make changes to the great American pastime. Here is where he should turn his attention.
Bay Area Territorial Rights
Problem – For four long years, Bud Selig has pushed off making a decision on the territorial rights dispute between the Giants and the A’s. The A’s have expressed an interest in moving from Oakland to the largest city in the Bay Area, San Jose. The trouble is the A’s played good neighbors and gave the city away for free to the Giants when they almost became the Tampa Bay Giants.
Flash forward to recent times and the Giants now don’t want to give up for free what they didn’t pay a dime to acquire. They are now waiting out the A’s until they get a new Oakland stadium or relocate.
Solution – Make a decision. Decree that the Bay Area is not unique and no one has territories, like every other team. Or, have the A’s pay the Giants for San Jose like the Nats did to O’s.
Our Solution – Mediate and come to a compromise where the Giants buy out Oakland and the A’s take the money to buy a new stadium in a new city.
Prepare for Expansion
Problem – The time will soon be ripe for expansion. T.V. contracts being what they are and pitching having the upper hand, expansion will come. When baseball expanded into Tampa Bay and Miami they weren’t prepared. There weren’t even Triple-A teams and they had to guess the fan interest
Solution – Get Triple-A team in Portland, Montreal and San Antonio. See how they do compared to New Orleans, OKC and Charlotte. That way, when the time comes, an informed decision can be made.
Rose and Shoeless Joe
Problem – There is a growing voice to let Rose back into baseball. Shoeless Joe as well.
Solution – There is no solution; let them sit on the outside looking in as a permanent warning to all. I say this as a Shoeless Joe fan.
Grow the Fan Base
Problem – Baseball is in a boon era of ever increasing television contracts, but it is a bubble waiting to pop. They need to grow the fan base beyond aging white middle class men. There has been a good general push to get younger eyeballs, but more can be done.
Solution – Triple down on the RBI program is a good start to get a more diverse player base (African American players are only 8%). To get younger viewers, MLB needs to be available on more devices than cable t.v. without paying a premium. Australia and Japan are nice to visit for early exhibition games but real impact will be with visits to China, India, Europe and South America.
Problem – Baseball has an amazing opportunity to be the American Ambassador towards Cuba. There is a wealth of ball players in Cuba which (selfishly) would be great for the MLB player pool. The time it takes for a Cuban refugee to get into the U.S. is far too long and carries too many risks.
Solution – Work with the State Department to help open the pipeline. Sure there are red-tape obstacles, but the rewards are endless.
Problem – Games take fooooooooooooooreeeeeeeeeevvver, which is a good way to drive away TV and live viewers alike. There have been ideas talked about and some rules been put into place. Pitchers have a limited amount of time to throw but it isn’t enforced. It is tough to make pro ballplayers break lifelong habits.
Solution – Start enforcing time limits at the lower levels first and build up. And, bring back the bullpen cars.
Old School is Old
Problem – Andrew McCutcheon got hurt because Kirk Gibson is an old-school guy who plays revenge games. Having the reigning MVP and poster-boy of the game hurt because of bad preconceptions is just plain bad for the game. Imagine if the head throw last year on Puig put him in the hospital?
Solution – Harsher penalties for retaliation tactics.
New School is New
Problem – “Baseball is boring.” Yeah, we’ve heard it before. Why not embrace the exciting new style that has been creeping into baseball. Sure, there is a fine line between a bat flip and showing up other players, which leads to old school retaliation. However, soccer is called boring by many and there are few more exciting places than a soccer game – chants, full crowd displays and rousing atmosphere.
Solution – Baseball should embrace and encourage crowd excitement. Take a look at Seattle. There are multiple sections of fans sitting in the “King’s Court” who chant “K K K K K…” whenever Felix Rodriguez has two strikes. They wear shirts, wave signs and chew on turkey legs. It was a team created by a marketing ploy, but it works. Think of Pittsburgh last year chanting “Cueto.” It impacted the game. Manfred can build this wonderful experience in every stadium.
Brian Reddoch is a CraveOnline reporter and rabid fan of all teams Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter @ReddReddoch or “like” CraveOnline Sportson Facebook.
Photo Credit: Getty