Blog Entry

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Posted on: February 15, 2012 2:34 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 3:17 pm
 
By Matt Snyder

We're just a few days until all 30 teams will have had pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Just like any true baseball fan, I'm giddy with excitement.

Just like with anything, the major-league level sport could use some improvements. While MLB was tied with college football for the second-most popular sport in a Harris Interactive poll, the demographics show that baseball is in danger of drastically losing popularity, as the study showed most baseball fans are older than 50. Now, obviously that gives a solid 20-year window before doomsday really hits, but baseball still needs to be cognizant that growing the younger audience is key for long-term growth.

That means baseball needs to be a little more Blackberry/iPhone and a little less rotary phone. Remember, not all change is bad. At one point in time, it was a home run when the ball bounced over the fence. I wonder what the "purists" thought when they changed it to a ground-rule double? If you wanna call me names and claim I'm not a purist, below you'll find several targets. But make no mistake about it, I'm trying to find ways to make the game more exciting for the next generation. In this century, things move faster and people have less time to pay attention. Adapt or die, as "Billy Beane" said in "Moneyball."

So here are nine things I'd change about baseball in order to make it better suited for the next generation. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section and make this an interactive discussion.

1. Put in a pitch clock. I'm dead serious -- put it up like basketball has a shot clock. Not only is it, you know, a freaking rule that pitchers have to throw a pitch within 12 seconds of getting the ball, but this would add some drama for many younger fans. The best reason, obviously, is that the umpires would actually be forced to enforce the rule that they so often just ignore. The rulebook (Rule 8.04) states "The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball."

Has anyone ever watched Josh Beckett (pictured right, surely finding a way to avoid throwing a pitch within the first 20 seconds he has the baseball) pitch? I bet he's had outings where he never once threw a pitch within 12 seconds. It makes me feel like I'm watching Steve Traschel all over again ... well, except that Beckett's actually good. I'm not blaming Beckett. The umpires let him do it and he's not alone at all (Vicente Padilla also comes to mind). Just using him as an example.

2. Get someone with some common sense to rework the blackout rules. I've covered this before, so just click through and see how amazingly stupid it is. Bud Selig needs to hire someone to do something about it. Hell, I'll throw my hat in the ring and volunteer.

3. More Saturday day games. Sunday is fine, because everyone plays a day game with the exception of the ESPN Sunday Night Game. And I understand weekday games needing to be at night. But on Saturday, we usually get about three afternoon games and the rest are at night. This is the best time for families to get their kids to the game and many families don't like to have their kids out at the ballpark late Saturday night for many reasons. Why not just start the Saturday games at 1:00 p.m. local time? Especially when school is in session. I also wouldn't mind seeing Game 3 of the World Series falling on a Saturday afternoon. It's not like Saturday night is prime for TV ratings.

4. Expand replay to everything but balls and strikes. Why does someone like Ron Kulpa or Jim Joyce have to be burdened with an honest missed call for the rest of his life? The Joe Wests of the world are in the minority here, as most of the umpires are honest, hard-working guys who just want to get the call right. As the fast motion and without the benefit of multiple camera angles, calls are going to get missed. The insane thing is we have the technology to show they were wrong within seconds, yet don't allow the umpires to use it. Why not just have a centralized review office at the MLB headquarters where one replay official watches every game? You don't need to give the managers challenges or have the entire umpiring crew go underneath the stadium for 15 minutes. Let's just use some common sense and start getting every call correct. It's very possible.

5. Make the DH universal. I've written about this before and the reasons are very simple. First of all, it's insane that a professional sports organization has a different set of rules for two leagues, especially when the leagues play each other during the regular season and decide a champion by facing each other in the World Series. So you either have to take the DH away from the AL or add it to the NL.

And here's where the purists freak out and start calling me names, since I say add it to the NL. I wouldn't be averse to taking it away from the AL, just as long as the same rules are applied to both leagues. But adding to NL makes more sense here. The first reason is that the players union would obviously never allow the DH to go away, as it would cost jobs to veteran players. The second reason is it's better for offense, and we're trying to get kids to watch the games, remember? Plus, pitchers suck at hitting. We're supposed to be watching pro athletes at their best ... also realize teams don't have to use a DH. So if the Marlins want to bat Carlos Zambrano, for example, more power to them. Just don't come with this "baseball is meant to be played both in the field and at bat" junk. Pitching is a specialization. You don't make a quarterback play defense in football anymore.

6. Out with penny-pinching owners. Among the many complaints I'm waiting on in the comments section is that I didn't mention a salary cap. Here's the deal: With baseball's system, players are under team control for six years. That's a lot longer than other sport. And with the revenue sharing system, many small-market clubs are making hefty profits. Take 2010 (Forbes.com hasn't released the 2011 numbers yet). Did you know three teams lost money that season? The Red Sox, Mets and Tigers. Large markets. Guess who had the highest operating income? The Padres, who made almost $40 million. And after the season they traded superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for prospects because they couldn't "afford" to sign him long term.

The problem with the difference in payrolls is mostly on these tight-fisted owners from the old boys club of owners. Just over a week ago, Joe Sheehan of SI.com wrote an excellent article about how owners like the Royals' David Glass, Athletics' Lew Wolff, Pirates' Robert Nutting and Blue Jays' Rogers Corporation are pocketing millions upon millions while crying that they can't afford high-priced talent (though I'd probably cut the Jays out there, to be fair).

The money is there, so it should be spent on improving the on-field product, not the bottom line of a billionaire. The fans of these teams and others deserve better. There should be more George Steinbrenners -- who would rather lose money while the team wins than vice versa -- not less.

7. Shorten spring training. The always-entertaining Brandon McCarthy, A's starting pitcher, wrote the following about spring training last week for SI.com's Hot Clicks: "It's so, so, so LONG: It's six weeks of practice and pretend games. It just never seems to end. It's like our version of Oregon Trail. By the time camp ends, someone's died of Dysentery, there's a bunch of new kids that have been born, and your feet are killing you."

He's right. How many fake games do you need? Cut out two weeks and ...

8. Start/end the season earlier. The reasoning is two-pronged. The first prong is that baseball in cold weather isn't near as enjoyable as baseball in warm weather. With the World Series creeping up on November, there are just too many chances for weather issues during the most important games of the year (remember Game 5 of the Phillies-Rays series). If spring training was shortened, the season could begin the third week of March. Yes, weather is bad for the first several weeks of the season in many parts of the country, but the scheduling is easier then. There are enough warm-weather and retractable-roof teams to cover the first month. The games aren't nearly as important as the playoff games and in the playoffs you don't get to choose the venue (how about a Minnesota vs. Chicago World Series in the first week of November? Shivers everywhere). So you'd start the playoffs the third week of September and the World Series would be over in the middle of October. The second prong is you cut away time in competition with the NFL. Sorry, the NFL is a monster and there's no changing that in the near future, so don't compete with it anymore than necessary. Two less weeks of facing off against the NFL would be great for the sport of baseball.

9. Blackball Jose Canseco. Oh wait, I guess he claims that already happened. Whatever, just please go away, Jose. Take Lenny Dykstra with you. #4TRUTH. Yes, I realize this doesn't have to do with MLB, but I just can't stand these guys. The game is much better without having them around it.

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Comments

Since: Sep 27, 2011
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:14 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

I admit, I was a bit skeptical when I saw the headline, but as I read, I pretty quickly came to the opinion that Matt knows what he's talking about.  These are pretty good ideas, all the way through.  I grew up with baseball, been a fan most of my life (loyal Pirates fan since '79, if you need proof), but watching games now is, at times, almost painful.  Fantastic sport, of course, and some of the skills required put the masters of those skills in the very highest echelons of what we call "athletes".  But it IS slow, there are parts of it that are maddening in the nonsensical way they're put in practice, and there's a real deathgrip on the past that's handicapping the game now.  Look, baseball does have an almost mystical past, full of wonderful memories and moments, but the key word there is "past".  It's not the present.  The days of hiding under the sheets after bedtime while listening to Mel Allen call World Series games, or playin' catch with the fellas all afternoon after school are OVER!  Norman Rockwell is dead, and he won't be coming back to paint those adorable portraits of pre-pubescent kids in their baseball uniforms, getting involved in all sorts of whimsy!  The game has a past that goes back a long way, and has been there to help the nation through terribly dark times, and really, that's all wonderful!  But the game needs to be modernized.  Matt put some ideas in place to just slightly alter the game, not change the very nature of it.  Baseball would, if it modernized, still be the game all fans grew up with, but it would be more interesting, more exciting.  And no, that has nothing to do with people's modern, 21st century inability to pay attention to anything longer than 4 seconds.  It has to do with the fact that other sports DO tend to have an eye towards keeping the game honed down to the very best it can be.  Old ideas are discarded, current strategies are made more efficient, new ideas are implemented based on advancements, etc.  The best parts are kept, and refined to keep up with modern advancements.  Baseball still keeps way too much attention on the past--there's barely a baseball writer alive that WON'T write about their own childhoods, and all their old memories about how spring training meant there was hope for Mary Jane Genericgirl to go out with them.  They all wax "humorous" about the Cubs not being in the World Series since Custer saw what was happenning and finally realized he had sorely underestimated the warriors he was facing.  They all spend column after column comparing stats of modern players and guys who played when the "base ball" was a used, unexploded cannon ball and who would have a better chance of solving Rivera's cut fastball.  Enough already!  Realize, finally, that you don't disrespect everything about the game if you realize that there are ways the game can be modernized and made MORE enjoyable for current, and future fans.  That you can be a "purist" and still say "there's things about this can be even better!".  Really, if it wasn't for advancements in sports, players would still wear actual gloves for gloves, football players would wear NO helmet, and hockey goalies wouldn't wear masks, and would have faces that looked like roadmaps as a result!  Refining the game isn't tantamout to spitting on all that it ever was.  It's actually HONORING the game, by keeping it alive and vibrant for future generations to enjoy! 




Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:10 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

My theory on the loss of fans under age 50 is that all post-season games are played at night when kids (even some of those on the west coast) have gone to bed.  The most important, most memorable games were not viewed by a whole generation of fans.  MLB went for the quick buck of advertising dollars, rather than investing in its future by building and maintaining its fan base.



Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:49 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

I agree with more Saturday afternoon games.  Start the season earlier, but most of the games need to be in the south to avoid mass rainouts/snow outs.  Add some doubleheaders in as well to end the season earlier.  It would be nice to see a World Series over by the second week of October.  Dh, either works (ok as is or one way or the other across both leagues).  Spring training is fine as it is.  Early regular season games are just as sloppy as some fo the spring training games.



Since: Aug 27, 2010
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:31 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

As a Red Sox fan, I am forced to watch Beckett all season, and I couldn't agree more. (Papelbon was even worse, but at least he only pitches one inning.)  I would pay to have this rule enforced.  Currently I deal with it by TIVOing the game and fast forwarding between pitches.  If they do this, then penalize batters for stepping out of the box for extended amounts of time.

Several years ago, at a public fan event I called out Larry Lucchino about the Red Sox changing their Saturday afternoon games to night games.  I accused them of sacrificing the long term popularity of the game for short term profit.  He basically pled guilty, but claimed it was an edict from MLB and the TV networks.

Your replay idea is dumb and could never work.  Most plays don't end at the moment a call is made.  Replaying everything would re-add all the time you saved by putting pitchers on a clock.

As for penny-pinching owners, fine.  But don't believe the claims of "losing" money.  Team owners, such as the Red Sox, routinely cook the books so that they can claim losses every year (by shifting expenses from their related media empires).  Funny how a team like the Sox can "lose money" every year, and yet the franchise doubles or triples in value when it is next sold...



Since: Aug 17, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:28 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Generally agree with the suggestions except the last one.    Without
Jose Canseco there would not have been performance enhancement, steriod, testing.   Jose was right even thought most journalist did not believe him,  let him crow.  

The NFL is best because of it revenue sharing and salary cap system.   Green Bay and New Orleans are the two smallest markets in the NFL and they are two of the best right now, could not happen in Baseball.    &n
bsp;They do need a Pennypincher tax to go along with the Luxury tax if they can not really share revenue.   However the Royals have some nice young talent and will not be abe to keep it all which should be fixed as well.  


DH or no DH, go either way but the current 50 / 50 system is silly and must stop.  No other sport has a different rule based on Division.   


I like Saturday night games for my kids, they have activities on the afternoon on Saturday, and they do not have to be up early on Sunday.   

Black out rules hurt attendance not help it.   Most sports have proven that.     Heck the Orioles make their money off TV even when the park is mostly empty.         
;
      
;



Since: Dec 21, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:27 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

does anyone know HOW revenue sharing is based and WHY those owners WONT increase salary???

its based ON SALARY.  if kansas city spends the millions that they get from revenue sharing into boosting their salary into the $150 million range, they will LOSE their share of revenue and LOSE money.  they will NOT have the millions coming in to pay those players and will be forced to cut/trade them.

THAT is why they say they cannot afford to raise their salaries exponentially.



Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:13 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball


1. Put in a pitch clock. I'm dead serious -- put it up like basketball has a shot clock. Not only is it, you know, a freaking rule that pitchers have to throw a pitch within 12 seconds of getting the ball, but this would add some drama for many younger fans.
It's only 12 seconds if there are no runners on base. 


3. More Saturday day games. Sunday is fine, because everyone plays a day game with the exception of the ESPN Sunday Night Game. And I understand weekday games needing to be at night. But on Saturday, we usually get about three afternoon games and the rest are at night. This is the best time for families to get their kids to the game and many families don't like to have their kids out at the ballpark late Saturday night for many reasons. Why not just start the Saturday games at 1:00 p.m. local time? Especially when school is in session. I also wouldn't mind seeing Game 3 of the World Series falling on a Saturday afternoon. It's not like Saturday night is prime for TV ratings.
Couldn't agree more, but I don't think all of them should be during the daytime.  If it's a prime matchup, or a rivalry game, it might be better for those to be on at night.  Do a case-by-case basis, and look to get it around 50/50.

4. Expand replay to everything but balls and strikes. Why does someone like Ron Kulpa or Jim Joyce have to be burdened with an honest missed call for the rest of his life? The Joe Wests of the world are in the minority here, as most of the umpires are honest, hard-working guys who just want to get the call right. As the fast motion and without the benefit of multiple camera angles, calls are going to get missed. The insane thing is we have the technology to show they were wrong within seconds, yet don't allow the umpires to use it. Why not just have a centralized review office at the MLB headquarters where one replay official watches every game? You don't need to give the managers challenges or have the entire umpiring crew go underneath the stadium for 15 minutes. Let's just use some common sense and start getting every call correct. It's very possible.
No on the central office looking at it, because then they have to watch all the games at once every night.  Yes though on reviewing almost anything questionable (trapped balls, force outs, tag outs, homeruns at the fence or line depending on the park), but exclude fair/foul for potential in-play balls on this.  If a ball is called foul down the line, but it might have been fair, you can't rule where the runner would end up and a ground rule double is not justifiable for either team.  So I would count a foul down the line or something as it stands on the field; homeruns/foul though should remain as is.

The problem with a lot of the "let's get more replay" group is that there is rarely a suggestion that comes along with it that is feasible.  Some want a chip in the baseballs for the strikezone, which is impossible because strike zones change with every batter due to their height, plus it's a huge waste to put 200 some chips in balls *every night*.  I've suggesed in the past a "5th umpire"  one in the booth that looks at all plays, and then buzzes the crew chief down on the field when he see's something reviewable.  There was an independant study done in 2010 that roughly 2 plays a game, at most, that could be reviewable (though not always overturnable).  So when it comes to time, this isn't an issue since the average game still takes about 2 hours and 50 minutes (except Yankees-Red Sox, please refer to suggestion one of this article).  Put in a strict 60 second decision rule, and boom, you have a feasible replay system that only adds about 5 minutes to a game IF there is 2 reviews. 



5. Make the DH universal. and the reasons are very simple. First of all, it's insane that a professional sports organization has a different set of rules for two leagues, especially when the leagues play each other during the regular season and decide a champion by facing each other in the World Series. So you either have to take the DH away from the AL or add it to the NL.
I agree, but I say get rid of it rather than put it throughout the league.  That's a personal preference though, I don't like the DH, it's not real baseball.

6. Out with penny-pinching owners. Among the many complaints I'm waiting on in the comments section is that I didn't mention a salary cap. Here's the deal: With baseball's system, players are under team control for six years. That's a lot longer than other sport. And with the revenue sharing system, many small-market clubs are making hefty profits. (Forbes.com hasn't released the 2011 numbers yet). Did you know three teams lost money that season? The , and . Large markets. Guess who had the highest operating income? The , who made almost $40 million. And after the season they traded superstar first baseman for prospects because they couldn't "afford" to sign him long term.

The problem with the difference in payrolls is mostly on these tight-fisted owners from the old boys club of owners. Just over a week ago, about how owners like the ' David Glass, ' Lew Wolff, ' Robert Nutting and ' Rogers Corporation are pocketing millions upon millions while crying that they can't afford high-priced talent (though I'd probably cut the Jays out there, to be fair).

The money is there, so it should be spent on improving the on-field product, not the bottom line of a billionaire. The fans of these teams and others deserve better. There should be more George Steinbrenners -- who would rather lose money while the team wins than vice versa -- not less.
Huge can of worms and there really isn't a right answer.  I remember when Phillies fans complained for years on end about their owners who spent like a small market team, when they had the possibility to spend like a large market, and they didn't start doing that until the early 2000's when they brought in Thome, and took the gamble on Abreu.

8. Start/end the season earlier. The reasoning is two-pronged. The first prong is that baseball in cold weather isn't near as enjoyable as baseball in warm weather. With the World Series creeping up on November, there are just too many chances for weather issues during the most important games of the year (remember Game 5 of the -Rays series). If spring training was shortened, the season could begin the third week of March. Yes, weather is bad for the first several weeks of the season in many parts of the country, but the scheduling is easier then. There are enough warm-weather and retractable-roof teams to cover the first month. The games aren't nearly as important as the playoff games and in the playoffs you don't get to choose the venue (how about a Minnesota vs. Chicago World Series in the first week of November? Shivers everywhere). So you'd start the playoffs the third week of September and the World Series would be over in the middle of October. The second prong is you cut away time in competition with the NFL. Sorry, the NFL is a monster and there's no changing that in the near future, so don't compete with it anymore than necessary. Two less weeks of facing off against the NFL would be great for the sport of baseball.

Just get the games done by the end of October is what most people want.  Are you really going to complain about inclement weather from the 2008 World Series?  That had NOTHING to do with the time of year.  You don't need the start of the playoffs that early in September.  You just need it to start by Oct. 1st.  That's 31 days to fit in 19 games to find out the World Series winner.  Easily done.  The divisional round is over within a week, start the LCS's on the 9th-10th, they're over by the 20th at the latest, Series starts on the 22nd and you have 9 more days to play 6 more games.  If that 2008 World Series had been played to it's fullest extent, game 7 would have been on the 31st.  It's call October Baseball for a reason. 





Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:10 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

NUMBER FOUR - SALARY FLOOR

NUMBER FIVE - SALARY FLOOR

NUMBER SIX - SALRY FLOOR




Since: Dec 22, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:03 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

NUMBER ONE - SALARY CAP

NUMBER TWO - SALARY CAP

NUMBER THREE - SALARY CAP





Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:02 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

a tie would have an impact on a team's winning percentage. If a team was 5-4 going into a game, their winning % would be .555 - 5/9. If they tied their 10th game, the new winning % would be .550 - 5.5/10 as the tie would count as a half a win.


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