What If David Stern was Commissioner of the MLB?

2

September 15, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

Come February 2014, the loveable and despotic David Stern will step down as commissioner of the NBA after a 30 year reign.  Despite the fact that there has been considerable controversy during his tenure of office, there’s no doubt that he’s left the league in a much better place than it was when he first came to power.[1]  Without a doubt, Stern took the NBA to new levels and introduced it into the global market for which the world is eternally grateful for.  Here’s a look at what the past 30 years of the MLB would have been like had Stern been the commissioner of baseball.

*(To keep matters simple we’ll keep trades, free agent signings, retirements and regular season outcomes and awards constant.  The biggest point of divergence would most likely be World Series matchups/outcomes.  This articles assumes that Stern does at the very least in some small way affect the outcome of certain playoff games.  In the MLB it would be much harder to do, but it’s not impossible, one team could have a more favorable strike zone a la game 5 of the 1997 NLCS, or could get more close plays on the base paths go their way, or every fly ball could be called an infield fly a la the 2012 National League Wild Card game.  More difficult in the MLB, but far from impossible.)

Part I: 1984-1990

In which things aren’t that different.

1985

1984 pretty much goes off as normal with the Tigers defeating the Padres in the World Series.  The biggest difference is that interleague play starts in 1985 because Stern is smart enough to give fans matchups the most likely would ever see.  The first true point of divergence takes place in the 1985 playoffs, specifically the ALCS.  Now as we’ve seen in the NBA, Stern is willing to give teams a chance, but only if they prove their worth; the 1985 had the Blue Jays, the best team in the AL, against the Royals a team who had more than their fair share of chances.  Wanting to arouse more support for baseball in Canada, Stern makes damn sure the Blue Jays win to face off against the Cardinals in the World Series.  Even though the Cards win, it’s enough to hold over Canada until the early 90s where things will get really interesting for them.

1988

How could Stern resist this NLCS?  The Mets vs. the Dodgers, the two biggest markets in sports.  He gives this to the Mets for two reasons 1) because the Mets were the better team, and 2) Stern loves repeated winners and the Mets had won just two years prior with the same team so they get the nod.  There’s also the added bonus of east vs. west in the World Series with the Mets vs. A’s.  If the Mets do play the A’s in 1988, it’s the Mets who emerge victorious with or without Stern interfering.

1990

One year after defeating the Giants in the World Series, the A’s are back and this time they face off against the Pirates, not the Reds.  The Pirates had Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, and superstar MVP Barry Bonds, of course he wants to put them on the biggest stage possible.  This one’s pretty tough, but Stern gives it to the A’s in seven so that they can repeat.  He loves consistency, especially when it’s the best team that wins; in 1990 Oakland was the best team, and they were looking to repeat.  Also realizing the Steinbrenner is more harm than help to the Yankees, Stern does suspend him for trying to blackmail Dave Winfield, but only for three years, so cooler minds can successfully rebuild the team to what they will become by 1996.

1991-2001

In which the Braves or the Yankees go to the World Series every year.

1993

A rematch of the previous year’s World Series is in order, and the outcome is exactly the same.  For the Braves, losing three World Series in a row is the final insult.  This is also a gimme to keep Canada interested in baseball.

1994

First off, the strike doesn’t happen.  There’s no way on God’s green earth that Stern lets the playoffs and the World Series be cancelled.  Unlike Bud Selig, Stern is well aware of the financial loss, and even worse the detrimental blow it will have to fan morale.  Remember the MLB is a brand, and Stern would sleep with Suge Knight if it meant keeping his brand strong and important.  Originally he plans to have the Braves win this year, but surprise surprise the Expos and Yankees are doing amazingly this year.  For baseball to prosper the Yankees have to always be competitive and having the other Canadian team play well is just an added bonus.  Wanting to tease Yankee fans, and to throw a bone to the other Canadian team this is the matchup of 1994.  The Expos win in six, not only in this superficial alternate reality but also in real life had the World Series occurred.

1997

One year after losing to the underdog New York Yankees, the Braves are back in the World Series, this time to face off against Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners.  Both teams are equally matched, but the Mariners feature the most popular player in the game while the Braves are thus far the team of the decade.  Stern doesn’t interfere, unless he needs to in order to force a game seven.  This series goes to seven games, and the Braves win their second in three years.

1999

Two things of import here: 1) Stern doesn’t ban Pete Rose for life and 2) Stern deals with steroids in his own way.  For the former, my rationale is that if Stern didn’t really care too much that players were bringing guns into the locker room, I don’t think he’d mind Pete Rose betting that he’d win.  Also see Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley for further examples.  As to the latter Stern allows steroids at first because it puts asses in the seats, but once it becomes too rampant he himself blows up the steroid problem and by 2002 starts testing and banning players for offenses.  He also silently pushes McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, et. al out of the league without ruining their reputations.

2001

The Yankees win.  David Stern is not an idiot.

2002-Present

In which everything we know is wrong.

2002

Yankees vs. Giants as Stern can’t resist this classic matchup.  Deciding to give a ring to Barry Bonds, who has once again become the face of baseball, the Giants defeat the defending champs in six.  By this point in time, Stern is not ready to permit an all west coast World Series or an all wild card World Series.

2003

After failing to win the pennant since 1945, this is the Cubs’ year to go to the fall classic.  There’s no way that Stern would favor a small market team that no one gives a shit about over the Cubs and their legion of maniacal fans.  Unfortunately for them the meet the Yankees coming off their war of attrition with Boston.  Stern realizes that the Yankees didn’t go through all that just to lose in the World Series.  He also realizes that the Cubs are more valuable as a franchise if they continue to not win.

2006

Do you really think David Stern is going to let a team with 83 wins beat the best team in the majors in the NLCS?  No, he wouldn’t.  2006 is the Mets vs. the A’s; it’s the team of superstars vs. moneyball.  Not that he’d have to interfere but Stern wants to make a point that a team without superstars can’t win.  Regardless the Mets would win in four.

2008

Stern does everything he possibly can to have a Rays vs. Cubs matchup in the World Series.  He wants to see how dedicated Florida is to baseball and likes how they out underdogged the Red Sox.  Ultimately under Stern the Cubs like the Red Sox end their World Series drought.

2011

Horrified at the low ratings of last year’s World Series David Stern vows to never again have an all west coast World Series.  This time around he sees an opportunity to have both wild card teams make the World Series.  He absolutely loves the wild card race went down to the wire and decides to favor the underachieving Cardinals and the overachieving Rays.  Deciding not to interfere, Stern leaves this one up to chance and like they did against the Rangers, the Cardinals come out on top in seven.

2012

In the ALCS the A’s take down the lazy Yankees to advance to the World Series.  In the National League the Reds and Nationals face off for the pennant as the Cardinals once again settle for the wild card and Stern wants some new blood to win for a change.  The Nats beat the Reds in seven and face off against Oakland.  Stern sees the A’s and their moneyball as anathema to what he thinks is good for baseball and once again has them lose to the Nats, a team he believes to have a bright future, maybe becoming a dynasty in themselves.

The way David Stern manages the league is the closest example to the Deist view of God.  Stern is that watchmaker who creates and then watches his creation in action, meddling when he needs to, but generally leaves things to their own devices.  There’s a very good chance that I’m merely using David Stern and his sense of authoritarianism as a vehicle to express my own desire of what the MLB should have been like over the past thirty years.  Maybe this is the case indeed, or maybe David Stern and I are more similar than I thought.

Every World Series Outcome Under David Stern

Year

American League Team

National League Team

Outcome

1984

Tigers

Padres

Tigers

1985

Blue Jays

Cardinals

Cardinals

1986

Red Sox

Mets

Mets

1987

Twins

Cardinals

Twins

1988

A’s

Mets

Mets

1989

A’s

Giants

A’s

1990

A’s

Pirates

A’s

1991

Twins

Braves

Twins

1992

Blue Jays

Braves

Blue Jays

1993

Blue Jays

Braves

Blue Jays

1994

Yankees

Expos

Expos

1995

Indians

Braves

Braves

1996

Yankees

Braves

Yankees

1997

Mariners

Braves

Braves

1998

Yankees

Padres

Yankees

1999

Yankees

Braves

Yankees

2000

Yankees

Mets

Yankees

2001

Yankees

Doesn’t Matter

Yankees

2002

Yankees

Giants

Giants

2003

Yankees

Cubs

Yankees

2004

Red Sox

Cardinals

Red Sox

2005

White Sox

Astros

White Sox

2006

A’s

Mets

Mets

2007

Red Sox

Rockies

Red Sox

2008

Rays

Cubs

Cubs

2009

Yankees

Phillies

Yankees

2010

Rangers

Giants

Giants

2011

Rays

Cardinals

Cardinals

2012

A’s

Nationals

Nationals

2013

Tigers

Dodgers

Dodgers


[1] Such controversies include: Fixing the 1985 draft, fixing playoff games in general, favoring large market teams, introducing a new and ineffective basketball for no reason, vetoing trades for no reason, destroying Seattle basketball, and the new dress code.

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2 thoughts on “What If David Stern was Commissioner of the MLB?

  1. […] What If David Stern was Commissioner of the MLB? […]

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