Commissioner Manfred, You Don’t Have To Destroy Baseball To Save It


An open letter to new Baseball Commissioner Manfred,

We can all appreciate that every new man in a big position wants to look action-oriented and intends to make his mark in his own way. You’re now the tenth man to sit in that big Commissioner’s chair, and that number ten holds some weight.

Of course, we who love the game know the significance of the tenth man in baseball.  Oh, he’s not a world-class athlete at the ready in center field, but still he’s very much a part of the game. That’s a little bit like a commissioner, wouldn’t you agree?

I read your letter to us, Commissioner Manfred.  I love your commitment to supporting home-grown athletes, and I particularly appreciate your focus on youth league baseball in urban, underserved areas. As a kid who grew up playing baseball on concrete, but loved the game so much I never noticed the lack of grass, that one hits close to home.

That said, I’ve got to speak my mind and let you know although I agree with many of your main visions for MLB, I’ve heard about a couple of new ideas coming down the pike that I thoroughly disagree with.

I applaud your concepts of expanding the audience for baseball and getting the younger generations to embrace the sport – but ideas that have little to no regard for the base concepts of baseball should really be off the table. Here’s an example of a wacky idea that I oppose: A running time clock. In the dugout. Are you serious?

I don’t have to wax poetic over the unhurried pace of a Sunday afternoon ball game. Many have done that far better in the past than I can today, but you know what I’m talking about. Baseball has a cadence that pretty much hasn’t changed since the days of Ty Cobb. Besides all that, every game already has the ultimate timekeeper – the umpire.

Mr. Commissioner, a time clock on the fields of summer is an aberration. Baseball aint never had a clock because it never needed one. Period.

I can appreciate your good intentions toward speeding up the game for the X-Box generation, and we need to keep and expand the youth audience. We all get that.

Free of charge, here are three ideas to speed up the game’s pace and attract younger fans:

1. How about shortening the length of time allowed for all those TV commercials between innings? Baseball can lop off thirty seconds per half-inning right there. I know that’s a big pill to swallow, so how about limiting the shorter commercial times to innings 4 through 9? Call innings 1 through 3 “premium innings” and charge advertisers accordingly. You won’t lose a penny in revenue.

2. Remind umpires of the power they hold over the clock. Send the following memo to all players:

"“Nomar Garciaparra retired a long time ago. All batters please get back in the box.”"

3. Return day games to the postseason. Give those schoolkids on the east coast a break and let them see the end of a World Series game once in a while.

My final gripe (if you will) with the changes you’re considering, is your leaning toward the banning of the defensive shift (in order to supposedly increase offense).

Say what, Commissioner?

Are you seriously thinking about telling a manager how he can or cannot position his players based on the tendencies of the batter? I suppose there are some rumblings about less runs being scored in the game today, but if you limit a manager’s defensive weapons, what’s next – outlawing the curveball?

The strategic maneuvering of players by a manager is at the crux of the game and it harkens back over one hundred years. Heck, they even used the shift on me when I played as a youth. Every time I came to bat, the outfield moved way in.

I might be a major leaguer today if the outfield couldn’t move and had to stay back where they played against the boomers on our team.

Commisioner Manfred, please don’t distort our beloved game by adding time clocks and subtracting strategy. They say first impressions are important. Perhaps it’s less so for those of us with lifetime appointments, but still.

We who love the game really don’t want to think we just inherited another commissioner who thinks ballgames can end in ties.