1. Bring in Nolan Ryan as the new commissioner
Bud Selig is a brilliant speaker of the house, but he's not cut from presidential cloth. He has yet to substantially improve the owners' relationship with the players, he engenders little trust from fans, and he has been unable to communicate a clear vision for the game. His apparent conflict of interest, given his ownership in trust of the Milwaukee Brewers, has been problematic from Day One.
That said, no owner puts in more sweat equity or understands all the issues in the game better than Selig. He's a valuable member of ownership's team, so he should be named chief executive officer of baseball and continue to work the phones from Milwaukee, where he masterfully educates and unifies the owners.
What baseball needs is a new leader who provides an unassailable presence on both sides of the labor fence and who also inspires confidence from fans. We've seen the endorsements for accomplished men of public service such as Bill Clinton, Mario Cuomo and Rudy Giuliani, but do we really want a career politician with an outsider's perspective running the game? No, we want someone who has baseball in his blood and in his soul. We want someone who knows what it means to be a player, an owner and a fan. We want Nolan Ryan.
Ryan's credentials are impeccable, and no one in the sport is more widely admired. He not only was a Hall of Fame pitcher but also has been successful in the banking business, having started up The Express Bank in Alvin, Texas, and as part owner of the Double A team Round Rock ( Texas) Express; he hopes to bring another minor league team to Corpus Christi.
Selig would continue to do much of the spadework, but Ryan has the presence and perspective that the commissionership demands. For instance, he might not be the person to close a complicated labor deal, but he can spend the four or five years leading up to negotiations establishing a respectful partnership with the players that would make a deal easier to reach. He has shown in Round Rock—where he's a regular around town and at the ballpark—that he understands how to reach out to fans.
By the way, if Selig can move the commissioner's office to Milwaukee, Ryan is more than welcome to work out of his Refugio, Texas, home.
2. Make a day at the ballpark more family-friendly
For starters, offer ticket packages that families can comfortably afford. Though attendance is down for the third straight season, ticket prices over the past five years have increased by 35%, a higher rate than in the NFL and NBA. According to Team Marketing Report, a family of four spends an average of $145-26 to attend a major league game, a 67.5% increase from 10 years ago. Every team should learn from the Minnesota Twins, who offer a $44 Saturday night family ticket package that includes four outfield seats and $25 worth of food and drinks. The Twins have sold more than 45,000 such tickets this season.
Major league teams should also follow the lead of their minor league affiliates, who specialize in family-oriented promotions such as pregame batting practice for fans (Salt Lake Stingers) and on-field clinics (Eugene Emeralds!