MLB changes should be handled methodically
Selig, committees properly evaluate potential rule alterations
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- When Detroit's Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game last summer because of umpire Jim Joyce's call, there was an outcry for Major League Baseball to use more video replay.
In another corner, assorted general managers said it would be an excellent idea to expand the postseason by adding two more Wild Card teams.
Both are worthy suggestions, with plenty of merit to eventually be adopted.
But the key here is "eventually."
Under Commissioner Bud Selig's watch, MLB has undergone numerous dramatic changes that have improved the game and made it more popular. Selig, however, has never been one to quickly pull the trigger on any change that affects baseball. He's methodical to a fault.
And that's the way he's approaching these latest suggestions -- which is good.
Before the owners and general managers gathered this week in Paradise Valley for the quarterly meetings, Selig made it clear that expanding the playoffs and increasing video replay will not happen in 2011.
The time frame is too short for either to be adopted so quickly, and such changes must be approved by the Major League Baseball Players Association and built into the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current CBA expires Dec. 11, so it's logical that if MLB is serious about these changes, they can be part of negotiations.
Above all that, these proposed changes should be studied long and hard.
Although there was casual discussion during these sessions, which end Thursday at the Sanctuary Resort, they haven't been agenda items. They're still being discussed at the committee level, mostly by Selig's 14-member special committee for on-field matters.
"We've been very deliberate in any changes we've made and will continue to be that way," Selig said on Thursday.
I believe there should be no rush to make an important change to a game that has stood through three centuries. Change might be good, but by the same token, too much change is not what baseball is all about.
Those in favor of expanding the playoffs point out that MLB has fewer teams in the postseason than any other major sport.
In 1994, when the Wild Card concept was adopted along with the three-division format, I thought it was a terrible idea.
I couldn't have been more out of touch.
The Wild Cards have given more teams hope as their seasons wind down, and it has fueled enormous fan interest to boot.
If two more Wild Card teams are added, another round must be added to the playoffs, triggering a debate as to whether this should be a best-of-one or a best-of-three format.
A one-game playoff for the Wild Card spot is intriguing, but after playing a 162-game schedule to make the postseason, being ousted in one contest seems unfair. And wouldn't the overall product be diluted by adding another round of playoffs?
I pose these questions because they substantiate the belief that any quick change would not be good.
Players union chief Michael Weiner said it perfectly: "It's our sense that the most productive way to proceed on this topic would be for the parties to engage in discussions before settling on any specific proposals."
The Galarraga near-miss is a good example of how one incident can fuel emotions to quickly make a change.
That's not the way it should be done.
It was a major change when video replay was adopted in 2008 for home run calls.
Galarraga would have had a perfect game had the correct call been made at first base. Replay would have reversed Joyce's call, but it seems to me that if replay is used for calls at the bases, it might not stop there. Too much replay would not be good -- it would clutter the flow of the game.
For now, I do not believe replay should be increased.
"When we contemplate changes, we have to make sure we do not react to one specific event," said Orioles president Andy MacPhail. "We have to get the right perspective of things and long view of things and not make a change because of one play.
"The Commissioner insists we take a methodical long view of any possible change. We must do it that way to protect the sport."
Said Selig: "We need to decide what we want to do and then discuss it with the union."
The argument ultimately might be strong enough to use replay in crucial situations other than home runs. But it should not happen just because several high-profile calls were missed in 2010.
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson agrees.
"A deliberate approach is useful in anything that has a long, institutional history. Certainly baseball has that," he said. "You cannot have a trigger response to a particular circumstance.
"It may be that that is systematic of a bigger problem. It is important that emotions dissipate before a major change is made."
Baseball has always been slow to change. That is one of the reasons the game is so great.
It's also a reason why changes that have been made have been so successful. They weren't implemented by knee-jerk reaction.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.