Rob Manfred has been the commissioner for almost a year now and has done plenty to improve baseball. The pace-of-play initiatives were certainly successful, MLB has a new domestic violence policy, and the game is moving steadily to embrace new technologies.
But there are a few easy-to-implement changes that would help make the game even better. Some suggestions for 2016:
■ Fix roster expansion: The rule that rosters can be expanded from 25 players to as many as 40 on Sept. 1 is antiquated and nonsensical. Baseball is the only sport that changes the rules so dramatically for the biggest games of the year.
The game is managed differently when teams have five extra relievers or eight position players on the bench. The Red Sox played a few games last season when they had eight more players than the other team.
This is simple to fix. Teams can add all the players they want, but at the start of every series they have to designate an active roster of 28 players. You get three extras, that’s it.
■ The DH dilemma: The National League is one of the few leagues in the world still determined to let the pitcher hit. Forcing American League pitchers to hit in interleague and postseason games is a waste of time and creates an unnecessary risk of injury.
So institute the DH for all interleague and postseason games. Pitchers should hit only when two NL teams play, which is the case in the minor leagues. The idea that AL pitchers have to hit after not picking up a bat since high school makes zero sense.
■ Allow celebrations: Baseball needs to get out of the 1950s. Celebrating a home run or pumping your fist should not lead to some cranky redneck pitcher trying to injure you with a fastball next time you’re up.
High school and college players flip bats and have all sorts of fun, as do players in Caribbean and Asian leagues. Why is MLB so straight-laced? Enough already.
The unwritten rules need to be thrown out. If pitchers hate celebrations so much, throw better pitches. Baseball is determined to appeal to a younger age demographic and allowing celebrations would help that. The world will keep spinning.
■ Eliminate the save: The save is an awful statistic and often is indicative of nothing. There are plenty of intelligent ways to evaluate relievers beyond they somehow managed not to give up three runs in an inning.
Managers shouldn’t feel compelled to save their best relievers for the ninth inning when quite often the eighth inning is more vital. Get rid of the save and bullpen management improves the next day. Every manager would support this and the best relievers would still get paid what they are worth.
■ Day postseason games: Television makes the rules; everybody understands that. But one afternoon start during the World Series won’t lead to financial ruin for MLB or Fox.
■ Grow the game: Manfred has made youth outreach a goal and it’s a worthy one. Low-cost idea: When a team is on the road, open the park for high school games. Every major league park should host 15-20 high school games a year with free admission and discount concessions. More kids would play baseball if they knew there was a chance to play a few games at a big-league park.
A few other baseball and Red Sox thoughts:
■ Pete Rose should not be reinstated. I disagree with my pal Nick Cafardo on this one.
Rose lied for decades about what he did and it’s not Manfred’s job to absolve him. That Rose was an accomplished player who always hustled is meaningless; his actions threatened the integrity of the game he claimed to love.
Lifting Rose’s suspension sends a message to all players and managers that gambling on the game is a forgivable offense over time. It’s not.
■ The Red Sox waited too long to retire No. 26 for Wade Boggs. But I’d rather the team is stingy with retiring numbers than handing them out like party favors the way the Yankees do.
■ Imagine for a second that David Ortiz had a “body coach” who once peddled phony cures for concussions and cancer. Suspect that fans wouldn’t be blindly rushing to his defense as they are with Tom Brady.
■ Andrew Benintendi hit one home run in 61 games and 225 at-bats for the University of Arkansas as a freshman in 2014. Then he hit 31 home runs in 119 games and 424 at-bats in 2015 counting his time in the minor leagues with the Red Sox.
■ The Red Sox should invite Yoan Moncada to spring training if for no other reason than to get him around Ortiz a little.
■ Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini will be in Brewers camp competing for a job. In a twist, Cecchini is on the 40-man roster and Middlebrooks is on a minor-league invite.
■ The Red Sox should add a veteran lefty to their bullpen mix, somebody like Brian Duensing or even Franklin Morales.
■ Trade idea: Pablo Sandoval (four years, guaranteed $75 million) for James Shields (three years, guaranteed $65 million). Padres take on more money; Red Sox take on the older player.
■ The annual Hot Stove/Cool Music concert is Jan. 9 at the Paradise in Boston. The event benefits the Foundation To Be Named Later run by Theo and Paul Epstein and helps fund the Peter Gammons Scholars.
Jake Peavy, Bernie Williams, Bronson Arroyo, and Sean Casey will be on hand with a great selection of musicians including Daxx Nielsen from Cheap Trick and Josh Kantor.
Get tickets now and support a good cause.