How to eliminate calls like Jerry Meals'
Move over, Jim Joyce. There's a new MLB umpire who is a household name: Jerry Meals! Robbing pitchers of perfect games is so 2010. Now the cool thing is to ruin a 19-inning, seven-hour baseball game. But one thing hasn't changed: It seems terrible calls are in every year in baseball.
Here are a few ways baseball can change things so umpires stop making headlines.
How it would work: Similar to the NFL, managers would have a limited amount of challenges per game. Let's say two of them. Managers could use their challenges on home runs, foul/fair balls and plays at all four bases -- but not balls and strikes or "in the area" calls at second on double plays. This option allows baseball to modernize, it wouldn't slow the game much more than visits to the mound do and umpires like Jim Joyce and Jerry Meals are saved from infamy.
Added bonus: Baseball could finally have a reason for why its managers wear uniforms. "Why am I, an overweight, 68-year-old man, wearing a baseball uniform, you ask? Because a sport coat doesn't provide full range of motion for an accurate throw, and I fully intend to hit Jerry Meals in the head with my challenge flag."
How it would work: Every major league broadcast has pitch tracking technology that accurately determines balls and strikes, so why doesn't Major League Baseball itself use this? The strike zone would be uniform from game to game and players and managers could stop griping about balls and strikes. (Well, they could complain to the robots, I suppose. But I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know that would be a bad idea.)
Added bonus: Umpires would never suffer like this again. It's insane the umpire union isn't pushing for robots at home plate already. If umpires don't even care about the safety of their unmentionables, how can we expect them to care about the integrity of our nation's pastime?
How it would work: Don't want more instant replay? Don't want robots? You want to keep the human error element in baseball? Fine. Then let's go with more umpires. Put 10 umpires at home, 10 at first, 10 at second and 10 at third. And, then, if there's a close play -- or in the case of Joyce and Meals, a shockingly not close play -- have them all vote on it. I'm sure Joyce and Meals would have been outvoted 9-1 on their infamous plays. If not, baseball has more of a problem than we even thought.
Added bonus: Baseball gets credit for hiring hundreds of people in a down economy.
Every close play somehow determines home field in the World Series
How it would work: This is a really terrible idea.
Added bonus: It would make the All-Star Game setup seem brilliant in comparison. Bud Selig might want to consider this one.
Strip umpires of their monarch-like power
How it would work: We have seen how umpires can ruin games. We have also seen how some umpires, mad with power, think they are the show. Baseball needs to replace umpires with a system that gives power to the people to allow them to vote on calls. But those calls would then be up for approval by the commissioner. And that final decision would be subject to review by a sort of judicial baseball panel. You know what? This is also a really terrible idea. Never mind.
Added bonus: Did you agree that it was a terrible idea? Ah-HA! I set you up! You just said that the American system of government is terrible. Why do you hate America? And why are you watching baseball anyway? You are probably just enjoying the umpire-led destruction of our nation's pastime, comrade!
Glasses for every umpire
How it would work: It's probably the oldest heckle in American sports: "Get some glasses, ump!" So for purposes of fan perception, if nothing else, baseball should get glasses for all of its umps. It would serve as a clear message to baseball fans: "Hey, we are addressing the very serious issue of ump blindness."
Added bonus: It's frowned upon to punch a man who wears glasses. This would provide an important last line of defense for incompetent umpires facing managers they have enraged with their incompetence.
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain-book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.