The coolest part of being commissioner, after getting my signature imprinted on the major league baseballs, of course, is the all-empowering "best interests in baseball" clause. Give me one day as commissioner and I would wield it like John Daly with a fork at an all-you-can-eat Sizzler. I'd make Kenesaw Mountain Landis look like a molehill.
I'd make the Nationals decide on a color scheme. I'd have the Mets stop playing awful music so loud. I'd order the Pirates to get their press box out of commercial aviation air space and close enough so that people can actually see the game, the Phillies and the Tigers to rebuild their ballparks so people can sit closer to the field, and all players to stand and face reporters when being interviewed instead of sitting down and mumbling into the undershorts hanging in their locker. Why? Because I could. And the players' association can bring on all the grievances they like, all of which I will make open to the media -- on live TV, even.
But let's start with the really important stuff. Here are the issues that need changing right away -- the top of my to-do list as commissioner.
1. Penalize the wild-card winner: Something's wrong when you've got every player and manager saying, "I don't care if we win the division. We just want to get in the playoffs."
The Houston Astros did not play a single meaningful game in their division race last year. And they won the pennant. If you finish 11 games out (like Houston did), you need to be given some kind of penalty for postseason play. Baseball is possibly the only sport in the world that does not arrange its postseason tournament to give the better teams a real edge.
It makes no sense that five of the last eight teams to play in the World Series were not even good enough to win their division over the proving ground of six months. It makes no sense that second-place teams have a winning record (24-18) in postseason series.
The solution: You get one fewer home game in the Division Series and in the Championship Series. The wild card team gets one home game (Game 3) in the Division Series and two (Games 3 and 4) in the Championship Series. Too harsh? Too bad. Win your division.
2. Get rid of the running lane to first base: It serves no purpose, other than to put runners and umpires in impossible positions. You're asking the runner to veer out of a direct line to the base but somehow touch the base, too. On no other base path is a runner made to take a wayward path like that. Why is home to first any different? (I told you we would be tackling the really big stuff here.)
3. Cut interleague and intradivision games: I like both concepts, but like ice cream, you can only stomach so much of a good thing. Interleague play, which needs to be branded much better, needs its own stage. It should be limited to the two weeks leading up the All-Star Game. Twelve games in one exclusive window.
That's it. And 19 intradivision games are too many. They need to be trimmed to about 14 or 15. You say the schedule is too hard to work around those numbers? Deal with it. This is not the human genome project we're talking about here, fellas.
4. Raise the pitching mound two inches: It won't have a huge effect on dampening offense, but the slight increase in the downward plane might help keep pitchers healthier.