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AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT...
Stephen Cannella
August 05, 2002
Achieving labor peace is only the first step. Here are 14 other ways to help get the game back on track
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August 05, 2002

And While We're At It...

Achieving labor peace is only the first step. Here are 14 other ways to help get the game back on track

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If such a system were in place this season, the Anaheim Angels would qualify for funds to help retain outfielder Darin Erstad, and the Royals would have had help in paying the five-year, $55 million extension that first baseman Mike Sweeney signed in March.

11. Give pitchers a chance: Raise the mound

Over the past three decades a combination of factors—introduction of the designated hitter, expansion, cozy new ballparks, an ever-changing strike zone, the proliferation of bodybuilding supplements—has shifted the balance of power to the hitters. There's no better evidence than the home run explosion that peaked in 2000, with 2.34 homers and 10.28 runs per game (both alltime highs). The surest, simplest way to shorten the pitchers' odds on getting shelled is to raise the height of the mound from 10 inches to 12�-inches. Why 12�? The last time the game was seen as being overly dominated by pitchers was in 1968, when the major league average was .237 and games averaged 1.23 homers and 6.84 runs—and the mound was 15 inches high. We split the difference.

Every argument in favor of raising the mound has in recent years been met with a single riposte: Fans love the long ball. But do they? From 1988 through '94 there were 1.62 home runs per game, and average attendance was 23,926. From '95 through '01 home runs increased 35%, to 2.18 per game, while attendance was essentially flat (25,180).

The moral: As homers have grown more commonplace, their ability to attract fans has plateaued. All of which raises the question: If prodigious sluggers are making a mockery of the game's offensive records, and fans are evincing a been-there-done-that attitude, why not raise the mound, at least on a three-year trial basis? Who knows? Power pitching could be the next big thing.

12. Allow teams to trade their draft choices
Bad teams always wind up with something valuable after the season: a high pick in the next amateur draft. Baseball, however, doesn't allow teams—good or bad—to barter that commodity for players, cash or additional picks. In the NFL, for instance, the landmark Herschel Walker deal turned around the Dallas Cowboys, who received three first-round picks and three second-rounders plus five players from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the former Heisman winner. Given the chance, a downtrodden major league team could pull off a comparable coup.

13. Help clubs that don't sign their No. 1 picks
When the Philadelphia Phillies failed to sign their first-round pick in the 1997 draft, prized outfielder J.D. Drew, they ended up with nothing to show for a valuable piece of currency (the No. 2 pick) intended to help a bad team get better. The solution: Any club that fails to sign its first-rounder gets that same pick back in the next year's draft. Under this setup the Phillies would have received a compensatory selection after the second pick in the '98 draft (call it 2A) in addition to their regular first-rounder that year. A team shouldn't be penalized if negotiations with a draftee fall apart—and the player shouldn't have all the leverage in those negotiations.

14. Limit interleague play to games that matter
Two weeks leading up to the All-Star break, or about 12 interleague games per team, are plenty. Too many of the games are nothing special. Let the natural rivals play home-and-home series annually (Mets-Yankees, Giants-A's, Cubs-White Sox, Expos-Blue Jays, Marlins-Devil Rays, Phillies-Orioles, Cardinals-Royals, Dodgers-Angels, Astros-Rangers, Reds-Indians). The Braves played the Red Sox six times this year, for instance, but they're not natural rivals. And do we really need the Marlins-Royals series we got this season? Schedule all other interleague games on a rotating basis.

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