Welcome to my hypothetical campaign to be the next commissioner of Major League Baseball. What follows are 5 proposed rule changes that will provide a bright future for the sport we all love so much.
- The Strike Zone
- The DH
- Home Run Celebrations
- Playoff Format
- Rookie Contracts
It’s time to bring baseball into the modern era. Technology will help us along the way, but fairness and fun will anchor our vision for the future.
1. Implement a Digital Strike Zone
I follow a frustratingly amazing Twitter account called @UmpireAuditor. The account highlights particularly egregious calls by measuring how far out of the strike zone a called strike was based on the digital overlay of the zone we see during games now. The pinned tweet on the feed of that account makes the argument for a digital strike zone very well.
Fairness is one of our foundational anchors. This is a move to make the game more fair. Here’s how:
The strike zone is very clearly defined in the MLB rule book as:
“that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap.”
The vanguards of the unwritten rules of baseball will argue that the human element provided by each umpire’s unique interpretation of the strike zone on any given day is invaluable to the sport. It’s the way it’s always been and it makes the game better somehow.
My response is that there is no mention in the rule book of “umpire discretion” when it comes to the boundaries of the strike zone. It is unambiguous.
The new digital strike zone would be the same width for every batter (the width of home plate) while being adjustable for the height of the batter. The technology exists now for AI to map a skeleton, mathematically determine the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the belt of each batter to set the top of the strike zone, and identify the knees for the bottom.
How this would work practically is as follows. Every stadium would be required to have a strike zone screen visible from home plate. This could simply be a live feed from the center field camera with a digital strike zone overlay. This way the umpire could simply glance up at the screen after each pitch to see if it touched the strike zone. We could even make it so if the outline of the ball intersects the strike zone, the box on the screen fills with a color or the word “STRIKE” for all to see.
Home plate umpires will still be needed for all other duties (fair/foul balls, plays at the plate, appeals, etc.) and for the inevitable weird outcomes baseball produces. For example, a pitcher might throw a 58 ft. curve ball that ends up bouncing through the strike zone. A human umpire would know to call that a ball while a digital strike zone might not be able to determine if the ball bounced prior to crossing the plate.
Imagine never having to watch a whiney player, manager, or fan argue and pout over getting “jobbed” by the umpire. And never seeing this stuff again:
2. Expand the DH to the NL
You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. The American League introduced the Designated Hitter in 1973 in an effort to increase fan interest by increasing the amount of runs scored. While the National League doesn’t suffer a dearth of run production today sans the DH, the AL is not getting rid of it.
While it can’t be completely contributed to the DH, the AL has a statistically significant advantage in interleague play. Since being introduced in 1997, the AL holds the overall record advantage (3,032-2,732) and has won the season matchup in 15 of the 20 seasons of interleague play to date.
Because overall record dictates playoff positioning, it’s only fair that the playing field between the leagues is even. So, in addition to expanding the DH, I’m also proposing an additional roster spot so NL teams can transition to the DH with minimal impact on how they’ve built the current roster.
Spoiler: I’m proposing a change to rookie contracts that will encourage managers to fill this extra roster spot with their best young hitters. Check it out below.
This adds a new level of managerial decisions for the club – something the opponents of the DH say is missing in the AL where managers never have to pull a pitcher who is dealing in fifth or sixth inning for a DH because the offense is struggling that day. Those decisions won’t exist with a league-wide DH. The trade-off being that managers now have to decide if they want to fill their extra roster spot with a high priced free agent DH, pitching help, or a young slugger in their farm system. Teams that can’t afford to throw huge contracts at free agents now have options and fans a new debate topic.
3. Install a Celebration Clock
There are currently two kinds of MLB fans when it comest to players celebrating home runs: people who think it ads excitement and flare to an otherwise relatively boring game to watch for most people and people who are wrong. The people who are wrong are not attempting to improve the appeal of or interest in the sport. They are simply asking everyone else to adhere to their set of morally ambiguous unwritten rules that were cultivated over a long (and far too often racist) history of professional baseball. This has no place in the MLB under Commissioner Mardis.
However, celebrations need restraints like everything else in sports. So, I’m proposing a 30-second clock for celebrating your home run. Once the baseball hits the outfield seats for a home run, the batter has 30 seconds to round the bases and celebrate any way he likes. There would be caveats around props and the like. But if you want to flip your bat, go pick it up and flip it again, then do a cartwheel – as long as you cross home plate and are clear of the field of play within 30 second – go for it.
Pitchers who retaliate for this will be ejected upon the judgement of the umpire. The retaliation does not need to hit the batter. Throwing a 100 mph fastball at someone’s head from 60 feet away would be attempted murder anywhere outside of a baseball stadium. So it’s enough to get you kicked out of a game.
Give me more of this….
This. Will. Make. The. Game. So. Much. More. Fun.
4. Fixing the MLB Playoffs
The playoffs seedings and home field will be completely based on regular season records. This is why it’s important to level the playing field in regards to the DH – one league shouldn’t have an advantage in interleague play.
Here’s how the playoffs will work:
The 5 teams from each League to make the playoffs will be re-seeded for the playoff bracket. The 2 worst records from each league play in the one-game wildcard. If a Division Champion plays in the Wild Card game, they get home field advantage regardless of record. If two Division Champions play in the Wild Card game, home field advantage goes to the team holding the better record. Regular season records determine home field advantage through the rest of the playoffs.
This format makes it imperative for all teams to compete to win every game of the season. Even if you’ve clinched your division, you may have to play in the Wild Card game if your record isn’t better than three of the other playoff teams in your league.
The rule also means that a team that doesn’t win their division, but has the second or third best record in their league, will not have to play in the Wild Card game simply because they didn’t win their division. Why punish a team that won 100 games in the regular season by making them play an elimination game against a team that won 85 games that season? I won’t.
Case in point, here’s the 2018 playoff bracket:
In the new format, based on their regular season records, the Yankees would have been the 3-seed and Cleveland would have played in the Wild Card game instead. Same thing with the Cubs – moving the Braves into the Wild Card game.
This makes the playoff structure more fair. It still rewards Division Champions while encouraging every team in the playoff race to win as many regular season games as possible right up to the last day of the season.
5. Rookie Contracts Based on Player Age, Not Service Time
The way rookie contracts are structured now, players who sign them are giving exclusive rights to the team until he accrues six years of MLB service time. Until then, he can only seek contracts from the team that signed him originally. MLB rules define a full season of play as spending at least 172 days of the 187-day season on the MLB roster. The issue here becomes teams that monitor those days spent on the MLB roster and send players to Triple-A just before the 172-day mark so it doesn’t count as a full season played at that level. Thus extending the time they have control over the player.
This dynamic leads to fanbases being deprived of potential superstar young players helping teams reach their full potential (e.g. Nick Senzel, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Kris Bryant, etc.)
My solution is to use player age to structure rookie deals and remove the service time rules that dictate free agency eligibility. The rule is simple: A rookie contract can be no longer than six years and must end by the season the player turns 26.
Under this rule, an 18-year-old player could sign a six-year deal that would end when he’s 24 years old, at which time he could seek free agent contracts. This would give the team who signed him incentive to develop him and get him to the MLB as soon as possible to take advantage of the cheap contract. Fans would get to see the best young players at the big league level and the young players would be more willing to sign long-term deals prior to hitting free agency knowing the team is building around them.
On the flip side, a college Senior who signs a rookie contract at 22 years old can only be signed for four years on a rookie deal. This makes sense as players who developed for four years in college should be ready to play at the MLB level much sooner than younger players who have not.
Also, let’s be honest, if a team doesn’t know if a player is worth a long-term deal by the time he’s 26, it’s time to let him explore other teams/options.
This set-up ensures players are not handcuffed by their rookie deals or late development. It also incentivizes front offices to call these players up when they’re big-league ready instead of manipulating service time to ensure an extra year of control. Major League Baseball teams are massive companies with contract experts and attorneys at their disposal. Placing strict protections for young players trying to negotiate their professional career is in everyone’s best interest.
Let me know what you think about my platform to become the next MLB Commissioner in the comments below.
Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More
Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021
It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.
What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..
The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.
In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.
If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?
The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)
What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.
Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder
I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist. So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.
WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.
Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.
Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.
WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.
Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations.
Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl
I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl
Predicting the Final Stretch
Let’s take a look at what’s left for the Reds in the 2020 Regular Season and what they need to do to make it to the Playoffs
September 18th, the weather is cooling down, football is starting (Bengals 0-2), every restaurant is putting pumpkin in everything, and the Reds have playoff hopes……wait what?! Yes, that’s right. The Reds are alive in September. Usually, these are the days of expanded roster players eating up innings as the season drags to the end. Not this year. Your Cincinnati Reds are playing for postseason baseball.
We all knew the Reds needed to get the four-game sweep of the Pirates. 4 games against one of the worst teams with so much on the line. Well, the Reds got it done. A clean sweep. This sweep, combined with the Cardinals losing a few games, leaves the Reds in sole possession of second place in the central. Now, I wouldn’t assume they will be there come September 27th. The Cardinals do have doubleheaders today (Friday) and next Friday and we know it can be hard to win twice in a day. They also play the Pirates (15-34), Royals (23-26), and Brewers (21-29) to finish the season. Favorable to say the least. The Reds have the White Sox (33-17), Brewers (21-29), and Twins (31-21).
The White Sox might be my favorite team to watch this year. A mixture of young studs and all-star vets, this team has a ton of offense. Tim Anderson might win back to back batting titles. I don’t want to sound like a southside fan, but let’s be honest, this team is likable. It’s going to be tough to win this series. They did recently clinch a playoff spot, but don’t confuse that with them “resting” starters. Reds pitching will have to be damn near flawless and the offense probably needs to give them 4 runs for a win. Prediction: Take 1 of 3 (Reds: 26-28)
We all know the Brewers. A team that has been solid the past few years lost some key players and Yelich is hitting .208. They aren’t what they thought they would be, but they won’t just fold. They will not give up on their postseason hopes until they are officially eliminated. The Reds are 4-3 vs the Brew Crew this year. An important 3 game series, the Reds could pick up ground here. We have seen how they have played the Brewers to a nearly .500 record this year, so I doubt a sweep happens. Prediction: Take 2 of 3. (Reds 28-29)
The Twins are right behind the White Sox. 1 and 2 in their division. However, I don’t find them as “scary” as the White Sox. Like the White Sox, the Twins are in the same division as the Indians, who Trevor Bauer pitched for before the Reds. Bauer will know some of these Batters and that alone could help him steal a win (assuming he pitches in the series.) The Reds will have their backs against the wall with their playoff hopes on the line. However, the Twins have a better lineup. Prediction: Take 1 of 3 (Reds 29-31).
*Keep in mind I do not have pitching matchups*
Will that be good enough to make the playoffs? Hard to tell. Many have said 30 wins gets you in. Maybe another team falls apart down the stretch. We are in the time of scoreboard watching. In that time of year where we stay up late to watch a west coast game and cheer hard for a Diamondbacks win (or some other “random” team). I love it. I love the intensity and game on the line feeling. Each win feels monumental.
Enjoy the ride.
Dugout Mugs Chat with Pete Rose September 15 at 9 PM
Join our friends from Dugout Mugs Tuesday night as they chat with Pete Rose
Our friends from Dugout Mugs are having a chat with Reds legend Pete Rose tomorrow night, September 15th, at 9:00 PM EST. They will be promoting their new line of mugs which feature the Hit King (and look good, too) as well as holding an “ask me anything” type segment where fans are encouraged to submit questions here.
Though embroiled in controversy off the field, Rose was one of the best to ever play on the field. I’m not sure we will ever see anyone approach 4256 career hits mostly because I’m not sure we will ever see a player put together a 24-year career with a 162-game average of 194 hits. It’s not just longevity but also the consistency with which Rose played for the length that he played.
Most Reds fans would agree he is one of the best to ever wear a Reds uniform and you will have a chance to drop Rose a question that they will talk about on the Dugout Mugs Facebook live event. Make sure to also tune in at 9:00 PM!