The Rob Manfred era began with great promise, jumped the shark when he said he is open to the idea of eliminating defensive shifts and now has left many wondering whether his term as commissioner can be salvaged.

He gave it a good run. He was eminently qualified, what with his Harvard law degree and his key role in bringing baseball 21 consecutive years of labor peace. Personally, I liked the man and was rooting for him.

But after little more than 24 hours on the job, in today’s 140-character, next-day-delivery world, well, already it seems as if his term is interminable, doesn’t it?

So while Mr. Manfred writes an introductory letter to fans and then, I’m guessing, reads the note Bud Selig left in his top desk drawer (“Dear Rob, The peanuts on the corporate jet are stale and inedible. I would change that line ‘buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack’ in the song ASAP. And, here is Hank Aaron’s phone number, 404-XXX-XXXX. Best of luck with the job bud, Bud”), the world races onward.

Clearly, there are even more ingredients to a successful commissionership than there are in McDonald’s french fries. So while Manfred feverishly works to salvage his term, I’m here to help. With these suggestions:


1. Executive Order: Stirrups

It was a small announcement in the dead of winter late Friday, and it involved something I usually despise: the plague upon the game that is “alternate uniforms.” But there is no denying (or denigrating) the bombshell announcement by the Seattle Mariners:

Quite simply, for this, the Mariners are the team of 2015. I would consider guaranteeing them a wild-card playoff spot, minimum, for this.

If I’m commissioner, every team would return to wearing stirrup socks.


2. About Opening Day…

This year, forget “Play Ball.”

In memory of the beloved Ernie Banks, one of the greatest ambassadors ever for the greatest game ever, umpires will open each game on April 5 and 6 by shouting, “Let’s Play Two!”

A small tribute, yes. But perfect in spirit. And while Banks is gone, his spirit will never leave us. We must work together to ensure that it never does.

One more thing: Opening Day always will take place in Cincinnati, home to the first professional baseball club. Yes, that’s Opening DAY. If ESPN must persist in opening the season with a Sunday night game, fine. We all enjoy that, and when the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Chicago Cubs for manager Joe Maddon’s debut on April 5, our eyeballs will be just as glued to the game as the next guy’s or gal’s.

But Opening Day…first pitch shall always occur in Cincinnati, even if it is scheduled only five or 10 minutes ahead of the other Monday afternoon games across the land. What other city celebrates Opening Day with a parade? Nobody, that’s who.


3. Time of Game: Too Long

For more than a century, baseball has been our only game without a clock. Now, thanks to pokey pitchers, that may be changing.

As long as it remains subtle, that’s a good thing.

The average time of a game in 2014 was a record three hours and 13 minutes. At that length, even acclaimed director Martin Scorsese gets tiresome (see: The Wolf of Wall Street).

Manfred is touting the success of the game’s experiment in the Arizona Fall League, in which pitchers were required to throw the next pitch within 20 seconds. That experiment will move to Double-A and Triple-A this summer.

Also, as’s Jayson Stark reported, baseball at the major league level is proposing that pitchers finish their between-innings warm-up pitches 30 seconds before the end of commercial breaks and that hitters be in the batter’s box, ready to go, 20 seconds before the end of the between-innings commercial breaks.

During regular-season games, between-innings breaks are supposed to be 2:05, but they often stretch to 3:00 or longer. Baseball officials think that under this modest proposal, they can shave 10 to 15 minutes off of a game.

If I’m commissioner, I order Dan Halem, MLB‘s chief labor lawyer, to sit down with good buddy Tony Clark, boss of the players’ union, and get to work on this immediately.

As for the pitch-clock experiment? Keep working on it. I hate to see any type of clock more daunting than a stopwatch in baseball. But if people don’t pick up the pace, fans are going to begin thinking they’re stuck at the DMV.

Key point: Three hours, when there is action, can work. But three hours punctuated by lulls, pauses and delays is way too much.

If all else fails: trap doors on the mound. If a pitcher starts dilly-dallying too long, or is getting lit up, don’t waste more time with trips to the mound. Empower the manager to simply pull a lever in the dugout, and presto! The pitcher disappears in a split second, and the next one comes charging in. C’mon, how cool would that be?


4. Reconnect with the Youth Constituent

At times, you worry there is a failure to communicate here, just like in My Cousin Vinny. Two yoots? What is a yoot? Oh, two youths!

Yes, baseball must re-engage as many youths as possible. When World Series games routinely end way past midnight, well, we’ve already lost a generation of kids who have seen the conclusion to darn few World Series games.

Yes, a day World Series game (or two!) each autumn would be a great thing. And maybe one day it will happen, given the rapidly changing landscape of how folks now “consume” games (televisions, tablets, phones, computers, on and on). But let’s be real: It won’t happen unless television gives its approval.

Next up, then, is marketing. Baseball has come light years in this department over the past decade, but there is still much ground to cover. The more baseball can raise the cool quotient, the more kids will want to associate with the game.

I still go back to what Matt Kemp told me a couple of summers ago. He was speaking on Jackie Robinson Day and talking about ways to influence more African-American kids to play baseball, but his point also is important to kids of all color, period, in playing and watching baseball.

What Kemp said, essentially, was that kids see these cool shoe commercials with Michael Jordan and LeBron James over the years. Then they look to baseball, and what commercials do they see? Mike Trout eating Subway sandwiches.

Nothing against Subway, as it’s often my go-to place (eat fresh!). But Kemp is right: So much of today’s world is marketing, which means it is incumbent upon baseball to continue to lure kids in that area. And part of the marketing campaign must be toward making household names even out of those players who aren’t with the Yankees or Red Sox. Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Abreu…they’re not that hard to find.

And what about kids running the bases after games? Heck yes. And clubs that have started inviting fathers and sons onto the field for a game of catch on Father’s Day? Bravo. Campaigns to engage kids (and, heck, adults, too) on their smartphones while they’re in the ballpark during a game to make it an interactive experience? It’s all relevant, and worth pushing.


5. Use the Bully Pulpit to Warn of the Dangers of Travel Ball

And, year-round ball. For kids, I mean.

The plague on the game in the form of Tommy John ligament transfer surgeries over the past couple of seasons? The best theory I’ve heard is that the rash of arm injuries is a result of overuse. Kids pitching too much, throwing too many pitches over too many innings at too young of an age during a 12-month year.

I thought about this again the other day when I read what Tom Izzo, Michigan State’s tremendous basketball coach, had to say about the season-ending, freak foot injury suffered by Caris LeVert.

“That is an over-use injury,” Izzo said. “That was not an injury because something happened. That was an over-used, over-worked injury, and you’re seeing more of those stress fracture breaks.”

We live in an age of specialization. The old idea of an All-American high school kid as a three-sport star is fading. With the lure of big dollars in their futures, more kids are concentrating on one sport, possibly to the detriment of their health.

There is a fine line between pushing for the best young athletes to play baseball, which is something Manfred must do, and educating kids that they don’t want to blow out physically at age 14. Or 16. Which is something else incumbent upon a commissioner.

Good thing for Manfred that MLB and USA Baseball already have linked up for a “Pitch Smart” program. Kids, check this out. Parents, if your son or daughter is pitching, you owe it to yourself to check it out.


6. Return the Game to Montreal

Nobody got hosed by the 1994-95 players’ strike more than the beautiful city of Montreal. The Expos were 74-40 and leading the Atlanta Braves by six games in the NL East when the strike was called on Aug. 12.

A decade later, after the Expos had to break up some pretty good teams and disenchanted fans protested by staying home, they were gone.

But when the Toronto Blue Jays played two exhibition games against the New York Mets last March, they drew 46,121 fans on Friday night and 50,229 on Saturday. That was more than double the projected attendance.

So the Jays will do it again this spring, playing the Cincinnati Reds in Montreal on April 3-4.

If I’m in charge, I look for the first opening I can to plop a team back in that city. And if it’s the Tampa Bay Rays based on attendance/stadium issues, then, as the kids say, it is what it is.


7. Illegal Defense: It’s Not Just for Basketball Anymore

Earlier, I joked about Manfred’s commissionership jumping the shark when he said he was open to eliminating shift.

In all seriousness, with runs per game and hits per game having regressed to early 1970s levels, it absolutely is worth considering. You certainly do not want to discourage creativity and analytics. But keeping the shortstop and the third baseman on the left side of the second base bag, for example, and disallowing them from crossing to the second baseman’s side, is reasonable.


8. Whatever You Do, Keep the Labor Peace

When the current Basic Agreement expires after the 2016 season, the game will have had 21 years of play without interruptions for reasons having to do with labor. That means no strikes. No lockouts.

Revenues surpassed $9 billion in 2014. The game has entered an era in which the (very rich) players are partners, to some degree, with the (very rich) owners. Even the Kansas City Royals are playing in the World Series. Things are good. Don’t screw them up.


9. Listen to the Players

Well, not all the time. Like when Max Scherzer was introduced in Washington last week and described why he signed with the Nationals: “It’s pretty easy. It’s one [reason]. Winning. This team is capable of winning, and winning a lot.”

Breaking news: so was the team he left, the Detroit Tigers.

It was reminiscent of Mike Hampton signing an eight-year, $121 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in 2000, then listing all the good things he had heard about Denver as reasons.

Asked for specifics, he said: “The school system.”

Whenever they say it’s not about the money…it’s about the money. So maybe don’t always listen to that part.

But the rest? An honest give-and-take with players is vital for any commissioner. And good thing I took the liberty to get that going at last year’s All-Star Game.

My favorite answer? From Detroit’s Ian Kinsler, who told me the first thing he would do if he were commissioner for a day would be this: “If a fan says something stupid, he’s got to go to the outfield seats.”

Love it. But I would extend that to players, too. Fair is fair.

Right now, Scherzer would be sitting in the outfield, at least until spring training starts.

And maybe by then, Manfred will have salvaged his term. It can still be done!


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl. 

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