Major League Baseball has a new Commissioner. Rob Manfred will take over on January 25, 2015, replacing current Commissioner Bud Selig. Manfred, who is a lawyer focuses on labor and employment law, and is also a business executive. He worked with MLB during the collective bargaining sessions and was the main spokesperson during the 1994–95 strike. He was outside counsel to the owners group before joining MLB on a full-time basis in 1998, serving as the Executive Vice President of Economics and League Affairs. He has served as the Chief Operating Officer of MLB since 2013.
Although baseball is strong financially right now, and growing, there are still several issues that need to be addressed as soon as Manfred takes office.
Currently average attendance is at about 30,500 fans per game, which is not far from the record of 32,785 set in 2007, before the recession. But, baseball will need to find ways to shorten the game to continue to increase attendance and TV viewership.
Attention spans are shorter than ever these days, and that will only increase with the next generation of sports fans. Thirty years ago the average time of a game was around 2 hours and 35 minutes. This season, the average has increased to 3 hours two minutes, which would be the longest season average on record. Everyone, including players, owners, and even umpires understands this problem.
What steps can MLB and the new Commissioner take to address this issue? Options include, forcing hitters to get into the box, calling more high strikes, restricting catcher-pitcher conferences, restricting the throws over to first base, enforcing the time limit between pitches, and reducing the time for instant-replay reviews.
Overall there is too much time between pitches. Requiring the umpires to strictly enforce rule 8.04 (has to happen), which says a pitcher has to throw a pitch within 12 seconds of the batter stepping in the box, with the pitcher in possession of the ball, would get pitchers to work faster.
Hitters should also be limited in the number of times they are allowed to step out of the batter’s box.
The competition for the entertainment dollar has become more of a challenge and the key to staying ahead of it is to keep the next generation excited about the game of baseball.
I realize the pace of the game is not a problem with everyone, but the sport needs to grab the attention of the casual sports fans and keep them interested, especially with the younger demographic.
There are other issues, aside from the time it takes to get through a 9-inning games that will need to be addressed.
The next collective bargaining agreement session is not until after the 2016 season (Expires Dec. 1, 2016). But, you better believe the players union wants changes, particularly concerning the draft restrictions and the free-agent compensation rules. Talks to replace the collective bargaining agreement will be conducted with new player’s union leadership, headed by former player Tony Clark. Clark and Manfred said they both know each other well and will work to make sure a strike does not happen. But, we have heard that before. Labor issues are never easy to resolve and several parts of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement will need to be revisited.
The question of the Universal Designated Hitter (DH) or no DH. Both leagues need to play by the same rules. This has been a long-standing issue with everyone involved in baseball. With regular Interleague play it has become confusing to the fans. If you are an NL team visiting an AL team you use the DH. If you are an AL team visiting an NL team the pitcher hits. Whatever side you are on regarding this issue, MLB needs to make a decision and move in one direction or the other.
Many other issues, like keeping the game PED free, TV revenue, stadium issues, the new catcher collision rule, what to do with Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson when it comes to the Hall of Fame, will certainly keep the new Commissioner very busy.
Feel free to provide your ideas for continuing to keep MLB a thriving sport.
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