by Clark Groome
Last week we dealt with stopping stoppage time in soccer and eliminating the role of the Major League Baseball All-Star game as the determinant of which league has home-field advantage in the World Series.
Here are a few more problems and solutions that shouldn’t be hard to implement, even though it’s not likely that it’ll happen.
Video appeals should be immediate
Video replay has been a real asset to Major League Baseball. It has done two things: shown that the umpires are generally damn good, and in those instances where a call is missed created a procedure to make sure it is ultimately gotten right.
Under the current rules when the manager wants to appeal a call he wanders out to the umpire, has a nice chat that I picture being like that mound meeting in “Bull Durham” while waiting for someone in the dugout to signal whether or not he should appeal. It adds time to what is already an increasingly slow game.
Perhaps it would be better to require the manager to make his appeal immediately, cutting out the walk to the field and waiting for his bench coach’s advice.
Some will say that the only purpose of all of this is to get the call right. That is the bottom line but it will put more responsibility on the manager to know when and when not to appeal. It would save time and still have the same result. To compensate the managers for the prohibition to wait for advice from the bench, the number of appeals allowed could be increased from the current one to two.
Let him retire
The recent discussions about the Flyers’ need to add some defensive pieces have pointed to the lack of cap space available to make any significant moves.
Part of that problem is that any player who signs a contract that goes into effect after his 35th birthday cannot retire no matter what the reason without the team being charged the full value of his cap hit for the contract years remaining, even though the player won’t or can’t play.
On October 24, 2011, Flyers’ defenseman Chris Pronger took a stick to the eye. You could hear his scream all over the Wells Fargo Center. He immediately skated off the ice, spent a few days not playing, came back for a couple of games, and then shut down with not only eye problems but with the effects of a severe concussion.
Signed to a seven-year contract in 2009, Pronger’s contract runs through the 2016-2017 season. His annual cap hit is $4.94 million. The rules require that that amount be charged to the money available to the team until the season begins. At that point he can be assigned to the injured reserve list at which point that $4.94 million comes off the payroll subject to the cap.
The problem is that his being counted until the first game reduces significantly the team’s ability to use his cap money for other players. The reason for this is to prevent a contracted player from retiring and picking up his cash when he could still be playing.
But Pronger can’t play, and will never be able to. The solution that only applies to injured players is to have the league and the players’ association establish a panel of independent doctors who can decide on a case-by-case basis who is injured severely enough he’ll never play again. It won’t happen very often. Pronger’s case is the exception. After the doctors say he can no longer play he can then retire and his salary will no longer count against the cap.
It’s sort of ironic that Pronger, one of the greatest defensemen in the game’s history, could be in the NHL Hall of Fame before he retires. The criterion for election to the Hall of Fame is that a player hasn’t played in three years, which he hasn’t, not for someone retired for three years. How dumb is that double standard?