Dear Editor: It would be difficult to prove that a copy of my letter sent to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig last spring, in which I implored Major League Baseball to satisfactorily expand their video review system, had any effect on their subsequent decision to in fact implement instant replay for about 90 per cent of umpiring calls starting next year.
After all, there are such things as coincidences. However, the developments of which I speak have led to more elaborate fantasies of changes which I would like to make in big league baseball if I were its CEO.
First, I would eliminate all fines levied against players or coaches for criticizing the rulings of officials during games. Whatever happened to freedom of speech in Canada and the U.S.?
If media personnel and other observers can condemn or reprimand umpires through the public airwaves, shouldn’t participants in the games have the same privilege?
At the very least, the commissioner should rule that no one can be fined for scolding officials if video review shows that their criticism was justified.
Secondly, I would change the way ground rules are enforced. If a batted ball bounces over the fence, then the batter-runner should be entitled to as many bases as he would have gained if the ball had stayed in play. Batters should not be penalized for hitting the ball too hard or too far.
Thirdly, no game should be ruled official until a full nine innings have been played. Games which are currently ended after five-eight innings because of rain should be considered suspended contests, and play should resume during the next meeting between the teams in question if weather prevents its completion on the day the game started.
Fans and administrators sometimes forget that a game played on the first day of the season can be ultimately as decisive to a pennant race as a game played on the last day of the season (or any other day, for that matter).
Fourthly, I would alter the rule that says that the outcome of the All-Star game decides which league gets home field advantage in the World Series. This matter is too important to be left to the particular complexion and strategies of an exhibition game. More than once in recent years, a team with a decidedly better record than its opponent has been cheated out of home field advantage in the Series, and all because Mr. Selig got mad after an All-Star game ended in a tie in 2002 when both teams ran out of players.
Two other observations which I would like to make at this time: Do you remember the strike in baseball in 1981 and the playoff format that was announced after the season resumed? I am unable to recall the precise details, but the proposed arrangement was such, that at some point in the remaining games after the strike, it would have been to the advantage of both teams to lose a game or games in which they were opponents.
I remember that the sportswriter for Newsweek at the time, the late Pete Axthelm, wrote that if this situation was left alone, what would result would be the most comical thing in baseball since Bill Veeck used a midget batter as a gimmick back in the early 1950s.
Can you imagine the chaos and hell-raising that would have ensued if one team was swinging at pitches that were deliberately thrown five feet off the plate by the other side, say,or if runners tried to get picked off when on base while the other team intentionally threw the ball into the outfield? (Fortunately, the rules for the playoffs of 1981 were quickly changed when this sort of eventuality was pointed out to the then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.)
And finally: Sometimes I feel as if I have severely overdosed on sugar when I hear announcers and commentators heap unconditional and unrelenting praise on outstanding athletes as if the former were being paid $1,000 a minute to do so.
In their most excessive forms, such flattering and glorifying remarks make me — even though I have been a lifelong sports fan — feel somewhat uncomfortable and even a little nauseous. When talking about such superstars as Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, or Mariano Rivera, for example, broadcasters and writers should remember that there is a difference between reasonable honoUring and absurd deification.
Lloyd Bonnell, Corner Brook