Baseball is a fluid game. The fluid moves slowly like molasses, sure, and changes happen at a pace that would make the Catholic Church guffaw, but no other American professional sport takes as much care as baseball in making massive changes in the way the game is played. Most importantly, no other sport can look back 120 years and basically see nearly the same exact game played, except with more brown people.
One leader who has actually implemented some massive and important change is Commissioner-for-Life Bud Selig, whose reign of terror has included the welcome expansion of the playoffs and the wildly popular interleague play. At the ripe old age of 75, Herr Selig is not done tinkering with the National Pastime; on that note, he's assembling a brain trust of some of baseball's most important minds to come together and deal with some on-field issues:
The committee includes four managers, four former and present general managers, four owner representatives, MLB consultant and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, plus renowned columnist George Will.
"There will be no sacred cows," Selig said on a conference call. "We're open to talk about anything. I've had this in mind for a long time. This is a very blunt group. I want to sit there and listen. If there's anything we can do to improve this game I want to hear about it and discuss it. I will be guided by what this committee comes up with. I have that much respect for this group."
The group will take up such subjects as pace of game, umpiring, further extension of the use of instant replay and various rule changes, among others.
Among the participants are three Italian-American managers in Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and Mike Scioscia, and ten other white guys over the age of 50 to go along with token minority and MLB representative Frank Robinson, who actually works directly for Selig. Absent from this on-field rules panel are any players or umpires, or the people who are actually, you know, on the field during baseball games. As per Maury Brown, Selig said he will be "getting back to the Players Association" on that point and that the panel was in its "genesis".
In its genesis? Heck, that sounds downright Edenic to me! Maybe Selig is waiting for Ryan Howard or Jeff Suppan or Ed Rapuano to bring the apples before he invites any players or umpires to the grown-up table. After all, if Selig and his cronies are going to attack the DH controversy or instant replay, you'd expect they'd want to hear some input from the folks who make their hay on the field, not in the dugout or the owner's box.
But on the other hand, what can this group accomplish? They have no power to actually make rule changes, just to share their irks with Selig himself. Scioscia is ticked off about the stretched-out playoffs schedule. No problem, Bud's already on that. La Russa wants to 86 the DH rule. Tough noogies, Tony, because the players would never allow that to happen; if anything, we'll see the designated hitter in both leagues before we ever see it disappear.
No, the most important task that this committee has is to address the pace of the game, and without the players or umpires in the room, they'd be more likely to convince China to reduce carbon output than implement rules to quicken Yankees-Red Sox games. The four things that extend games past a reasonable three hours are (a) batters calling time out (b) pitchers dawdling on the mound between pitches (c) Jorge Posada trotting out to conference with Joba Chamberlain and (d) TV commercials.
Bud simply cannot do anything about (d). He can, however, implement rules to fix (a) through (c). It's one thing to exclude the players who value their individual performances over a game's pace, but the umpires are absolutely in support of the quickening of baseball games. Especially when they have 10:30 dinner reservations at Patsy's! Umpires are preservationists of the unique nature of the game through execution of the rules and regulations; keeping games moving along maintains a sense of order and helps assert their well-deserved authority.
So please, Bud, invite some umpires and players to your sooper sekrit meeting. Be it union boss John Hirschbeck or jolly Country Joe West, be it the dreamy but boring Derek Jeter or that opinionated cow Curt Schilling, add some of your worker bees to the mix.
And while you're at it, Bud, open up the proceedings for us, your customers, to listen in and see what's going on. After all, you technically have no competition thanks to the sweet antitrust exemption from the government; the government is a representative of, and employed by, the people. We demand to know how that mush George Will wants to ruin our game.
Which players or umpires do you think Selig should add to his koffee klatch?