Major League Baseball has come far in the modernization of the game, from expanded instant replay starting next season, to the second wild card, which has drawn considerable interest. And even news off the field — enhanced testing for steroids — has raised baseball above other sports in terms of cleaning up performance-enhancers.
What could be next?
Well, for five years super agent Scott Boras has called for something that makes a lot of sense — having the first and/or second game of the World Series take place in a neutral setting. Set it up much like the MLB All-Star Game or the Super Bowl, thus creating a year's worth of interest in an event that has become, in Boras's opinion, "regionalized."
If you had two games to start the World Series in a warm-weather climate and/or dome, you'd create quite a buzz. The prelude to the game or games, Boras suggests, would be a gala, followed by a big ceremony where the Cy Young, MVP, and other awards would be part of a TV special in the host city. He calls it, baseball's Oscars.
All of this, in Boras's view, would get the corporate world involved much like it is for the Super Bowl. Some of the revenue generated could go to one of Boras's passions — a pension fund for minor leaguers, so many of whom that once their careers are over have nothing to look forward to in retirement.
The downside to this would be that fans whose team makes it to the World Series would have fewer games at their venue. However, it would be like Patriots fans going to New Orleans to watch their team in the Super Bowl. You could still have the All-Star Game decide home-field advantage, as the last five games would be broken up, 2-2-1.
Under such a plan, the season would have to start the last week of March and spring training would have to be shortened or start a week earlier to accommodate the festivities leading up to the World Series.
"It would be a gathering place for all of baseball," Boras said. "The team officials would have to show up for the awards and other business. It could be the start of the hot-stove season as it once was. It would bring baseball center stage. It would make the World Series an event, much like the All-Star Game, which is the best in sports. Why not take all of the metrics of that event and apply them to the World Series?"
It's true that the World Series has lost a bit of luster. Years ago, general managers and owners, etc. convened at the World Series. It's where the hot stove started in earnest, where agents peddled free agents. Most of that is gone now. It's rare to see a GM who's not involved in the series actually be at the game. Years ago, everyone came.
While this might be a major departure from tradition, the World Series has evolved. It wasn't until the mid-1970s that World Series game were played at night. That changed after many years of day games.
A neutral site for part of the Series wouldn't be that radical. It would generate more revenue, give TV rights-holders a chance to perhaps recoup some money. It would allow fans to plan trips, much as they do for the Super Bowl. It would also make it easier on MLB, which has to decide every year where a future All-Star Game will be. Those cities that have to wait their turn could now be in a pool to host some World Series games.
It seems that if it's not the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers, the ratings and interest in the World Series aren't great. The Cardinals get great regional ratings, but nationwide they're just not as popular as the teams mentioned. Ditto the Tigers.
A prearranged site would allow for build-up and greater interest in the event.
With the inclusion of an awards ceremony, it would create a scenario in which the best players in baseball would gather at the World Series site. Boras even suggested a postseason home run derby, where stars would compete and not have to worry, as they do now at the All-Star Game, about ruining their swings for the rest of the season, which is why some of the best sluggers do not participate.
Boras's idea makes sense. The people I ran the idea by at MLB know it has merit, but changing the way things are done isn't a top priority.
And would MLB ever adopt an idea suggested by Boras, the most powerful agent in the business?
Dream matchup, or a real nightmare?
Who knows how it would unfold should the Red Sox and Indians meet in the Division Series, but it would be intriguing, wouldn't it?
Indians manager Terry Francona would return to Boston in a playoff atmosphere against the Red Sox. The hype would be something not experienced in Boston for quite a while. But to get anyone to speak about such a series is nearly impossible because the Indians are fighting to get there, and nobody wants to jinx that, certainly not Francona or his coaching staff, who won't get near the topic.
For the Indians to make that happen, they would have to finish strong, win the wild-card game, and then take on the team with the best record, which right now is the Red Sox.
"It would be fun," acknowledged Francona's top lieutenant, bench coach Brad Mills, "but we're in a situation where each loss is devastating for us, so we're concentrating on each opponent and each game."
There's pressure on the Indians because they have the easiest schedule down the stretch of the wild-card contenders.
The Indians finish a four-game series with the Astros on Sunday, then play the visiting White Sox twice, and end the season with four at Minnesota.
They must do it not knowing whether ace Justin Masterson can be of value down the stretch. Masterson suffered an oblique strain three weeks ago and has declared himself ready to go, but the Indians have exercised caution in not bringing him back too soon.
Mills said the Indians' success this season starts with Francona.
"He's created a winning atmosphere," said Mills, who spent three seasons as the Astros' manager after serving as Francona's bench coach in Boston. "I think he's been able to get the players to buy into a real positive, winning attitude. He's made them understand, I think, how to win."
Apropos of nothing
1. Andy Pettitte is a Hall of Famer. Period. He has 255 victories, a record 19 postseason wins, and has pitched big games in a big-time setting. We forgive him for dabbling in human growth hormone. He had the class to admit it.
2. Wouldn't shock me to hear the next Yankee to retire will be Hiroki Kuroda. The righthander has been going year to year on contracts, and he, like Pettitte, has been showing signs of fatigue at the end of the season.
3. I can now see Texas as a team bidding for Jacoby Ellsbury this offseason.
4. I think the Rangers regret not making bids for Kyle Lohse and Jake Peavy. Either could have stabilized their staff.
5. Rookie of the Year? For me, it comes down to Jose Iglesias, Wil Myers, and Chris Archer, but I also like what lefty reliever Alex Torres has done for the Rays. Iglesias has exhibited that rare combination of speed, hitting .300, and incredible defense. Myers has hit for power (13 homers) and knocked in 49 runs after being recalled June 18. Archer, with nine wins, has pitched some big games down the stretch. All three current Rays came from different organizations.
6. Was there just a bit of overreaction by Arizona players about the Dodgers taking a dip in the pool at Chase Field after they clinched the division title Wednesday? It's a pool. Is there Diamondbacks holy water in there or something?
7. Out of necessity, Jhonny Peralta will likely be on the Tigers' playoff roster as an outfielder. Peralta, eligible to return Sept. 27 from his 50-game suspension for PED use, was not likely to make the roster, but Miguel Cabrera's injuries and subpar hitting from Andy Dirks have created a need. So Peralta, a steady but limited shortstop defensively, could man left field.
8. The Phillies will likely have a lineup with five lefthanded hitters next season: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, and Cody Asche. That explains why GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has acknowledged contacting the Marlins 10 times about acquiring Giancarlo Stanton. Probably doubtful the Marlins would deal him within the division.
Updates on nine
1. Ron Washington, manager, Rangers — Internally, people in the organization have no doubts regarding Washington's job status. He's back unless he doesn't want to be back, according to one team source. Washington made some comments about his job being in jeopardy if he can't get the Rangers to the playoffs, but the commitment to Washington is there.
2. Andy MacPhail, executive — MacPhail has taken some time away from the game, and he and his wife have been able to cross some things off the to-do list. His wife is an accomplished artist who recently sold some major paintings, but MacPhail, a former Twins, Cubs, and Orioles executive, is ready to get back into baseball. He has the itch again. Exactly what he'd like to do is unclear, but be a GM is probably not one of them. He could return to run an organization, and he certainly has ties to commissioner Bud Selig.
3. Dan O'Dowd, GM, Rockies — There's increased talk that O'Dowd's status is more in question after the Rockies fell short of expectations this season. The Rockies have a two-headed monster at the executive level that perhaps isn't working as well as expected. Stay tuned.
4. Yan Gomes, C, Indians — The Indians feel they have hit the jackpot with Gomes, who has taken over most of the duties behind the plate over Carlos Santana, who has been freed up to play more first base and DH. Gomes has been hitting in the .290s most of the season and has improved defensively, showing a strong and accurate arm. Gomes was the throw-in in the deal that sent Mike Aviles to the Indians for Esmil Rogers. At 26, the Brazilian-born Gomes has exceeded expectations.
5. Chris Dwyer, LHP, Royals — Dwyer, who hails from Swampscott, is now up with the big club after clinching the Triple A championship for Omaha over Durham by going seven innings and striking out eight. He seems very much in the Royals' future plans. Dwyer has battled injuries and illness, including an auto-immune disease that sapped his energy last season. A team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital treated Dwyer, and he's taken off ever since.
6. Ron Gardenhire, manager Twins — The biggest issue on whether the Twins bring him back is whether they believe he's been on the job too long and has lost touch with his players? Gardenhire is in his 12th year and is likely to record his third consecutive 90-loss season. The future looks bright, as the Twins have one of baseball's deepest farm systems. Whether Gardenhire is the guy to lead the resurgence will be the deciding factor in a very difficult decision that GM Terry Ryan and owner Jim Pohlad will have to make.
7. Hiroshi Yamauchi, owner, Mariners — Amazing as it may seem, Yamauchi, who died last week at age 85 and owned part or all of the team since 1992, was never actually seen at a Mariners game. He bought into the Mariners out of a sense of gratitude for the city of Seattle welcoming his Nintendo video game company, and saved the Mariners from moving to St. Petersburg, Fla. (and we know how that would have worked out). Yamauchi also was instrumental in getting Ichiro Suzuki to the Mariners. Now that Yamauchi is gone, there could be a major shakeup in the front office. Stay tuned on the fates of manager Eric Wedge and GM Jack Zduriencik.
8. Joe Girardi, manager, Yankees — One team official thinks it's "70-30" that Girardi returns next season. One job that would always intrigue Girardi would be managing the Cubs, who are said to be contemplating Dale Sveum's future with the team. It doesn't always happen that the manager who oversees the rebuilding gets to stick around for the fruits of his labor, and that may be the case with Sveum. Girardi has done a remarkable job this season, some think the best of his career. Does he want out as the Yankees rebuild?
9. Gary DiSarcina, manager, Pawtucket — Rave reviews of DiSarcina in-house and around the league. He should begin to gain credibility for a big-league managing job in the future. It will be interesting if the Red Sox try to elevate him to the major league coaching staff next season.
From the Bill Chuck files — "From 2003 to 2012, Bartolo Colon tossed two shutouts; this season he has three." Also, "On the same night that Koji Uehara's streak of 37 retired batters ended, Craig Kimbrel's streak of 37 saves ended." And, "Only two players have hit 30-plus homers each season from 2011-13: Miguel Cabrera and Jay Bruce." . . . Happy birthday, Lee Graham (54), Dave Sax (55), Ken Aspromonte (82), and Tom Wright (90).