Ah, Major League baseball. When I write “three ways to improve Major League Baseball” what I really mean is “three ways to make baseball more like football.” Sorry, major league baseball fans. The National Pastime is past its prime and a distant second-string to the pigskin. Don’t take it too hard. It’s not like football is a sport; it’s a quasi-religion. Heck, more Americans would rather watch a guy in a suit read names from a podium than catch another sport’s playoff game.
Major League Baseball will never be able to catch up to the NFL but it can close the gap. After all, baseball, when the games really matter, is the most dramatic of all the sports. Major League Baseball certainly has more substance than the NBA, tougher players than MLS (barely), and fewer franchises in inappropriate cities than the NHL. Below are three ways the game of baseball can improve itself.
A word of warning to baseball purists, have your defibrillator ready.
(Guest post by Ryan Hogan)
World Series at a Neutral Site
Having the World Series at a neutral site, in other words a site that’s either indoors or in part of the continent where the weather is nice in October, will practically guarantee no rain outs. As we all know, rain delays and postponements do more to ruin a World Series than the San Diego Padres. For one, World Series rain delays mean more talking from Tim McCarver. Even worse, FOX might cut away from the broadcast to an episode of The Mindy Project or New Girl. I shiver at the thought.
Furthermore, having the World Series at a neutral site means the league can schedule other events like the NFL does around the Super Bowl. For example, Major League Baseball can make a big deal over the announcement that there are no new inductees into the Baseball Hall Of Fame. A “Major League Baseball Fan Experience” can be erected where attendees can learn how to properly charge the mound or how to play well only during a contract year. Just think of all the cherished memories.
The biggest argument against this change is that fans of the World Series teams wouldn’t be able to attend games. The response to this objection is “so.” When have fans ever mattered in major league baseball? I don’t write that to be cynical. I write that to be factual. If fans were really part of the equation then teams wouldn’t relocate, there would never be work stoppages, and Bobby Valentine would be banned from the game.
Since 2000, only 15 teams have played in the World Series and since the last work stoppage (1994) only 18. I’m a Seattle Mariners fan so it really doesn’t matter where the World Series is played since my team will never make it. To me, and every other baseball fan whose team is not in the Fall Classic, the World Series is a television show. Yankees fans in New York City would be upset, but the team won’t suffer. Most of the possible sites that could host a World Series—Rogers Centre, Minute Maid Park, Angel Stadium of Anaheim—are always packed with Yankees fans.
Reduce The Number of Regular Season Games
Even with basic cable shows recapping the day’s events, there are just too many baseball games. We live in a fast paced world and few of us have the time to keep up with a 162-game season. To make the game more conducive to the lifestyle of the 21st century, Major League Baseball should reduce its regular season to just four-games a week played from Thursday to Sunday (all against the same team). Estimating that the regular season runs from April through the end of September, or 26 weeks, the season would be reduced to a still hefty 104 games. That’s far more than any other sports league and still plenty of opportunity for the Chicago Cubs to amass losses in the triple-digits.
Think of how exciting this would make the regular season. Managers would have their entire bullpen available for every game (although this wouldn’t help the New York Mets). Teams would no longer have to worry about a fifth starter (are you paying attention Boston Red Sox?). Players would have more time to hit the clubs and get into trouble. And best of all, Cleveland Indians fans would have to endure just one Ubaldo Jiménez start a week. Everybody wins.
The downside to truncating the season is listening to baseball geeks complain that with fewer games they can no longer compare today’s players with those from the past.
Expanded Replay With Manager Challenges
I know. I know. And I’m sorry, but this is a move baseball MUST make. The game is no longer a live event. Yeah, a lot of people buy Major League Baseball tickets every year, but the sport has become a television product. Since it is, you have to get calls on the field right. That’s why MLB needs to expand replays to include all three bases and home plate as well as allowing managers the ability to lodge challenges. Yes, it’s probably a bad idea for a meaningless Twins vs. Royals game in August (sorry, “meaningless Twins vs. Royals game” is redundant) but it will be a godsend during all those important Yankees vs. Red Sox games.
I know technology is an anathema to baseball purists but it’s not the 1940s anymore. No longer is the game only seen by the thousands at the ballpark (or in the case of the Miami Marlins dozens at the ballpark). Today, blown calls are replayed 24 hours a day and not only on television but on smartphones, computer tablets, and laptops. If that wasn’t bad enough, fans can talk about bad calls on a bazillion social networking sites.
In an era where sports media is ubiquitous and never-ending, blown calls erode the integrity of the game. That’s why the league has to expand its use of replay. The argument that human error is part of the game is meaningless in a world where fans at home, watching on their 60-inch high-definition televisions, can clearly see that the runner was safe even though the umpire called him out. I know a lot of purists won’t want to hear this, but the use of instant replay is a necessity as long as television is the main conduit for fans to see the game.
free-lance writer, blogger