x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

New commissioner to inherit a league at the crossroads when Bud Selig steps down from MLB

Whether the posting of another candidate was a genuine protest or a reminder to Rob Manfred that he works for the owners and not the other way around, one hopes this was the last gasp of the MLB's old guard that prefers confrontation to negotiation.

Rob Manfred will have plenty of issues to address when he takes over in January for out-going MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Steve Ruark / AP Photo
Rob Manfred will have plenty of issues to address when he takes over in January for out-going MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Steve Ruark / AP Photo

After a brief wrangle, Major League Baseball (MLB) has its succession plan in place.

Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer and the preferred candidate of outgoing commissioner Bud Selig, will assume control when Selig retires on January 25. Manfred emerged victorious from a fight that was more illustrative than the ceremonial 30-0 vote would suggest.

There was some resistance, largely from a group of hard-line owners led by Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox. Reports suggested these owners were unhappy with the conciliatory attitude Selig and Manfred showed toward the MLB players’ union.

That this faction still exists is concerning. Under Selig’s leadership, and with Manfred’s help, baseball has enjoyed an enviable peace on the labour front. Manfred negotiated three consecutive labour contracts with the players’ union without a work stoppage; prior to that, baseball had endured five strikes and three lockouts.

Reinsdorf and his allies wanted to go back to the bad old days of butting heads with the players at every turn. They ignore that the existing labour peace has allowed baseball to generate billions in revenue, pushing franchise values to unprecedented heights. Whether this was a genuine protest or a reminder to Manfred that he works for the owners and not the other way around, one hopes this was the last gasp of an old guard that prefers confrontation to negotiation.

With that sorted, MLB can return to fixing baseball’s real problems. Here is a helpful to-do list:

• LENGTH OF GAMES - Games taking three hours or more for nine innings are driving away youngsters and casual fans. Enforce the 20-second pitch clock, keep hitters in the batter’s box, limit catchers to one mound visit per inning and ban batting gloves – just get a move on.

• DRUG USE - Stamp out performance-enhancing drugs once and for all by banning players who test positive for two seasons with a fine equal to their previous season’s salary, with their team losing that roster spot for the rest of the season. If the union feels this is excessive, they are welcome to take a public stand in favour of PED use.

• LOOK TO THE FUTURE - Take some of the game’s record profits and invest in future players and fans. Give the TV networks partial refunds and start World Series games at times so youngsters can watch, too. Take the millions spent on holding opening day overseas and bolster the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.

• BETTER BASEBALL - Eliminate the designated hitter. Expand rosters to 28 players as a make-good for the union. Choose between inter-league play and the All-Star Game – the former has made the latter redundant.

Baseball is great and can be greater still, but only if it starts valuing its future as much as it treasures its past.

pfreelend@thenational.ae

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