High and Tight: If Our Rock & Roll Baseball Experts Were Commissioner for a Day - Rolling Stone
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High and Tight: If Our Rock & Roll Baseball Experts Were Commissioner for a Day

Dump the DH? Eliminate interleague play? Game-changing ideas from Tom Morello, Steve Earle, Greg Dulli and more

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Major League Baseball Executive Vice President Rob Manfred, Commissioner Bud Selig and Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner attend a news conference at MLB headquarters.

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

This past January, baseball lovers everywhere groaned like Black Sabbath fans during a marathon of The Osbournes at the announcement that Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig had accepted yet another contract extension. While Selig might not be the worst commish in baseball history – Kenesaw Mountain Landis takes that cake, if only for actively stonewalling the racial integration of the major leagues during his reign from 1920 to 1944 – he will leave a remarkably messy legacy behind him, provided he ever actually goes away.

Selig first took the reins of the sport twenty years ago, after leading his fellow major league owners in a revolt against Fay Vincent, the game’s previous commissioner. Selig, who owned the Milwaukee Brewers at the time, was initially installed as “acting commissioner”; but in 1998, after a six-year “search,” the owners bestowed the permanent Commissioner title upon their buddy Bud, presumably realizing that they’d never find anyone as sympathetic to their financial interests as one of their own.

Though Selig crows vociferously these days about baseball’s unprecedented fiscal health, the soul of the game has withered during his tenure. Such Bud-stamped changes as interleague play, the unbalanced schedule, Opening Day in Japan, and the All-Star Game deciding home field advantage for the World Series have all been trumpeted as being “for the good of the game,” but these moves were more about marketing baseball than improving it. (Admittedly, it’s hard to find many fans that are still opposed to the Selig-approved Wild Card, though the jury’s still out on the addition of two more teams to this season’s playoffs.)

As for the unequivocal black marks on his record, Selig’s response to the proliferation of performance-enhancing drug use under his watch has been muddled at best, and the recent Ryan Braun Fed-Ex fiasco hasn’t exactly instilled additional confidence in baseball’s belated testing program. Selig has also allowed scumbags like Expos/Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, Mets owner Fred Wilpon and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to pad their personal fortunes at the expense of their teams (and their communities), while pocketing an $18 million annual salary himself; meanwhile, tickets are increasingly priced out of range of the lower and middle classes who once formed the bulk of baseball’s fanbase. And don’t get us started on the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, letting the 2002 All Star Game end in a tie, removing the Expos from Montreal, Selig’s continued favoritism towards his former franchise, his refusal to address the hypocrisy of holding last year’s Civil Rights and All Star games in states with anti-immigrant laws on the books, or moving the Houston Astros to the American League next season…

Alas, unless the Occupy movement sets their sites on the Commissioner’s Office, we’re stuck with Bud until at least 2014. But a fan can dream – which is why this week’s question for our High and Tight panel is: What are up to three things you’d change if you were Baseball Commissioner for a day?

Name: Steve Wynn
Band: The Baseball Project
Position: Vocals, Guitar

Three? Only three? Well, it’s tough to narrow it down but here goes:

1. Complete exoneration for all players previously accused of steroids, along with complete, draconian and stringent testing with ironclad rules for performance enhancing drugs in the future. The idea of selectively prosecuting only players that everybody already hates (Clemens and Bonds) while finding Fed-Ex related loopholes to excuse players that everybody loves (Braun) is completely unfair and insulting. Prosecute them all or let them all off the hook. Punish them all or get rid of the rules. 

2. Get rid of interleague play. I enjoyed the novelty at first but have grown tired of it, preferring rivalries within the league and saving the rarely seen matches between the leagues for the actual World Series. Or maybe it’s just sour grapes because I can never get tickets for the Subway Series.

3. Well, I guess that if I were Commissioner this would be a moot point; but just in case anyone was crazy enough to take the job away from me, I would make sure that no future commissioner could ever be a previous team owner. I mean, how can you expect a former owner to ever decide fairly upon labor issues and player strikes, let alone issues of PED-related discipline with – oh, I dunno – players from the team that you used to own?

Name: Scott McCaughey
Band: The Baseball Project, The Minus 5
Position: Guitar, Vocals

1. I would figure out a way to make the position of Commissioner be less of a joke. The Commissioner is meant to preserve the integrity of baseball, but has never been more than a puppet of the owners. And now, they don’t even bother to appoint a puppet, they just finally said “Screw it, let’s just make one of the owners Commissioner.” Sad.

2. I’m not a big fan of interleague play. I’d get rid of it, but this won’t happen, since the Astros moving to the AL next year will actually necessitate that there be at least one interleague game scheduled daily throughout the season.

3. I would bring wider use of instant replay. The umpires for the most part do an amazing job, but I really don’t think preserving the hallowed “human error” aspect of the game really is that important. Wouldn’t you rather see them get it right?

Name: Tom Morello
Band: The Nightwatchman, Street Sweeper Social Club, Rage Against the Machine
Position: Guitar, Vocals

1. Level the field with regard to economics. It’s a joke that some franchises have a third baseman who makes more money than three entire teams’ salaries combined.

2. Put a cap on ticket prices. When I was growing up, tickets were always five dollars to sit in the bleachers at Wrigley field. None of those bleacher tickets were sold before game day, so any day if you had five dollars, you could skip school and go down and enjoy a ball game. We need to return to those glory days.

3. Insist that all teams playing against the Chicago Cubs forfeit for just one year, so we can get our World Series victory out of the way and go back to having self-esteem as human beings and not as lesser creatures.

Name: Handsome Dick Manitoba
Band: Manitoba
Position: Vocals

1. Do away with the fun-for-the-fans All Star Game having the power to decide home field advantage during the World Series. Go back to alternating years of AL/NL for the Fall Classic.

2. Get rid of the DH, which takes away the whole chess match aspect (or much of it) for managers and fans. People have complained to me upon hearing my proposal that they want to “see hitters hit” and “pitchers pitch.” So what is next, logically – “fielders just fielding”? No. I would increase the lost offense from no more DH’ing by allowing a player to re-enter the game. I’m not sure if it would be once, or the exact details, but it would add a wonderful dimension that football has. I would have to talk to my hierarchy, Bill White, Joe Torre, and Stick Michael, to iron out the details of the change.

3. I would be a socialist commissioner, and make baseball affordable to all families. As it stands now, for a family of four to go to a game with decent tickets, parking and snacks is unaffordable. “America’s Game”? Not at these prices. We’re heading more toward a lacrosse game at an Ivy League school, perhaps!

Name: Greg Dulli
Band: The Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs
Position: Vocals, Guitar

1. No batting gloves. I’m tired of watching guys fiddle with their gloves between every pitch. It makes the game longer than I need to be there. Toughen up your sissy hands and play baseball. Vlad Guerrero doesn’t need batting gloves and neither do you.

2. Instant replay for everything but balls and strikes. The Armando Galarraga perfect game debacle is but only the most glaring example of human error changing the outcome of a game. There is no good reason not to have instant replay for close calls.

3. Designated Hitter in both leagues. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching Carlos Zambrano crush homers occasionally, it is mostly sad and painful to sit through a pitcher’s at bat.

Name: Pete Yorn
Position: Vocals, Guitar

1. The All Star Game should not decide world series home team – an exhibition game in July should have no bearing on the results in October.

2. The regular season is too long – shave it by 20 games. Less injuries/less burn out, and there’s little risk of playing in cold weather.

3. Allow pitchers who hit to use aluminum bats.

Name: Steve Earle
Position: Vocals, Guitar

1. Eliminate the Designated Hitter.

2. Restore all playoff series to seven games.

3. Order the Dodgers to move back to Brooklyn where they were appreciated.

Name: Ben Gibbard
Band: Death Cab for Cutie
Position: Vocals, Guitar

I would rethink this crazy idea of the Houston Astros moving to the AL West. Instead, the Astros should move from the NL Central to NL West and the Arizona Diamondbacks should move to the AL West. Having two teams from Texas (Central time zone!) in a Western division is just insane.

Name: Ken Casey
Band: Dropkick Murphys
Position: Bass guitar, Vocals

Well it’s probably not what baseball needs most, but if we are gonna have interleague play, I think they should play National League rules in the American League parks and vice versa, so the fans can experience a different type of ball instead of just seeing different teams.

Name: Scott Ian
Band: Anthrax
Position: Guitar

All players make $250K a year and the rest of their money is incentive based. If a player hits 55 home runs and drives in 130 runs, he’ll make his money. If he bats .270 and has 18 HRs, etc., he makes what he’s worth. Same for pitchers – win, get paid. Also big incentives for post season production. It’ll be called the A-Rod Clause. And of course ticket prices would come way down.

Name: Joe Pernice
Band: Pernice Brothers
Position: Vocals, Guitar

I’d (a) move the pitcher’s rubber up to exactly sixty feet from home plate. Then two weeks later, after numerous thrilling no-hitters and perfect games thrown, I would (b) move it back to its current spot. Finally I would (c) impose the mandatory and immediate termination of any commissioner who should wield his power as recklessly as is evident in sub sections (a) and (b).


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