It is the beginning of Barack Obama's second term as president. Obama is getting ready to deliver a much anticipated speech on the state of major league baseball. He is going to propose a stimulus package that is designed to get major league baseball back on its feet. And here he is, the preident of the United States, Barack Obama....
Good morning, everybody. Please be seated. Thank you all for being here. Throughout the history of baseball, there have many crises - The black sox scandal in 1919, the strike year of 1994.
Today we face a crisis in the sport of baseball unlike any we have ever seen. We don’t know which players are on steroids. The price of tickets has become unaffordable to the average person. Some teams cannot compete and have to get by with small payrolls while other, more greedy teams, steal the resources necessary to be competitive while the fans of these poorer teams live in despair with no hope in the current season and no future to look forward to. The horrific state of baseball education has resulted in players not running out ground balls or pop ups and has now put us behind Japan and Korea in baseball knowledge and skills.
Quite frankly, the state of baseball is a mess. Owners of major league teams have put their own selfish needs of winning above the good of the sport. Major League baseball has had a win at all costs attitude. It has encouraged trickery and deception and instead of representing all that is good about America, it has represented all of America’s mistakes. As my wife Michelle has told me, “It has become a mean game.” That ends today. Starting today, owners, players and fans must ask themselves not what is good for their team but what is good for the well being of the sport.
For this reason I have worked with my economic team and leaders of both parties on a plan to meet the most urgent challenges in major league baseball. The plan that I will outline today represents not just new policy for baseball, but a whole new approach for the game and for meeting its most urgent challenges. I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan. I get it. I do not want to run Major League baseball. I have enough to do running the banks, car manufacturers and oil companies. While Washington will do everything possible to prevent the catastrophic failure of Major League baseball, it will come with a clear understanding that government support for any team is an extraordinary action that must come with significant restrictions on the sport and on the individual teams that receive support.
Changes to the sport must begin in Washington. Only government can break the vicious cycles that have crippled the game. Baseball must set an example in creating a clean energy economy. For this reason, night games will be a thing of the past. Baseball teams will be allowed one night game per week. By this one action we will save as much energy as we would acquire by drilling in ANWAR. In addition, major league stadiums must immediately stop the wasteful practice of watering the field and the infield dirt. We can live with a weed or two in the outfield and a bit of dust kicking around in the infield.
Baseball must be at the forefront of environmental responsibility. Electronic scoreboards and video screens running throughout the stadium are also wasteful. I am recommending today that baseball return to the days of a person sitting inside a scoreboard manually changing the numbers. Not only will this help the environment, but it will create thousands of jobs. New stadiums built must be retrofitted with windmills and solar panels so that to the extent that energy is used, it will all be self generated. Existing stadiums have one year to comply with adding solar panels and windmills to their structure.
And then there is the issue of travelling in baseball. It is incredibly wasteful and bad for the environment that teams charter their own planes to fly all over the country. Again, baseball must, as the great American institution that it is, set an example. Teams will no longer have the luxury to charter planes to go to all over the country. Teams will need to travel on commercial flights already scheduled. If a team is unable to get all its members on one flight then the team can travel in two or three different flights. It can be possible that a team may get to its scheduled game and all of its players have not arrived yet. For this reason I am proposing that major league rosters expand to 35 players. This way, more jobs will be created and it will be unlikely that the team will arrive at its scheduled game without enough players.
The idea of creating more jobs is an important part of this baseball stimulus package. Baseball has become a game of selfishness, where only a few of the millions who try out for it, get to play on the highest level. One of the causes of this is the pitch known as the curveball. There are players who have been stars in high school and stars in college. Yet when they try out for the major leagues, they are excluded because they are unable to hit this deceptive pitch. Baseball should not be about deception and exclusion. The rules of the game, itself, must change to be more inclusive and fair to the people who desire to play. There will be no more curveballs in baseball, period.
Now there are some pitchers who throw over 95 MPH. Others throw at 86 to 88 MPH. Thus comes the need for trickery on the part of the pitcher who, through no fault of his own, is not able to throw the ball as hard. Currently, the pitcher’s mound is 60 ft, 6 inches from home plate. Starting today, there will be three rubbers on the pitcher’s mound. For those pitchers who throw 93 MPH and harder, they will need to use the rubber that is 70 feet from home plate. Pitchers who throw the ball at 90 to 93 MPH get to use the current rubber of 60 feet, 6 inches. Those who are less fortunate, get to use the rubber that is 59 feet from home plate.
Not only will this policy create more jobs in baseball, eliminate the need for deceptive pitches such as the curveball, it will also eliminate the need for one of the scourges of major league baseball -- steroids. There will be no need for any player to take steroids when the rules of the game don’t reward the unjust advantages that some have over others. If we eliminate these inequities, there will be no need for players to seek dishonest advantages with artificial means.
For this reason we also have to look at other parts of the game as well. Some players can hit a baseball 500 feet while others may top out at hitting a ball 350 feet. Players who are unable to hit a ball over 400 feet will be allowed to use metal bats. Players who attempt to steal a base or try to stretch a single into a double will be suspended. Stealing bases puts undo pressure on both pitchers and catchers and awards the accidental advantages that some players have for being faster than their cohorts.
With these rule changes that I am proposing, thousands of new jobs will open up to people who previously had no hope of ever playing in the major leagues. Therefore it will be incumbent upon baseball to seek out new cities for new teams in order that all the players who were previously shut out from the game find a place to play. I am today putting forth an executive order that baseball expand from 30 to 46 teams in order to provide the necessary opportunities needed for all the players who will now have the right to play.
I must now take a moment to speak about the competitive aspects of baseball. I believe that the rules of baseball were motivated by a sincere desire to create a competitive and honest game. But I also believe that all too often the writers of baseball rules made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often they trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of creating a game based on our principles, too often they set those principles aside as luxuries and too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens -- fell silent. In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by my Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who is a Yankees fan.
We have pitchers throwing inside at hitters with no regard for what might happen if that pitch hits the batter and the harm that the pitch might cause. We have runners trying to break up double plays going into second base without taking into account the well being of the shortstop or the second baseman on the other side of the play. We have fans hating each other. Red Sox fans hating Yankees fans. Mets fans hating Phillies fans. Hatred and the desire to do harm will have no place in the game of baseball. Tonight I seek a new beginning between the owners, players and fans around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that the interests of different fans are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
Now let me be blunt. There are no neat or easy answers here. I wish there were. But I can tell you that the wrong answer is to pretend like this problem will go away if we maintain an unsustainable status quo. As President, I refuse to allow this problem to fester. I refuse to pass it on to somebody else. It is my responsibility to solve the problem. The people elected me president. We won the election. John McCain lost the election. Yet as Senator McCain once said, torture “serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us.”
So what does that have to do with major league baseball? In baseball stadiums around the country, fans boo players who make mistakes, players commit acts that can hurt one another, they try to steal bases and humiliate the other team. They do things such as bunt, which causes a third baseman to second guess himself. He wonders “Should I play in?” “Should I play back?” And if, in fact, the hitter bunts, the third baseman is forced to rush in to catch the ball, often without even enough time to catch the ball in his glove, he has to catch it with his bare hand and then try to throw it to first off balance and awkwardly, risking injury to himself and humiliation to his family. Today I am ordering the closing of any baseball stadium that allows these practices to continue.
I must take a moment now to talk about umpires in baseball. Currently umpires call balls and strikes, whether a ball is fair or foul, whether a runner is safe or out. A shortstop may make an amazing play, throw to first on his knees, and yet after all that effort the runner may still be called safe. I am appalled by this inflexible and unfair approach to the game. I am going to increase the number of umpires in each game from 4 to 9. When there is a play that merits further consideration to the infexible rules, umpires will deliberate and vote whether or not to overrule the rule. So in the above play, if the umpires vote 5-4 to overrule the call at first base, the runner will be safe. All umpires will be appointed by me. I won the election and therefore, respectully reserve the right, with all due respect to those who lost the election, to these appointments.
For the reasons I just mentioned and many others, I am extremely proud today to appoint Al Gore as my new baseball czar. Mr. Gore will oversee the spending of money by major league teams. All expenditures by major league teams will need to be approved by my new czar. No team will be allowed to spend more than any other team and all signings of players and coaches, as well as hot dog vendors and ushers, will need approval from the baseball czar. The days of deception and cruelty in baseball are over. The days of the strong teams praying on the weak teams are over. People elected me for change, not to maintain the status quo. In baseball, the strong too often have dominated the weak, and too often those with speed, power, or the ability to throw harder or trick their associates have found all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of the disadvantages of others.
I am proposing a win-win situation for baseball. I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we cannot return baseball to its former glory unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values. I am going to make the game a beacon of environmental responsibility. I will eliminate the need for anyone to ever try steroids because the rules of the game do not encourage it. I will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. I will create a game where fans in all cities have hope that their team can win a championship, where good will and mutual respect define the game, not hatred and the desire to do harm. How can anyone be against this plan?
We will not be united and safe if major league baseball continues as a wedge that divides America -- it can and must be a cause that unites us as one people and as one nation. We've done so before in times that were more perilous than ours. We will do so once again. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.