A letter to the MLB owners

A letter to the MLB owners
August 12, 2014, 1:00 pm
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(AP Photo)

Dear Major League Baseball owners — and yes, I mean all of you — even the ones who are only worth a couple hundred million. Even the ones without their own island. Even you, Nintendo. This goes out to everyone,
 
I write with peace and love and the knowledge that commissioner Bud Selig is finally ready to retire. Also, that on Thursday morning in Baltimore, you’re all getting together to choose his successor.
 
From what I can gather, most of you plan to vote for MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred — long considered the Adam Silver to Selig’s David Stern. However, as the clock ticks down, a few of you are getting feisty. A real special few, too. Guys like you, Jerry Reinsdorf. And you, Artie Moreno. You don’t want Manfred to get the job.
 
You know the only way to stop him is to block the vote — and that you need to round up eight owners to do that. At which point, there will be more conversation and another vote, and more conversation and another vote, until ONE candidate receives the 23 votes necessary to officially assume the crown.
 
For whatever reason, you’ve selected Tom Werner as the man to rally the masses and overthrow Manfred before he even assumes power. And that’s fine. I respect it. We all loved Grace Under Fire. But it remains to be seen whether Werner has the pop to get over you over the top. It’s far from a done deal. To be frank, as the great Congressman Marty Huggins once said: “It’s a mess.”
 
And you need someone to clean it up.
 
Someone like me.
 
Rich Levine, the next commissioner of Major League Baseball.
 
To start, you’re all big businessmen, so let’s cut to the chase and talk salary. And not the $30M a year that Bud Selig reportedly rakes in. Certainly not the $44M that the NFL pays Roger Goodell or even the estimated $10M a year that the NBA pays Adam Silver.
 
I’ll do it for $5M.
 
You guys keep the rest.
 
See, we’re already saving money.
 
Second, let me make one thing clear, I’m a dreamer. I have enormous plans for this league; for “our league.” By the time, I’m done, people will look back and wonder how the league ever survived before me. It’ll make Selig’s wrinkled tenure look like an ant, and I don’t say that lightly. For all the flack that he gets, old Bud left a sizable orthotic slipper print on baseball. He initiated the Wild Card round and interleague. He canceled a World Series and the Expos; he gave birth to the Rays, Diamondbacks and instant replay. He willfully ignored steroids. He mercilessly infected us with the World Baseball Classic. He called one All Star Game a tie and then decided that the All Star Game should decide home field advantage in the World Series.
 
Ah yes, the All Star Game. Elect me as your new commissioner and the first thing I’ll do is restore the Midsummer Classic to its proper place as a meaningless exhibition. Why? Because people are laughing at you guys. They’re mocking this league. And you shouldn’t like that. That should make you angry. Especially when you know they’re right. It’s a stupid idea. It was a stupid overreaction to a stupid initial decision.
 
I WILL BRING BACK THE OLD ALL STAR FORMAT!
 
And then tweak it. Maybe take a page from the NHL and mix things up. One year it’s USA vs. the World. Another year, it’s a fantasy draft. We’re saying screw you to tradition because tradition isn’t cutting it. We need fun. We need fresh, young energy. Think the Home Derby is getting stale? Well, that’s because it is. But here’s the simple solution: Metal bats.
 
And just as a general rule, we’re done with requiring one player from each team to make it. This isn’t middle school. We only want the best.
 
Speaking of the best, there’s the Hall of Fame. Once the most glorious and storied Hall in professional sports, but these days, it’s kind of a joke. At the very least, incredibly flawed. Things need to change, and I’ll change them immediately.
 
First, I’ll take the vote away from BBWAA. They don’t deserve it. As a baseball fan, and your next commissioner, I won’t stand for the BBWAA’s petty feuds, false morality and borderline psychotic egotism. The people don’t deserve it. It’s a joke.
 
I’ll create my own Hall of Fame committee, led by an honest, and well-intentioned chairman, that will meet every year and do what’s right — induct the best players who ever lived into baseball immortality. It won’t matter what they did or who they were off the field. All that matters is production. In this case, Pete Rose will be re-instated and inducted. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire — anyone with a Hall of Fame career makes the Hall of Fame. And once they do, let them stand at the podium before the baseball world and say what they think needs to be said.  
 
Also on the topic of steroids, I’m bringing them back.
 
The game needs it. It needs more Giancarlo Stantons. And I’m not saying that Stanton is on steroids, because I have no idea. But if steroids were legal, there would be more guys like him and BOOM — it’s 1998 again.
 
Under my steroids policy, each team will have five roster spots — three hitters, two pitchers — to designate as PED Players. And they’re allowed to go full-on Barry Bonds.
 
But they can only be traded for each other during the season. They have to wear a steroids patch on their uniforms. They also have to film individual PED PSA’s telling kids not to juice. Explaining the toll that it takes on a body; and a life. We’re going to be honest about it, guys. I know that’s not a natural state for most of you, but I promise it will work. Five players on every team. And we’re going to test everyone.
 
Anyone other than those five who test positive will be suspended for a year. A second offense is a lifetime ban.
 
This influx of power will inspire two more changes.
 
1) The National League finally adopts the DH.
 
2) Helmets for pitchers.
 
The perfect helmet doesn’t exist yet, but I’ll be committed to working with doctors and scientists to develop a helmet that can be worn out on the mound and not hinder a pitcher’s performance. For now, starting with the first game of Spring Training 2015, we will triple the padding inside a pitcher’s hat. If it’s too tight, he can just go up a size. Either way, helmets for pitchers is a priority. Those who say it’s ridiculous are the same people who cried about batting helmets in the ’50s and ’60s. There will be no place for them under my commissionership. Not to mention, the aggravation that they cause will be nothing compared to what happens the first time a helmetless pitcher is struck and killed by a line drive.
 
Moving on, if I’m elected commissioner, the phrase “unwritten rule” will be banned from baseball. And the punishment won’t be a wrist slap either. If one of my players, managers or anyone uses the phrase “unwritten rule” in an interview he will be fined heavily and depending on the context, suspended. In my book, it’s on par with a racial slur.
 
I WILL ABOLISH EVERY UNWRITTEN RULE IN BASEBALL.
 
And we will be happy. Everyone will be happy.
 
They also wouldn’t mind if we sped up these games a little, and I can’t disagree. Baseball games keep getting longer and attention spans keep getting shorter and we need to do something to combat the problem.
 
Of course, the PEDs will help. Length of game won’t be quite as taxing now that every team has three monsters in the middle of the lineup. But we still need to find a way to shorten these games, everything needs to be done faster, and I’m committed to finding the best way to make that happen.
 
In the meantime, instead of shortening games, I’ll push to shorten the season — 132 games. Five fewer games a month. So that during the year, people have a chance to miss baseball instead of taking it for granted every night. So that people can have real lives and be a real fan without having to dedicate every night of their summer. So that the league office won’t have to freak out every time there’s a patch of rain in September and there aren’t enough off-days to fill in the gaps. So that there aren’t stretches like the Red Sox had this year — and many teams do every year — where they played 36 games in 39 days in nine cities.
 
There’s no reason for that. Why does there always need to be a game? There’s never a second for fans to catch their breath, for stories to develop. And I know, guys, with 15 fewer homes games, you lose some money on ticket sales and concessions — but I promise that the game will grow. People will be more likely to pay attention because they’ll actually have the time to pay attention. It won’t be such blur. Each game will mean a little more. The urgency — the buzz — will happen sooner. Personally, I think even 132 games is too much, but that’s a decent start.
 
And this was a decent start, too. With this letter, I’ve officially entered the race. I want to be your next commissioner. And if you like what you’ve read so far, don’t hesitate to call, e-mail or DM. I can be in Baltimore as early as today and have so much more to share.
 
Until then, I’ll leave you with just a little taste of what’s to come.
 
Two words: LASER BALL.
 
Commissionerly yours,
 
Rich Levine
 
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine