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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: May 17, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:01 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.



Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:54 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Fantastic article, Mr. Snyder. I agree with every single one. I would also like to add one, if I may.

The Two Out Double Play: Here's how it would work. If the team at bat has a force play set up (first and second, bases loaded, runner on first) with two outs, the defenseive team can go for two on a groundball in the infield. If they get it, the team at bat gets only two outs the next inning. This woud not interfere with the core concept of 27 outs. It would just reshuffle them. It would introduce new statagies and hustle while also speeding the game up a little.

I know it's a bit radical, but I'm one of those 50-something purists ... or at least I used to be. You're so right about bringing the youth back to the game. It needs modernized. And being from Pittsburgh, the city of the great Clemante, thankyou for No. 6!!! If Bob Nutting sold our Buccos, it would be Christmas, New Years Eve, and the Forth Of July all rolled into one here in the 'Burgh!



Since: Feb 2, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:49 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

I love this article. here are my thought on his nine points.

1. Josh Beckett loves chicken and beer. He is probably gased from all the chicken grease he ate before the game that he needs atleast 60 seconds between pitches. In all seriousness tho having the pitchers pitch faster would hurt the game financially. How? think about innings limits cause the pitcher to rush his pitches would cause more strain on his arm. throwing the ball over  hand is not a natural motion. and second they stop serving beer in the 7th inning!!!!

2.I hate blackout rules, I subscribe to the MLB.TV and i hate it when i cant watch a game and i try to watch it on my cell phone cause im stuck eating dinner at the in-laws, that dont even have basic cable. I mean really no internet or cable oh boy i hate them more when they invite me over dinner and the soxs are playing the yanks. its like they know when there is a good game on.

3.Saturday day games rule, what better excuse to get drunk by 3pm than going to a ball game.

4.Replay yes, umpires no. I mean when we have things like strike zone on fox why even have umpire back there? just have a 1st base ump and a third base ump. let the 3rd base ump cover home on plays at the plate. review all homers, they would be able to tell if it was fair or foul by the time Prince Fielders bat lands from when flips it in the air.

5.DH Rule in the NL, hell yea. nuff said

6.If teams dont wish to spend money then forget them. althought i dont get why lew wolff is saying his club only made $370,000 in profit last year. and these article makes it seem like he making millions, which one is it? i feel that the true owners of the team are the cities. why have teams build this huge stadiums on the tax payers dime, look at the new yankee stadium they got federal grants to help pay for that thing that no one can afford to go to. which sucks even more is that me as a bostonian i help for that crap. it hurts. open up the books or sell the teams to the fans in that site via IPO and let us decide.

7. Not only cut spring training, cut the season its too long. the only way to make the games during the dog days of summer matter is shorting the season.

8. see seven.

9. No way jose, We need more jose canseco, dude fights celebs. i figure if you want more kids to watch baseball i recommend that lenny d and jose c fight during the middle of the 7th inning at a new ball park every day and show the feed on the jumbo tron at all the ball parks. lmao



Since: Dec 7, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:49 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Fantastic ideas, I would add - make the hitter stay in the box, period. Once youre in, you better be ready and no stepping out for any reason. - only thing, Instead of blackballing Jose Canseco, have one game a year for every team where Jose pitches the first inning.



Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:22 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Even starting the season in early April is a problem as long as the  schedule maker continues to keep his head up his *ss year after year.

As a Cubs fan, here is what I see all the time in the first two weeks of almost EVERY season.

Week 1: Braves AT Mets...duh...its warm in Georgia..freezing in New York; San Diego at LA or vice versa. C'mon..a two year old can figure out both of them should be at home hosting a cold weather opponent; Houston AT Chicago..well, I could go on..but you get my drift.






Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:17 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Batter gets a TOTAL time of 30 seconds per at bat outside of the Batter's Box. 75% of wasted time is allowing these way-overpaid fatboys scratch, spit, talk, point, re-re-re-re-adjust, generally waste our time watching and then we remember there are 155 other stations on the air when the second batter of the game comes up.



Since: Mar 28, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:10 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Here's a thought, just enforce what is in the major league rule book. Strike Zone, Letters to knees instead of having to throw it down the middle every time. Enforce the 20 second rule with no one on base. I believe thats what it is. 12" or less gloves for everyone in the field except for 1st base or catchers.

Thats baseball! 




Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:08 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

and as to #8 ... how about SHORTEN THE SEASON.  If we're going to add a wild card, that will create four tiers of playoffs.  Let's go back to 154 (or some other smaller number) to accomodate the lengthened playoffs without going to January.  I'd be all for the NBA playing 60+ regular season games too; if "everyone" gets into the playoffs, then there's little point in &^%$%ing about for six months to determine seeding.  Baseball has shown that being the WC is not that great a disadvantage.



Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:05 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Why limit the clock to the pitcher?  What about telling batters they cannot step out until a pitch has been thrown, once they step in?  What about stopping the Nomar-esque tapping, adjusting, and waggling?  You want to speed the game up, put it on both of them.  Batter steps in, he stays in; pitcher has 15 second to throw a pitch.  Batter can step out after the pitch, but only for 15 seconds--unless he fouls the ball of himself or something--and then we do it again.



Since: Dec 4, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:45 pm
 

One extra little fix....

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.

I know its not a big dal, but ballgames are too long as it is...every little bit helps.


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