McAdam: Here's the next's commissioner's To-Do List

McAdam: Here's the next's commissioner's To-Do List
August 14, 2014, 10:45 am

BALTIMORE - We can't say for sure that Rob Manfred or Tom Werner will be baseball's next commissioner. For that, it's not entirely clear when the decision will be made.

Nominally, owners are set to vote on their choice to replace Bud Selig on Thursday, but even allowing for search committee chairman Bill DeWitt's feeling "optimistic'' that someone will garner the 23 votes necessary here, there are no guarantees.

Regardless of the identity or the timing, whomever takes office next January will find a long to-do list.

Here are the big issues facing baseball's new chief executive -- whomever he may be.


1) Time of games

Even for a lot of traditionalists, the game is now too slow. When a 2-1 game takes three hours and 20 minutes to complete, a lot of the enjoyment of the game ebbs away.

The languid pace doesn't help TV ratings either. When the post-season arrives, the games intensifies, but the pace slows further. Most fans don't have four hours to invest in a single sporting event - especially one that starts after 8 in the East and runs past midnight.

Perhaps talk of a pitch clock -- in which pitchers and team would be penalize for failing to deliver a pitch within a certain time-frame -- is too radical.

But something must be done. And, you should pardon the expression, fast.


2) An aging fan base

See, above.

For younger fans, raised in an era of MTV-style editing on shows and in movies, accustomed to a quicker pace and spoiled by news cycles and social media that deliver everything RIGHT NOW, baseball might as well be chess.

This has reportedly been one of Tom Werner's pitches to the search committee and his fellow owners, and even if Werner is a distinct longshot to be elected, it's a cause that the next commissioner must take up.

Kids think the game is boring. Something needs to be done to change that perception, or baseball will continue to sink as a national TV property, and eventually, as its older fan base dies off, empty seats.

Baseball has not done enough to publicize its stars. The game could learn something from the NBA, which excels at this sort of personality promotion.

3) Improving the drug testing program

It's true that baseball has the most comprehensive and effective drug policy of the four major sports, especially with the NFL mysteriously dragging its heels on HGH testing.

Simply put, baseball tests more players, more often, for more banned substances and has a discipline system in place that is the most stringent in North American sports.

And yet, if the Biogenesis scandal taught us anything, it's that too much gets past the testing program. It may be a case in which the sport never keeps pace with those attempting to beat the system, but it must strive to continue to try.

Anything less will invite the kind of widespread PED abuse that rocked the sport from the mid-1990s through the mid-way part of the last decade.

 

4) The beating of war drums on the labor horizon

Remarkably, baseball is the envy of all other sports when it comes to labor relations, having successfully negotiated new collective bargaining agreements in the last three cycles without so much as a hint of a work stoppage on either side.

The trust that was built between Bud Selig-Rob Manfred and the late Michael Weiner was extraordinary and the game has continued to grow for both players and owners.

Revenues are up -- the sport could reach $9 billion this year for the first time -- and so are average salaries, TV rights fees, franchise values and virtually any other economic indicator available.

Still, there is unrest as a new MLBPA leader [Tony Clark] takes over and a new commissioner is set to be elected.

Some hard-line owners -- led by Jerry Reinsdorf -- are pushing for a tougher stance against the union in when the CBA expires after the 2016 season and there are even whispers about a demand for a cap.

The next commissioner will have to establish trust with the Players Association and enter negotiations that an interruption of play must be avoided at all costs.

 

5) Fix the stadium situations in Tampa and Oakland

The Rays and the A's are two of the better run franchises in the game, consistently making the playoffs (or at least contending for them) while managing modest payrolls.

But the stadiums for both clubs are horrendous. Tropicana Field is the least aesthetically pleasing facility in either league, to say nothing of poorly located. That still beat the A's O.co Coliseum, which is at times is quite literally a health hazard.

For too long, Selig has appointed committees and blue-ribbon panels to study each case, but stronger action is needed. If baseball needs to  help raise -- or loan -- the money for new ballparks, it should do so.

If they must be moved, helped them find other markets. In the case of the A's-Giants dispute over San Jose, mediate the issue.

These two franchises -- and their fan bases, however small -- deserve better. Swifter action must be taken to remedy both problems.