April 9, 2014
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The other day, Buster Olney wrote about an anonymous "high-ranking executive" who suggested baseball games should last just seven innings.

For traditionalists, this is pure heresy. Baseball is largely about numbers and statistics, and such a fundamental change would render future comparisons moot. Besides, if the problem is simply that games last too long, there are much less radical rules changes that would solve the problem.

But, of course, there is a larger problem. In recent decades, America's bucolic pastime has had its cultural importance usurped by football. There are many reasons for this (see George Carlin's famous comparison), but I would suggest that one big reason for this is that almost every NFL game matters, while it's hard to argue any random baseball game in April is consequential. Switching to seven innings does nothing to address that.

For busy 21st century adults, a surfeit of games creates a parodox: Too many games to care about leads many of us to watch zero — at least, until the heat of the pennant race or the playoffs. (Conversely, tell Americans they have just three hours on a Sunday afternoon to watch the Redskins play the Cowboys, and watch the economic principle of scarcity kick in.)

So here's my radical suggestion, which would also infuriate traditionalists and render the stats meaningless: Play just 60 or so games a season. By cutting the number of games by about two thirds, each game would be about three times as meaningful. It would also be a manageable number of games for fans to commit to caring about.

Basically, here's how it would work: The Yankees roll into Baltimore for a three or four-game set. They would play Thursday and/or Friday and Saturday nights — and then a Sunday afternoon rubber game. Then take a couple days off. In this scenario, every game (especially against division rivals) would be vitally important. What is more, the crowd enthusiasm — the full stands and the roar of the crowd — would make viewing it on TV more exciting — like a World Series game (or a regular season NFL game).

This, of course, will never happen. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't. Matt K. Lewis

2:58 p.m. ET

At his final press conference Wednesday, President Obama defended his decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. "I feel very comfortable justice has been served," Obama said. He noted that Manning has already served "a tough prison sentence" lasting seven years, proving to other possible leakers that the crime does not "go unpunished."

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, a term Obama said was "disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received." She will now be released in May 2017, instead of in 2045.

Watch Obama defend his decision below. Becca Stanek

2:57 p.m. ET

President Obama began his last press conference as president Wednesday by thanking the reporters who assembled week after week to pepper him with questions. "Some of you have been covering me for a long time," Obama said. "I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not of course mean that I have enjoyed every story that you have filed, but that's the point of this relationship. You're not supposed to be sycophants, you're supposed to be skeptics, you're supposed to ask me tough questions. You're not supposed to be complimentary."

Hmm, wonder what inspired that? Watch Obama's full appreciation of the press — including a great quip about that suit — below. Kimberly Alters

2:19 p.m. ET

What does the Confederate flag have to do with healthcare? Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) thinks there is a connection, as he brought up during Rep. Tom Price's (R-Ga.) Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of health and human services Wednesday.

"When you were a member of the Georgia legislature, you fought pretty hard to keep the Confederate battle flag as part of the Georgia state flag," Kaine began. "And you sponsored resolutions to make April 'Confederate History Heritage Month' in Georgia, 'urging schools to commemorate the time of Southern independence' … I read the resolution with interest because of the phrase 'commemorate the time of Southern independence,' and I pulled it up, and I note that the resolution that commemorated the time of Southern independence mentions nothing about slavery."

After Price responds, Kaine makes the connection: "You're aware that there's an office of minority health at HHS that was created in the Affordable Care Act … If the ACA is repealed, unless it's separately reauthorized, that office would also expire." Price assured all Americans will be protected:

Republican Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) also raised concerns about the coverage of minority communities. "South Carolina, like Georgia, has a high percentage of African-Americans. As you probably know, breast cancer deaths are approximately one and a half times higher in African-American women. Prostate cancer deaths are approximately two and a half times higher in African-American men, and new diagnoses are approximately twice as high. I would love to hear your perspective on addressing some of the health disparities in communities of color specifically," Scott said. Price's answer to that is below. Jeva Lange

2:12 p.m. ET

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that 2016 is officially the hottest year on record. That makes the third consecutive year that the previous record temperatures were surpassed; 2014 and 2015 were also declared the hottest years on record upon their conclusion.

The average surface temperatures recorded in 2016 were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015's temperatures, The Washington Post reported, and each month from January through August was successively the warmest on record.

NASA and the NOAA are the nation's leading scientific agencies. On Wednesday, Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he does not believe climate change is a hoax after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked him about NASA and the NOAA's announcement. Kimberly Alters

1:43 p.m. ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) went into the hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's health and human services nominee Wednesday with guns ablazing.

Throughout the hearing, Democrats raised a fuss about the fact that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) bought between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of shares in medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc. last March, CNN reported, and then just days later introduced legislation that would have stalled a regulation that could have hurt the company. Warren seized on that point: "I'm not asking you about what you supported, I'm just asking: Did you buy the stock and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the companies you just bought stock in?"

"The stock was bought by a broker who was making those decisions, I wasn't making those decisions," Price explained.

After a short back and forth, Warren sought to clarify: "Let's just be clear … This is someone who buys stock at your direction. This is someone who buys and sells the stock you want them to buy and sell."

"That's not true, senator," Price said.

"Well, because you decide not to tell them?" Warren fired back. "Wink wink, nod nod? And we're all just supposed to believe that?"

Warren even got into a short spat with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the committee chairman, when he tried to tell her that her time was up. Watch the exchange below. Jeva Lange

1:26 p.m. ET

Former President George H.W. Bush will not be attending Donald Trump's inauguration this Friday, but not for the same reasons some other politicians are skipping the event. In fact, Bush sent a warm letter to the president-elect last week apologizing for his absence:

On top of his existing conditions, Bush was hospitalized early Wednesday morning for "shortness of breath" and is currently being monitored "for precaution." Local media reports indicate he will be able to leave Houston Methodist Hospital in a few days — but skipping an event that requires sitting outside for several hours in the rain and cold expected Friday in Washington, D.C., is still probably a good move for the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Bush.

Nonetheless, Bush emphasized his support for the "honorable" president-elect: "I want you to know that I wish you the very best as you begin this incredible journey of leading our great country," he wrote. Kelly Gonsalves

1:13 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross seems to side with President-elect Donald Trump when it comes to federal government spending on infrastructure projects. At his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, Ross admitted that "there will be some necessity" for direct government spending on infrastructure, alongside private spending and tax breaks. "I think there's a role for the federal government to play ... in dealing with some of these critical infrastructure needs," Ross said.

Republicans have so far been lukewarm about Trump's proposal to invest $1 trillion in the country's bridges, highways, and airports — at least, if it should happen on the government's tab. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for one, has been critical of Democrats' efforts to spend more on infrastructure, remarking last September — after a highway spending bill was passed for the first time since the 1990s — that spending on mass transit and highways was "already in place at 10 percent above baseline spending." In January, however, Ryan suggested Trump's infrastructure package is something they'd be "happy to do."

Ross did say Wednesday that "we're very fortunate that it's a very low interest rate environment when we're trying to solve this problem." Becca Stanek

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