I turned 41 in December, and someone pointed out to me that I'd be the oldest pitcher in the majors this year. I don't feel old at all, but my age does mean that I've seen the game at its worst and at its best for a long time. This will be my 20th season; I've played for 10 teams and in 44 ballparks. I will never be commissioner, but do I have suggestions on changes to baseball? Yes, I do.
This is an article from the March 31, 2014 issue
If a player's not performing, he can be sent to the minors. It should be the same for umpires, especially the ones who are inconsistent. A wrong strike zone is one thing; a constantly changing one is another. Even so, I'm not a fan of replay. Human error makes the game so precious, so unique, and what's next—reviews on balls and strikes? We've seen this spring how replay slows everything down, and the pace of the game is already a problem. Basically, I think we should accept the decisions of those umps who may make mistakes but are right 95% of the time.
I know better than most how much of a grind the season can be, and a few minor tweaks could significantly help. Once a month a team should get two off days in a row—not just one—and there should be no night games on getaway days if a team has to immediately travel two or more time zones. We're not feeling sorry for ourselves, and I know no one else is either, but that kind of schedule negatively impacts the product on the field, and increases injury risk too.
Speaking of scheduling, I don't like interleague play, because it throws everything off-balance. The yearly so-called "rivalry" games are particularly unfair. When one team is always good and the other is always rebuilding, that becomes a problem. The games aren't special for the players—every team with a different jersey is a rival—and fans seem less and less excited about them.
I'd change the way September call-ups work. You spend five months grinding it out with 25 guys, and then all of a sudden you get up to 15 extra players. Teams should set their 25-man rosters at the beginning of each September game—with the provision that each roster includes four starters, even if they're not pitching that day. One game last September, the other team had, like, 14 guys in the bullpen, and we had seven. It's competitively unfair—and if we'd gotten into a brawl, they'd have killed us.
When it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, guys will always test the system because the reward is greater than the risk. All we can do is keep the penalties stiff and educate players on the dangers. As for Alex Rodriguez, I think his 162-game suspension was personal for the league. You have to go by what the union negotiated with management—50 games for a first-time offender. I don't care if A-Rod tried to obstruct the investigation. Baseball ignored PEDs in the 1990s, when it was coming off the strike and needed to put asses in the seats, and now it's using A-Rod as a way to make up for that, which isn't right.
People in baseball always talk about how they want more African-American players, but I don't think MLB is doing enough to get them in the game. I'm the only black guy on the Rockies this year. Baseball has to spend more money to promote the game in the inner cities, and sign more kids that have raw talent, give them a chance to play and see how good they can get. In fact, there should even be a rule that every team has to spend a certain amount on African-American kids in the draft each year. I'd also like the package to include two to four years of college tuition for every high school player drafted, African-American or not. When the Twins chose me in the seventh round in 1991 out of Gary, Ind., I was an athlete, but I wasn't really a baseball player. Minnesota took a chance and gave me $27,500—I bought an '84 Mustang T-top—and the rest is history.
My goals this year are to reach 1,000 career appearances (I've got 57 to go) and to win my first World Series. I keep playing because I enjoy everything about baseball—the camaraderie, the competition and even the imperfections.
If a player's not performing, he's sent to the minors. It should be the same for umpires. A wrong strike zone is one thing; a constantly changing one is another.
What changes would you make as MLB commissioner?
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