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: Oct 17, 2007
Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:57 am
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

You want to improve Major League Baseball then start by getting rid of Bud Selig, Jimmie Lee Solomon, Rob Manfred, Tim Brosnan, John McHale Jr. and all their little minions at 245 Park Avenue in New York.  A thorough house cleaning of the League Office and put in people that will not be driven by power, ego & ambition. 



Since: Jun 20, 2007
Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:49 am
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Great article, and I agree with it all, bring it!!!

Oh and get Pete in the HOF, he has done his debt to society and to baseball.  The HOF is for great players



Since: Jul 27, 2011
Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:08 am
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

And regarding Pete Rose - the stats will always tell us who was amazing, and Pete hit more than anyone else. An amazing feat and he should be proud - and baseball should be proud of him for achieving it. In fact, I think in general baseball is proud of him. But if you are then going to have some higher award for what you brought to the gane, then it needs to be more than stats - it needs to be the total package. Blemishes need to be included, because anyone joining the Hall should be adding to the reputation of the Game. And whilst as a purist I am a big Pete Rose fan, he cannot and should not be elected to the Hall because otherwise the Hall serves no purpose.



Since: Jul 27, 2011
Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:01 am
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that baseball is actually pretty good as it stands? I love the fact that that AL and NL disagree on the DH rule and that interleague games have the added interest of pitchers forced to bat for maybe the first time in their careers. Baseball remains a TEAM game which produces individual stats, not an INDIVIDUALS game - and in a team everyone should be able to contribute. This strengthens the team - everyone understands each other's issues. If anything (here comes controversial) I think every bat should be expected to throw some pitches during the season. Whilst the previous sentence is said with a modicum of jest, I fear for baseball if it becomes a team of specialists. I mean, why not have a fielding unit, a pitching unit and a batting unit and move towards the NFL? Baseball last season was immense with an amazing finish to both regular season and the Word Series. After what was surely the best wild card ending ever there are talks of changing things.

Why?



Since: Feb 22, 2008
Posted on: February 17, 2012 7:57 am
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

the biggest one that I would add would be the 'Tony LaRussa rule'...no more of this cycling through the bullpen five times in the same inning. It drags the game on longer when each pitcher only faces one hitter, then the next guy gets warmup tosses, etc...And, as a friend pointed out, this usually takes place at a point in the game after the concession stands are closing, so fans have to sit through an hour or so of an inning and a half of baseball with closed concession stands.



Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2012 7:44 am
 

Late 1980s, that is...

Pete got booted in '89. This thing has spellcheck but not factcheck, alas.

And another massive lol @ big knowitall Bill James' "takedown" of the Dowd Report that nailed Charley Hustle dead to rights.



Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2012 7:37 am
 

#5 and #10

The designated hitter should indeed be instituted leaguewide --pitchers aren't paid eight figures per annum to hit, lay down bunts or run the bases, and executing a double switch doesn't make a John McGraw out of a Jerry Manuel-- but with a phased-in modification:

No more career dh'es. If you're in the lineup as a dh on Monday, then you cannot be so again for the subsequent two games following.

This will be easy to enforce in a sport as stats-obsessed as baseball (starting rotations and bullpens are set up and deployed outside of the rules but with stats and days-between uppermost in mind all the same).

The proper purpose of the role will be restored: to give an everyday guy a day's rest in the field, and to give a regular who's rehabbing from injury some cuts against big-league stuff before returning him to the lineup.

Two more fixes, long-term: Reduce the membership of the big leagues to 24 ballclubs --as in the National Football League with its dearth of quality quarterbacks, there's not enough quality starting pitching, and bullpens are weak in the aggregate; pitchers are supposed to have the edge early, late and in the middle. Also, defensive play isn't what it used to be (trust your eyes on this one).

And finally: let Pete Rose join Jose Canseco and Lenny Dykstra in oblivion. I don't care all that much about the gambling or thinking that he's bigger than the game --hotshot ballplayer in massive-ego shocker, I know-- but rather the fact that he used his high public profile and easy access to a free media to lie of his innocence for fifteen and a half years, and with the intention of getting people, including hundreds of thousands whom he'll never know, to take action in his miserable behalf (and as if baseball had nothing better to do in those wobbly days of the late 1990s than to hound the all-time base hits king from the game on trumped-up charges --if anything, they had motive aplenty not to let it see the light of day).

Yeah well. "Everybody" does not "deserve a second chance," as he mistakenly insists --a second chance has got to be earned, and Pete Rose is owed nothing whatsoever by baseball or anyone or anything else. Many went to their graves believing his lies; let him go to his own without the one ring that has eluded him.



Since: Oct 27, 2008
Posted on: February 17, 2012 12:14 am
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

None of these rule changes would make a difference at all. You want to get people into baseball then get more teams into the playoffs. Being a Toronto fan I haven't seen a meaningful in almost 20 years- that's pathetic. The worst part is that the team has been decent for half of those years and has been better than the teams winning the other divisions. Here is my solution - get ride of the divisions and have an east and west conference. Top 8 teams in each conference play best of 7 series til a champion is named. Shorten the season to 154 or something like that and playball! Right now I can name 10 teams that have no chance of winning and 2 that will make the playoffs next year- that is ridiculous.



Since: Jul 30, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 9:48 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Pitch clock great idea.  Also...no warm up tosses on the mound for relievers.  They already are warmed up in the bullpen.  Basketball players entering a game don't get to take practice shots once they go on the court.  Also, a certain number of "time outs" during a game.  Get rid of endless trips to the mound.  Maybe 3-5 time outs a game...pitchers could enter the game by running onto the field while the other pitcher trotted off. 



Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 8:15 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

A good way to improve baseball is to start by making pitchers be able to hit like the rest of the team, they are part of the team and they should be able to bat and hit the ball just like a catcvher, outfielder or a third baseman.


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