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 Commissioner forms advisory committee

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PostSubject: Commissioner forms advisory committee   Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:46 pm

Commissioner forms advisory committee
Members will analyze ways to improve game on the field

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

12/15/09 1:53 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Commissioner Bud Selig announced on Tuesday that he will chair a new 14-man special committee to analyze ways of improving Major League Baseball on the field.

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. It will meet for the first time during the first quarterly owners' meetings of the new year in the Phoenix area scheduled for Jan. 13-14. The 30 active GMs have also been invited to sit in on those meetings for the first time.

"The four of us are particularly excited to be part of this committee," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who will be joined from the managerial ranks by the Tigers' Jim Leyland, the Dodgers' Joe Torre and the Angels' Mike Scioscia. "We welcome the opportunity to talk to [the Commissioner] about some of these issues. We especially like the no sacred cows part of it."

From the GM ranks is Braves executive John Schuerholz, Andy MacPhail of the Orioles, former Twins GM Terry Ryan and Mark Shapiro of the Indians.

Among the owner representatives is Chuck Armstrong of the Mariners, Paul Beeston of the Blue Jays, Bill DeWitt of the Cardinals and Dave Montgomery of the Phillies.

"This is an extraordinary committee," said Selig, who said there was no particular timeline for implementing any of its recommendations.

Schuerholz, now president of the Braves after a long term as GM, said he'd like to tackle the issue of standardizing the designated hitter in both leagues, one way or the other.

"It's the issue that's been around the longest and has been the most profound topic," said Schuerholz, who also had a successful tour as GM of the Royals. "It's a great topic of conversation for the fans: Whether both leagues should use the DH or not seems to bubble up from time-to-time. When I was in the American League I was in favor of it and since I've been over in the National League I may have taken a different position on it.

"But I've come to the conclusion that the DH can flourish by using it in its different ways."

Another topic of immediate concern will be the Commissioner's recent pledge that he intends to compress the postseason schedule prior to the advent of the playoffs next October. Scioscia complained about the numerous off days during this past postseason and has already had a long telephone conversation with Selig about it.

"I don't know how it's going to be addressed, but I know I want to hear from [the committee] and it's one of the things we're going to talk about," Selig said. "It's up to me once we decide what we want to do. I'll listen to the recommendation this group makes and take it from there."

With Selig having said he expects to retire at 78 when his current contract expires after the 2012 season, the on-field changes recommended by this committee may be the last of his term as Commissioner.

"I'm really looking forward to this group doing some things that are most meaningful," he said. "A year or two from now we'll look back and realize how important this was."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Commissioner forms advisory committee   Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:53 pm

Last Updated: December 16. 2009 3:32PM
Tigers' Jim Leyland ready to tackle baseball's problems
Tony Paul / The Detroit News

We're about to get a glimpse of what life would be like if Tigers manger Jim Leyland was the commissioner.

Leyland, along with fellow veteran managers Tony La Russa, Mike Scioscia and Joe Torre, has been named to a committee charged with recommending ways to improve Major League Baseball.

Commissioner Bud Selig appointed the members to the panel, which also includes Orioles president Andy MacPahil, Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, Braves president John Schuerzholz, former Twins GM Terry Ryan, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, political columnist George Will and the owners for four teams.

Among the issues the panel is expected to address: instant replay, scheduling and pace of the game.

Leyland, who's managed for 18 years and has been in professional ball since he signed with the Tigers in 1963, sounded off on several of these topics last week during the winter meetings in Indianapolis.

* On scheduling: While he acknowledges, "the schedule is a very difficult thing to make up, I couldn't do it, I know that," he's been a critic of schedules for a few years.

In the past, he's sounded off on the Tigers not getting an extra day off after the All-Star break (they finally got one in 2009, a year after his rant) and criticized scheduling oddities, like this past April when they played back-to-back night games in L.A. and, then, Kansas City.

But, more than anything, he'd like to see the schedule compressed. He knows Major League Baseball won't cut down from 162 games -- there's too much money at stake -- but he'd like to see something done to make sure the World Series is never again played in November.

"You should not be playing the World Series Nov. 5," Leyland, who turned 65 on Tuesday, said a week ago in Indy. "I mean, you've got hockey, NBA and football going on Nov. 5, and we're still playing the World Series. That's not good, in my opinion, unless you're in it, I guess."

Among his suggestions:
Start the season earlier by playing in domes and warm-weather cities and have each team schedule four or five doubleheaders; doubleheaders have strong roots in MLB, but have been used solely for makeup games the past several years.

* On arguing with umpires: "I don't think you should be able to argue an out-safe call at first base. Talk about delaying the games and everything, and they talk about keeping the game going. I think if they don't allow you to argue that call -- he said he was safe, he said he was out, he never changes his mind, plus he's behind the plate the next night. So why go out and argue?"

Speaking of umpires, Leyland also suggested TV networks do away with the ball-strike graphics used to show viewers whether the umpire made the right call.

"It's no good," Leyland said. "I'm not sure the angles are always right, and all it does is put the umpire under, in my opinion, unnecessary pressure."

* On expanding instant replay: "I do like the replay on the home run. I'm not sure how far you should expand it."

There are many other topics expected to be addressed by the panel, including the playoff format. For one, there's a push to expand the first round to best-of-seven instead of best-of-five. Two, many were upset with the number of days off in this year's postseason -- the Angels, for instance, took 18 days to play their nine playoff games.

The use of the designated hitter also is expected to be a hot topic for the committee, to be chaired by Selig.

"Frankly, I had this in mind for a long time," said Selig, disputing the notion that poor umpiring in this fall's postseason triggered the committee's formation.

He said nothing's off limits:
"There are no sacred cows."

The managers on the panel have a combined 90 years of major league managing experience and all are known to be plenty opinionated and straightforward -- none more, particularly for his bluntness, than Leyland.

tpaul@detnews.com


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–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Commissioner forms advisory committee   Mon Jun 14, 2010 3:52 pm

Game Changers: Picking up the game's pace
Focus, some say, should be on changing on-field habits

By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com

06/14/10 10:00 AM ET

Join the talk
Instant replay
Pace of the game
DH: Like? Dislike?
Playoff scheduling
Safer maple bats


Much of baseball's essence is wrapped in its timelessness. The game has stood through three centuries, two world wars, an ever-changing society, and, unlike most other major sports, a clock doesn't determine when a game is complete.

Ironically, it's the element of time that has become one of Major League Baseball's prominent subjects of discussion in recent years.

For many reasons -- including changes in strategy and current national-television coverage -- the average time to complete a nine-inning baseball game has gradually increased over the years. But while Commissioner Bud Selig has stressed that he wants games to feel like they're going by quicker, it isn't necessarily the time he's concerned about.

Rather, it's the pace.

"I think Bud, the Commissioner, is very sensitive about improving the pace of the game -- not necessarily shortening the game, but the pace of the game," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who was named to Selig's special committee to review on-field matters like these in December. "I agree with it, and I can understand his frustration with it."

The average time to complete a nine-inning game in the 1970s -- not including on-field delays -- was two hours and 30 minutes. That increased to an average of 2:57 in the 10-year span from 2000-09. Through Thursday, this year's league average was 2:51, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

In the playoffs, game times have been longer. Last season, nine-inning regular-season games lasted an average of 2:52, while in the postseason, that number jumped to 3:30, according to STATS LLC.

But, as Selig said during the Target Field opener in Minneapolis on April 12, "It isn't the time of the game, it's the pace of the game. That's the point."

Among several factors, the increased use of relievers is a significant contributor to the time increase. Instant replay, which counts as part of the time of a game when used to review home runs, is a lesser factor, but could become a bigger one if the use is expanded in future seasons.

Those things are part of the evolution of the game, however.

So MLB is trying to target less-constructive evolutions like the between-pitch routines that some believe have become longer and more time-consuming as the years go by.

"The games have become longer, in part because of good baseball," said journalist George Will, a Pulitzer Prize winner who has written two best-selling baseball books and is also part of Selig's 14-member committee.

"The running game has made a bit of a comeback, there's more throwing over to first base; teams ... understand that batters going deeper into the count will wear down the starting pitcher and get into the other team's middle relief sooner. These are all good baseball reasons, but there are also other reasons. Particularly, too much time between pitches, which is sometimes a fault of the pitcher and sometimes a fault of the batters stepping out of the batter's box."


Pace of game

While the overall average game time is down from 2000,
the time of RedSox-Yankees games and postseason games
continue to be longer.*

Year ___ MLB__ NYY-BOS_ Postseason
2000____ 2:58____ 3:05______ 3:25
2001 2:54 3:02 3:11
2002 2:52 3:08 3:25
2003 2:46 3:08 3:06
2004 2:47 3:12 3:15
2005 2:46 3:10 3:02
2006 2:48 3:28 3:08
2007 2:51 3:31 3:26
2008 2:50 3:18 3:13
2009 2:52 3:30 3:30
2010** 2:51 3:38 N/A
* All times are for nine-inning games
** Through June 10


The culture of slow mannerisms and routines is among the things that MLB would like to change.

"These mannerisms tend to trickle down all the way to Little League," Will said. "And I think if managers communicate to their players that this is happening and it's not necessary, it would help."

Torre and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron have told Selig about how they barely ever stepped out of the batter's box when they played, and if you watch games from their era, you'll see they weren't the exception. Now, though, there are many, like Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval and Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt, who are notorious for long, between-pitch habits. Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who barely moves his feet at the plate, is an exception.

"From a starting-pitcher standpoint, I think that's an advantage, to work quicker throughout a game and have the pace of the game go up," Marlins left-hander Nate Robertson said. "I just think it flows better. It's just more beneficial for a more quality baseball game. There's certain guys, whether it's up there in the box or up on the mound, [where] it's ridiculous. You can prepare yourself in a shorter amount of time to throw a pitch or focus with your approach at the plate."

Speeding up the pace of games has been an issue in baseball for about a half-decade. But it was brought to light again at the beginning of the season when umpire Joe West was critical of two of the game's most recognizable teams, the Red Sox and Yankees, for their slow pace in their opening series, calling them "a disgrace to baseball."

Because their games are so often on national TV -- leading to longer commercial breaks -- and because their games frequently come down to the wire and many of their hitters are patient, taking more pitches than most teams, the average time for Yankees-Red Sox games has been longer than the league average by at least seven minutes -- and up to 40 minutes -- every year since 2000.

Last season, according to Elias, the Yankees were first in pitches seen by batters with 25,066, and the Red Sox were second at 25,005. The league average was 23,894.

"You have two organizations that really focus on hitters that work the count," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said in the wake of West's comments, "and when you have six starters that go an average of five innings and throw 100 pitches, the game is going to move slow."

But many are uneasy about the league's pace as a whole, not just these two American League East rivals.

For now, though, Will doesn't expect new rules to be adopted in hopes of curtailing the time of games.

"Not at the moment," Will said. "I think we'd all like to do it by changing the culture."

If that is the case, then raising the mound, disallowing timeouts, expanding the strike zone, limiting throws to first base, shortening the time between innings or any other suggestions that have been tossed around probably won't be coming to the forefront anytime soon.

That would mean baseball might simply rely on memorandums, like the one Dodgers reliever George Sherrill received in May for taking too long to warm up; pace-conscious umpires, several of whom are being more stingy with granting hitters timeouts; and the enforcement of often-overlooked rules, like the one that says pitchers have 12 seconds to throw each pitch with no runners on base.

"You can't really control pace of games," veteran umpire Jerry Crawford said. "The players control pace of games. If they play with enthusiasm, they run to their positions, that helps control pace of game."

But the cooperation needs to come from both sides, and, as Crawford added, "I don't know that ... there's any urgency for the players to play the game faster. ... They don't care."

Some players say the pace relates to habits.

"They think we need to always be thinking about this and this and this, which, we've been around baseball so long, our bodies and minds are trained to do certain things," Marlins infielder Wes Helms said. "And now you're trying to change it, [and] it's hard to. Not that we do it out of spite, that's just the way it is. Our bodies are used to doing one thing."

As Padres closer Heath Bell noted, "Every generation is going to emulate the last 10 years."

But is the time that could end up being saved worth the trouble?

"When I played, since then, everything in life has speeded up, it seems," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I don't know if 15 minutes makes that much of a difference. I think the quality of the games are more important than the time of the games, that people get to see good plays, competitive games."

Many agree that shortening the lag time between pitches is beneficial, while others -- like Piniella -- don't believe it's a cause for concern.

But almost everyone is cautious about tinkering too much with a game that has been so relevant for so long.

"The game has changed," Padres utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. said. "A lot is good, and obviously, a lot may not be so good. But I think, as a whole, the game is extremely healthy, and it's really cool to see the fans supporting the game of baseball."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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