Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15: Formulas To Fix Baseball

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Unless you're a National League fan, last night was a pretty good one for baseball.

Busch Stadium hosted a terrific, celebratory All Star Game in St. Louis, probably the best baseball city in the United States. Tribute was paid to St. Louis Cardinal great Stan Musial. President Barack Obama threw out the first pitch. The game highlighted a new generation of stars, was competitive and relatively quick.

It was a balm for fans exhausted by Major League Baseball's continuing problems with players who take performance-enhancing drugs, teams whose owners don't seem to care about making them competitive and outrageous ticket prices in a bad economy.

The game's administration and leadership need fixing. One-half of the two toxic forces who did the most to contribute to the steroid crisis - Major League Baseball Players Association Director Donald Fehr - is, at long last, retring. The other half, Commissioner Bud Selig, is hanging on for the time being.

When he does retire, here are some proposals for what baseball should do:

1. Change the way in which the baseball commissioner is selected. Let both players and owners pick their leader. Come to think of it, create an advisory committee also made up of baseball fans, and let them have a say in the process. One more thing: No more baseball owners as commissioners.

2. Any new commissioner should immediately announce a full and uncompromising review of the performance-enhancing drug issue from the mid-1980s to the current time. Such a review must go way beyond the 2007 Mitchell Report and include worldwide pipelines. It must also include all records set in that time. Players found to have used performance-enhancing drugs should instantly be stripped of any records. Teams with a majority of juiced-up players should forfeit championships.

3. A new commissioner also needs to review franchises, such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore, in which the ownership has been unwilling to invest to improve the team and order the owners to sell the clubs if the situation has been ongoing for more than a decade. There is no excuse for once-proud franchises to become anyone's doormat.

4. A commissioner should work with clubs to ensure that fans can continue to be able to afford a day or night at the ballpark for their families. Encourage teams to provide ticket discounts for senior citizens and large families.

Last night was a bright one for baseball. After the dark days of recent years, fans deserve many more of them.

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