NEW YORK — Major league baseball is in big trouble these days. Big trouble. I'm talking Nasdaq trouble. "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" trouble. Martha Stewart trouble. Trouble.
Between the attempted contractions, the uproar over steroids, the All-Star game fiasco, and a projected strike to protect the financial interests of men who make, on average, about one hundred times what the typical American does, our national pastime has, to put it mildly, seen better days. With MLB's luck, we're going to find out that they've been working hand in mitt with Arthur Andersen to make some side investments in Enron and WorldCom.
Even the somewhat morbid boost the game gets with the death of an indisputably great, beloved player has been offset by the odd desire on the part of his family members to freeze his body and sell his DNA. I was going to put a joke here, but frankly, who could top the truth?
You would think that the chief executive of the United States, a former team owner himself, might get involved, and maybe that's in the cards. These days, though, anything that might lead to a connection of the words "President Bush" and "CEO" will rank about as high on the presidential agenda, as, say, careful examination of new trends in the electric car industry.
As a result, I modestly offer to step into the breach and take over the job of baseball commissioner from Bud Selig.
Admittedly, my experience with baseball is limited: my Little League days were spent in far left field, where I alternated between staring moodily at the infield, dreaming of ninth-inning game-winning home runs, and praying frantically that the ball wouldn't be hit anywhere near me.
But I think that I have some ideas that are going to make baseball not only honest again, but fun to watch as well. Submitted herewith for your approval. Voter balloting, akin to the All-Star selections, will determine which are adopted.
1. Two pitchers per team per game. One starter, one reliever. If neither of them has the stuff, well, that's what losses are for.
2. At some randomly determined point in the game, home plate opens up, releasing a fast-acting sleeping gas which renders the batter unconscious. A free out for the team on the field.
3. Seventh-inning stretch spent by throwing beanballs at heads of crooked CEOs.
4. Managers can supplement rosters by bringing in "fat guys from bleachers."
5. Anyone making over $15 million a season who doesn't make the All-Star Game forfeits their salary for the year.
6. All players, all testing, all the time. If this is unpalatable, then go the other way, as was suggested in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated: one league for the dopers, one for those playing it clean. (Dopers may get the audiences, but don't get allowed into the record books. Whatever altered substances the Babe was on, they certainly weren't performance-enhancing. Probably the opposite.)
7. Fan balloting on important issues of the day, like, "What world leader would you like to see doing color commentary for ESPN?"
8. Players who don't "hustle" to be tasered. That'll speed them up.
9. Fourth through sixth innings to be played according to cricketing rules. Not only will this lead to internationalization of game, but confusing rules will once more reengage fans, who will need to familiarize themselves with words like "wicket," "bail," and "googlie," as well as the precise location of the West Indies.
10. Annoying mascots to be pummeled after second inning by a lucky fan.
11. Change height of pitcher's mound and distance from home plate inning by inning to provide more of a challenge. To negate batter advantage, do the same for the strike zone.
12. Allow outfielders to patrol in golf carts. For that matter, allow them to play golf during boring stretches in game by drilling small holes in green; space between second and third base functions as readymade sand trap.
Granted, some of these may seem a bit revolutionary, but they laughed at Abner Doubleday, too. All I ask is for an opportunity to make baseball the national pastime again.