(Inspired by baseballgirl's post from Wednesday, these five ideas all probably require collective bargaining, but I’m assuming absolute power in this hypothetical):
1. Allow the trading of draft picks and institute “hard” draft pick slotting (NBA style), which would instantly ensure that the projected best talent is always taken in the first round as it should, and as it is in every other sport with a draft. Slotting and trading of picks go hand-in-hand, because if you’re going to tell the team drafting No. 1 that they HAVE to pay the top player an $8.5MM signing bonus, it’s only fair to allow them to trade out of that position if they think they can find better value in a lower slot.
Obviously the specific slot figures would be written into the CBA and would increase each year with inflation and with the continued health of the game, just as FA prices do. In addition to the obvious benefits, it would mean that players would simply sign their deals immediately (since there’s no dollar figure to negotiate) and get a few extra months of minor league development instead of holding out and not playing until the following spring.
I have a wild hunch this could become a hot-button topic after the ‘09 draft. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Strasburg demand $15-20 million if he has a healthy, dominant junior season. If he falls past No. 1, and someone ends up paying that figure, that might create enough animosity in the Player’s Union and among small-market owners that they’d actually agree to bargain the issue of “hard slotting” draft picks. And draft pick trading is a logical short step from there, because it gives owners the ability to manage their money/bonuses as they choose.
This would also spice up the trading deadline each year, as each team in the hunt would have additional trading chits if they wished to go for broke down the stretch. Just like the NFL and NBA's draft-pick trading rules, MLB would need to mandate that draft picks too far into the future couldn't be traded, so that overzealous GMs wouldn't mortgage the future of the franchise to save their own jobs in the short term. (e.g., allow draft pick trading for a maximum of 2-3 years into the future).
2. Include International players in the Rule 4 (North American amateur) June draft. There’s certainly enough intelligence and resources league-wide to make this a possibility now, even if there wasn’t a few decades back. It might also help make all 50 rounds of the draft relevant for every team. More importantly, it would help to remove some of the ethical concerns associated with agents/buscones, bonus-skimming, and broken promises that currently give a black eye to the International scene. Critics say this would “ruin” baseball in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic; I highly doubt that two incredibly passionate baseball countries would simply quit playing over this. But would the International players have to 18 to be eligible for the modified draft, or only 16?
3. Completely revise the archaic ELIAS player ranking system and the FA compensation system. I’m pretty sure they’ll do something with this in the next CBA (2011). It’s a good idea to compensate teams for lost free agents; it’s a really bad idea to use things like fielding percentage and batting average as key determinants for that compensation. It creates crazy inequities like this, where Juan Uribe is worthy of compensation, but Jason Giambi isn't.
4. Eliminate ALL playoff off-days.
You can’t really eliminate regular season off-days, because you need buffers for rainouts, and you occasionally need an off day/travel day for the quality of play to remain high and for players to remain sane.
But no one should have trouble getting up adrenaline for three weeks of playoffs.
What if teams had to actually use their 25-man roster in the playoffs? That’s what got them there, isn’t it? This also helps allieviate the rainout problem. The season could still still start practically rain-free on April 6 and be comfortably done before Halloween if there were no scheduled playoff off-days.
Allow 5 days for the division series, 7 days for the LCS, and 7 for the World Series = 19 days total.
You want a day or two off? Kick your opponent’s butt quickly.
In addition to reducing the likelihood of rain, this might actually improve the quality of play, by reducing the awkwardly long stretches of time between some pitchers' outings.
Let’s look at how this would play out in in the ’09 season, when the season begins on April 5th and ends on Sunday, October 4th.
*Allow Monday for Game 163/one-game playoffs that decide the race.
*The Divisional Series each start on Tuesday, Oct. 6th. Eighteen days later, Game 7 of the World Series would be played on October 24th, with perhaps no rain at all.
Sure, there would be four playoff games every day for the entire first week of the playoffs. Isn’t that kind of awesome though? The NCAA seems to think so each March, and so do thousands of people who skip work on the first Thursday and Friday of March Madness, and millions who watch their productivity plummet as they watch the NCAA Tourney on the office TV.
In fact, here’s a revenue-generating olive branch in the direction of those networks who lost ratings by playing daytime playoff games:
You could make the Division Series a best-of-seven in this proposal, and the World Series Game 7 would still end by October 26th, the 21st day of the postseason. Exactly three weeks of playoffs. That’s a few extra games of revenue for the stations to compensate for inferior time slots in the morning, as the station tries to fit in four playoff games in a day.
Or, the league could treat the Division Series the way CBS treats Day 1 and 2 of March Madness – play two playoff games simultaneously, and the network can pop back and forth, covering the most interesting one. During blowouts, rainouts, and pitching changes, there’s still some relevant action to switch over to. With four daily games, two of them could start at 5:30 and two of them could start at 8:30 Eastern., kind of like Sunday NFL coverage.
5. Steal from David Pinto and Tom Tango.
"I really think we should get rid of the NL and AL. Divide the teams into five six-team divisions. Each division plays 90 games in division, and 72 games against two other divisions on a rotating basis. Five division champions, three wild cards. Rank all division champs ahead of the wild cards, and rank the team 1-8 based on winning percentage. One plays eight, two plays seven, etc. in the first round. Second round, re-rank the teams, wild cards always last. One plays four, etc. The two winners play for the championship."
And after eliminating the AL/NL distinction, this from Tango:
For every major league game, allow the home team's manager to determine whether the DH will be used or not.
What do you think?