- - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

If Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred hated baseball and wanted to destroy it, he wouldn’t be acting any differently. America’s pastime needs new leadership, stat.

Begin with Mr. Manfred’s pathetic reaction to the Houston Astros’ shameless sign-stealing scheme, which went on for years. The Astros have been caught red-handed, using video cameras to steal the signs of opposing teams during the years in which they enjoyed multiple playoff runs, culminating in a World Series win in 2017. Our own Nationals beat the Astros in last year’s World Series, overcoming probable chicanery, and making the Nats’ season all the more impressive.

Mr. Manfred’s reaction? Blanket immunity for all of the players involved and a few light slaps on the wrist for management. The tainted 2017 championship will not be revoked.

So: Fans can’t trust the game they’re watching is on the up-and-up, and Mr. Manfred’s weak response will hardly act as a deterrent against future cheating.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Mr. Manfred plans more foolishness. Starting this year, pitchers will have to face a minimum of three batters when they enter a game — gone will be the days of lefty and righty “specialists.” So too will the days of skillful management — except that the number of pitchers facing “injury” and “having” to come out after a batter or two will surely rise.

And his designs on future playoffs are even more worrying. “MLB is seriously weighing a move from five to seven playoff teams in each league beginning in 2022,” the New York Post reported. “The team with the best record in each league would receive a bye to avoid the wild-card round and go directly to the Division Series. The two other division winners and the wild card with the next-best record would each host all three games in a best-of-three wild-card round. So the bottom three wild cards would have no first-round home games. The division winner with the second-best record in a league would then get the first pick of its opponent from those lower three wild cards, then the other division winner would pick, leaving the last two wild cards to play each other.”

Simple, right?

If your eyes rolled to the back of your head reading that, the nutshell is this: The entire 162 regular game season would become essentially pointless as nearly half the league would make the playoffs. We’re a far cry from the era when the best team in the AL and the best team in the NL simply faced each other in a best of seven world series. That system, incidentally, coincided with the height of baseball’s popularity in America.

Maybe MLB should hire a commissioner who actually likes the game.

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