Now that school has ended for me, it is time to get back to blogging. The French Open begins two weeks from tomorrow. If you read my blog leading up to and during the Australian Open, you know that tennis majors are an obsession for me and take over my blog as they progress. In the meantime, baseball season is little more than a month old. While the mediocrity of the usually loaded AL East and the early-season revival of the league’s doormat of half a decade, the Houston Astros dominate headlines on the field. For me, the best story in baseball is occurring off the field.
New commissioner Rob Manfred is willing to at least look at tweaking several issues that baseball has ignored for too long. Baseball was still a great game during the 17 year tenure of previous commissioner Bud Selig. However, his run commissioner and its legacy are quite controversial. Under his watch, the game saw a 1994 work stoppage which resulted in no World Series that year. Also, the bulk of the so-called “steroid era” occurred under Selig, neither of these things were entirely his fault. I would even argue that in the short term, steroids helped the game of baseball more than they hurt it. What I remember most about Selig’s time as commissioner was baseball refusing to change even the smallest things and falling further and further behind football in terms of popularity. I would not consider Major League Baseball to be unhealthy right now, but it is not healthy either. New commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be the right guy to help baseball prosper in the future. His short time as commissioner has already seen an expanded use of replay as well as a shockingly efficient replay system that is quick and keep the game moving. Baseball did not have any form of replay until the tail end of Selig’s tenure. It is nice to see baseball joining other sports here in the 21st century in the area of replay. Also, Manfred has instituted a number of rules to speed up games. These range from limiting the number of warm-up pitches for new pitcher to not allowing hitters to step out of the batter’s box at will. These measures have resulted in a mixed bag when it comes to shortening games. However, the effort is refreshing. No one wants to be at the ballpark for five hours when beer sales end in the 7th inning.
In interviews, Manfred has also said he is open to reevaluating hot button issues that have been debated for many years. The topics that have come up the most are the designated hitter and Pete Rose. These are very serious topics to baseball people. At this point, I think the DH simply means to be uniform, meaning either present or absent in both leagues. Personally, I would like to see the DH added in the National League. Watching pitchers hit is just boring to me. However, uniformity is most important. Playing with two separate sets of rules no longer makes sense and is just too complicated. Only time will tell whether Manfred steers this issue one way or the other. As far as Rose is concerned, I do not think he should be in the Hall of Fame. I’ll save my reasons why for another blog on a day where I feel like having my Cincinnati readers throw things at me. However, I do think Rose deserves to have his lifetime ban situation fairly reevaluated. Selig never gave him this chance. Also, it appears Rose will have some kind of role in this year’s All-Star game in Cincinnati. Regardless of what he’s done, he is the best player in Reds franchise history and deserves to be involved in a special event like the All-Star game. It remains to be seen how much Manfred is talk vs. action. Also, there are a lot of politics at play when it comes to changing the issues I have discussed, mainly keeping the Players Association and owners happy. However, the early returns on Manfred’s time in charge of America’s pastime are encouraging.