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Frizzi: SPRING, BATTER, BATTER, BATTER, BATTER! SPR-IIIING!

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February 28, 2014

With apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson and my cousin, Carolyn Lindsay:

“In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of….”

…Baseball!

Actually, the beauty and glory that is baseball began on the most romantic day of the year, Feb. 14. That’s the day when pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

Or. as Heddy (wife, baseball widow) calls it, “Bobby Valentine’s Day”.

The Super Bowl shuts the door on the football season and simultaneously begins “’Tween Season.” That’s the period when sports fans turn their attention to “’tween sports” like basketball, hockey, the occasional Winter Olympics or any other sport whose season runs between football and baseball.

For those of you basketball and hockey fans that are outraged, think of this. Your seasons are well under way. Your team is either among the four teams out of forty who will not make the playoffs, which, in itself, is a season of its own.

Unfortunately, those playoffs happen during baseball season.

These sports are cold weather winter sports. And even though spring is officially March 20 and it still may be snowing (with climate change, who knows?), there is no image more beautiful than TV footage of pitchers throwing to catchers.

This baseball season will be the swansong of the tenure of Commissioner Bud Selig. I am not a big fan of Selig.  

Selig was an owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1992, he and five other owners collaborated to remove the commissioner, Fay Vincent. Selig, still the Brewers’ owner, then became “acting commissioner” until MLB could appoint a full-time commissioner. Which MLB did in 1998 when it chose Bud Selig.

For good or ill, Selig changed the game dramatically. He cancelled the 1994 World Series because of the baseball strike, the first time there was no series since 1904. After no other team would move to Washington, D.C., the owners purchased the Montreal Expos and shuffled them off to Washington.

After he was ridiculed for his decision to end the 2002 All-Star Game in his home town of Milwaukee with the game tied, Selig tried to resuscitate the game by awarding home field advantage to the winning league.

He diluted the American and National League with interleague play, unheard of except for spring training and the World Series. He also eliminated the separate administrative functions of each league, eliminating the league presidents and separate control of the umpiring of each league.

Selig then split each league from two divisions to three. A “wild card” team, like what is used in other sports, would provide the fourth playoff team.

Bud was successful at one major thing – making the owners money. And in the end, isn’t that the true meaning of success?

Selig will be remembered for his bold, innovative and controversial moves. But who would be his successor? Who in their right mind would want the job?

Me. I do. 

I am now throwing my Pirates’ cap into the ring and am announcing my candidacy for Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

I’d have a better chance of unseating Aaron Schock for Congressman.

But, if I were to become baseball’s new commissioner, I’d probably follow Selig’s lead with new and innovative changes of my own. And, if you’re going to change baseball, then, change baseball!

Here we go:

1)    Move the Toronto Blue Jays to Indianapolis. If MLB can move one team out of Canada, why not move the other? Besides, Indianapolis has started a precedent by taking on sport teams that tend to sneak out of other cities in the dead of night (Colts – NFL).

2)    Expand the league to a total of 32 teams by adding franchises in Nashville and Charlotte.

3)    Eliminate the American and National Leagues. They’re already watered down. Selig already had two teams (Milwaukee and Houston) change leagues, so I would split the teams into eight divisions:

Northeast Division: Boston, NY Yankees, NY Mets, Philadelphia

Mideast Division: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Nashville

Southeast Division: Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa Bay, Miami

Rust Belt Division: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis

Midwest Division: Milwaukee, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis

Plains Division: Minnesota, Kansas City, Colorado, Seattle

Southwest Division: Texas, Houston, Arizona, San Diego

Pacific Division: Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels

 

The winner of the Rust Belt/east divisions, with their Wild Card, will play the winner of the Plains/Pacific/west divisions and their Wild Card.

 

4)    Every team will use the designated hitter.

5)    Each team’s roster will be extended to 26 to include the full-time designated hitter.

6)    The All-Star Game will be between the Rust Belt/east divisions and the Plains/Pacific/west divisions. Each roster will consist of 40 players. The starting nine (per each position), plus “the 10th man” will be voted on by the fans. Each manager can select up to 18 pitchers. The players will select the remainder of the roster by vote. The winner will get home field advantage for the newly named “MLB Championship Series on Fox.”

7)    The season will begin no earlier than April 1. There will be Saturday day–night double headers. The regular season would end by the first day of autumn. This would allow playoff games to be played in proper fall weather. It should also avoid playing a World Series game in the freezing cold so close to Halloween, or as some may call it, the beginning of Christmas.

8)    No team shall play any regular league season outside of MLB ballparks. The only exception would be if a MLB team would play a team from, say, the NPBL (Nippon Professional Baseball League) in a true, honest-to-goodness World Series.

This, of course, will incur the wrath of “The Purist”, to which, I admit, I am one. I love the separate leagues. I hate the designated hitter and interleague play.

But I saw my folly when a fellow purist hated the Wild Card and wanted to see the playoffs go back to being between the two divisions of each league. I told him that I remembered when there were NO playoffs between the two divisions of each league. When I started following the game, each league had 10 teams. The winner of the American League would play the National League in the only playoffs of the season, The World Series.

Besides, if there were no Wild Card, my Pittsburgh Pirates would not have made last year’s playoffs!

As I say, I am not a big fan of Bud Selig. I believe he turned his head toward the bank vault during the steroids era. But should I be at a ballgame where the home team gives the retiring commissioner his propers, I’ll join in and applaud.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

If I ran for commissioner, I’m sure I’d be beaten in a landslide by George W. Bush. The former president and former owner of the Texas Rangers had once indicated he would like to be commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Besides, if I actually were commissioner, I’m sure I’d be spending most of my time running away from the business end of a ball bat.

Hopefully, it will be corked.

 

 

About the Author
Donn Frizzi is a well-traveled man, if you consider Pennsylvania to southern Indiana to Texas and finally Peoria to be the definition of well traveled. But in each of his stops he gained certain insights that make him who he is — including a Pirates and Rangers fan who must travel to St. Louis to watch quality baseball without buying a plane ticket. Poetic justice, perhaps? A talented writer, Donn also can make a good point by putting pencil to paper and drawing with satirical splendor. We’re hoping to persuade him to grace our website with an occasional toon, as well.