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 ( 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 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'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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Since: Oct 16, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 8:02 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Yes, have both leagues play the same rules...get rid of the DH!

Since: May 24, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2012 7:57 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Completely agree with the DH idea.  Both leagues should play the same rules. Back when the leagues only met in the All-Star and World Series games this set-up was more plausible.  Now its just idiotic to flip-flop the rules of the game depending on the ballpark it is played in.  It is tremendously unfair to AL pitchers especially. Its a stupid situation.

Since: Dec 4, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 7:36 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

If the pitcher wants to intentionally walk a batter...simply tell the ump and point to first. Its an annoying waste of time to throw four pitches back and forth.
Not a terrible idea but a little too "slow-pitch softball" for me -- there is always the outside chance of a wild pitch, passed ball, stolen base or even a batter swinging at a pitch that gets too close imo to take this out of the game -- as you say, it really takes very little time to accomplish.  Instead, I would eliminate visits to the mound -- no visits at all unless you are changing pitchers.

I hear ya, but I know in my lif Ive only seen , Im guessing three wild pitches, and one or two attempted swings where a guy pretty much threw his bat at the ball. For all the intentional passes given to the big thumpers in the middle of the lineups, it just isnt worth that outside chance. The game needs to be able to at LEAST take "baby steps" like this in order to quicken the pace.

Unrelated, but I do recall a Tigers/Indians game where the umps actually enforced the time limit rule on one of Clevelands pitchers fo not delivering the ball in time.

Oh, and pinhole sized strikezones dont help the matter.

Since: Dec 3, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 6:49 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

I hate the DH.  My team is an A.L. team the Indians but i can't stand the DH.  I wouldn't call myself a purist but in this respect i guess i am.  I think you should have to bat.  

As for replay either replay everything or nothing.  Not balls and strikes.   Again i'd go with nothing.  Umps blowing calls is part of the deal.  It's always been that way.   I can never understand why people have something that is really good and then try and mess with it.   It never ends up being better.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 6:40 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

I think intentional walks should be made illegal. If a catcher stands to take a pitch from a pitcher, it should be a balk. If nobody is on base, then intentional walks are seldom happens anyway. Catchers can call 4 pitchouts if they want to walk someone. But they have to squat or kneel.

As far as the 12 seconds goes, the 2nd base ump can have a clicker or something he can click when the pitcher gets the ball back. If the pitcher takes too long, it's a ball. This is just a rule that is already in the books, it just needs to be enforced.

The game doesn't need to go faster, it just needs more action. Watching batters rearrange their crotches between pitches is not the action I want to see.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 6:30 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Wow!  You missed a bunch of things Snyder.  I'd even go so far as to say some of the things you offered up won't make that much of a difference.  Really?  Jose Canseco?

1 -- Eliminate the DH in both leagues.  To keep the number of jobs up and the MLBPA happy, grant roster exemptions for every 10-and-5 player on a team's roster.  This would actually encourage some teams to pony up and keep their own players longer.

2 --  Institute a salary floor.  We don't need a cap but we do need to force owners to maintain payrolls to help with competitive balance.  MLB could mandate a salary floor as a percentage of national MLB revenues paid out to each team.  No more pocketing millions while crying about not being able to play with the big boys.

3 -- I'll one up you on Saturday day games.  Mandate Saturday double-headers once a month for each club.

4 -- Another scheduling issue.  No more off days for any teams on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day.  Oh, and nobody gets extra days off after the All-Star break.  The All-Star game is traditionally played on a Tuesday.  Everybody should get back on the diamond by Thursday.  I don't understand some teams playing Thursday and some waiting to play again until Friday.

5 --  Interleague play has rendered the separation between AL & NL irrelevant.  Radically realign the leagues with a focus on reducing travel within divisions and pitting larger market clubs in one league and smaller market clubs in the other.  This has the potential for making every World Series a David vs. Goliath matchup.

6 -- The All-Star game no longer has anything to do with home field advantage in the post season.  Don't tell me a damn thing about the need to know for scheduling and planning purposes.  Every other professional sport in the world lets the regular season play out and then sets the playoff sites.  Get with the program, MLB.

7 -- Finally, here's something to partner up with the pitch clock you proposed.  Unless you foul a ball off or break a bat, once a batter steps into the box, he can't leave until his at bat is finished.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:58 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

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).
I certainly wouldn't. The Jays are more about profit and have been since Ted Rogers died. There's a reason the Jays have been caught and passed in terms of my fan hierarchy by my MLS team and are in danger of dropping behind my English soccer team.

Since: Jan 9, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:54 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Here is my biggest gripe with MLB - it takes too long to play a game.  First thing I would do is end the warm-up pitches that a relief pitcher gets once he gets onto the actual mound.  He has thrown in the bullpen; the distance is the same...I say the first pitch he throws once in the game should count.  The way managers change pitchers anymore, this would save a huge amount of time in any given game.  Next, I would put radio transmitters into hitter helmets and end the giving and taking of signals.  This way, a batter would have to stay in the batter's box and get ready for the next pitch in 12 seconds.  When a MLB game is around 2 - 2 1/2 hours, it makes it a lot more exciting (and tolerable) to watch the whole game. 

Maybe it should be that players are made to sign autographs before EVERY game (unless you are pitching) and let the fans into the stadium earlier for BP and autographs.

I agreed with most everything you wrote Matt Snyder, but the comment about Canseco made you look like an idiot.  He WAS blackballed from baseball for doing the same stuff that 70% of the rest of baseball was doing.  McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Pudge Rodriguez, Bonds, etc etc etc were adorned like gods and Canseco couldn't sign with the worst of teams because of a secret agreement to keep him out of MLB.  He may have gone about it all wrong, but deep down you can't blame him for being disengaged with MLB.  He stuck up for himself, told the truth, and has been tagged as a skumbag ever since.  

Remember back in 1988, 89, and 90?  Canseco was treated like a rock star - until MLB knew that the PED scandal was about to blow up and they tried to silence him by blackballing him.  The only thing they didn't do was hire a hit man - which I wouldn't doubt that useless Selig may have contemplated.

Jose Canseco is the least of baseball's worries.  Speed up the game and make it interesting for the youngsters (video game enthusiests) to watch.  

Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:40 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Even if the MLB were to abopt a salary cap (which would be terribly stupid and un-American), do you really think it will help the Pirates compete NoCal buc?
I fail to see what is stupid about a salary cap as it's worked pretty well in other sports and I don't even know what you mean by "un-American". You might argue revenue sharing is communistic but a cap just levels the playing ground by preventing rampant overspending and the kind of inflated salaries that have become commonplace in MLB. I realize you're a Yankee fan but I'm a Sox fan and even I wish the madness of guys like Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford getting all-world type money could be curtailed and the only way to do that is to put a ceiling on how much a team can spend because they market will not correct itself. Of course a cap wouldn't fix teams like KC and Pitt who are run by stupid, greedy owners but it would prevent certain teams from stockpiling all the big name players and give teams like Milwaukee and Oakland the opportunity to resign their homegrown superstars when their contracts expire instead of trading them for prospects (leading to a perpetual rebuilding process) or letting them play it out and walk without getting any compensation other than supplemental draft picks.

Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:05 pm

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

However, if you look at the KC Chiefs or Steelers, I see very large and passionate fan bases that constantly pack the stadium

Again, XbombersX, you look foolish.  The NFL plays 16 games a season, 8 at home...10 if you count preseason.  MLB plays 81 regular season games.  Lets think....71 more games.  71 more games is a lot.  When you look at tv ratings, easier to tune in for 1 three hour chunk a week than 5 three hour chunks a week.  Get better ratings for that 1 time event, right? 

Oh, and the NFL has a salary cap.  This is what you are arguing against. 



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