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 15, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:38 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

I agree with every single one of these except the first one.Baseball has an aura about it that other sports do not have,and the pace of the game is part of the charm of it.Stop bending over backwards for television and start games earlier.Play more day games.Add the DH to the national league.There is nothing more boring than watching most pitchers hit,not to mention the fact that they can get hurt running the bases.It's happened before.



Since: Dec 27, 2011
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:26 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

And here's one they'll never do but would do wonders for the sport: Go to an 82 game schedule. Baseball is meaningless for the first 3 months anyway, might as well make every game count!



Since: Dec 27, 2011
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:24 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

For the love of God, start playoff and World Series games earlier!! I live in the Central Time Zone, have a big boy job and kids. I'm not staying up past 11PM to watch a game, I'll go to bed after the 5th or 6th inning and see who won on Sportscenter the next morning. I don't care that somebody in poor sunny California may have to miss the first 2 innings or get off of work early to go or watch, if I'm an advertiser I'd much rather 1/8th of the country miss the first 2 innings on the West Coast than over 1/2 the country miss the last 4 innings everywhere else.



Since: Dec 25, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:24 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Will never happen, but what if the score of the game was from counting the total bases rather than just the ones that cross home plate.

Hitting a round ball with a round bat. So hard to do you just hope the ball lands somewhere favorable.

Never been a game in the history of sports that the outcome relies more on luck.

Baseball is a stupid game.



Since: Jul 26, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:23 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Like the idea of starting the season earlier.  The other option would be to shorten it if it couldn't be started earlier.  The DH should be in both leagues. NL and AL not just one.  I don't know that a pitcher clock would work even though there are some pitchers who slow down the game intentionally.  How would that work for the ones that speed it up intentionally when they are in a groove?  Cole Hammels/Doc Halladay for example.  I do however disagree witht the writers sentiment about more night games on Saturday. It's not the best time for kids and their families to waatch Baseball.....do you know how many kids play in little league baseball?  They are mostly played during the day, which would have the reverse effect on getting more viewers.



Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:09 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

A few years ago $45 got me a ticket a few rows behind the Pirates dugout, whereas in St. Louis it got me barely into section 250.....

I can't even park at Yankee Stadium for under $45 anymore.




Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:07 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Even when those teams are at their best, they can't sustain longterm popularity in regards to ticket sales, tv ratings, etc., because there just aren't as many people there.....

Once again I will press you on this matter. Why can't lonterm popularity be sustained in these regions of the country? Yes, I understand the role of population density as it relates to economics makes ticket sales and TV ratings not as abundant, but how much do you really need to make to maintain that success? If these markets cannot possibly foster a competative franchise, then these markets shouldn't be allowed to have sports franchises. However, if you look at the KC Chiefs or Steelers, I see very large and passionate fan bases that constantly pack the stadium. I think these markets CAN sustain success, its the ownership in these markets that are the biggest deterant towards it. If the Pirates, Royals, or Padres had an exciting team for more than one season out of the last 10, I think you would see people pack the stadiums more and they would generate significantly more revenue. Enough revenue to increase their payrolls while still making a profit.

So while the money is just as green, it simply isn't as abundant in San Diego, Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

There was a very good point made in the link above concerning the KC Royals owner. "David Glass was the CEO of Wal-Mart, the most vicious competitor on the American landscape, but in baseball he can't spend a dime unless the Yankees give him six cents? That's not just disingenuous, it's a little bit pathetic."
You telling me the KC Royals don't the have money to possibly sustain success? How would you even know, its not like they have really ever tried for more than 3 months out of a 5 year span.



Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:06 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

Not point-by-point, but the slowness of the game is as much on the hitters as it is the pitchers. These guys step out, fix their gloves, fix their hats, stare at their bat, then get in, back out, get a signal ... then foul off 9 pitches in a row.

As for the DH, it hasn't hurt baseball. Purists don't have a good case. DH is used in almost all pro baseball. But if no DH, then no DH. If I spent $40M on a top pitcher, I don't want him running to first base. If he can get there. Often enough, they will and -- Art Mahaffey can tell you: Gotta get down!

Spring training is 2 weeks too long. The B.S. about guys trying to make a roster. C'mon ... guys don't make the roster in spring training.

Canseco is stuck in indy ball. Leave him there.





Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

So the answer is to have the weekday playoff games start at 2:00 PM in the afternoon when most adults are not home and kids can watch about half of the game (if they remember to do so) when they get home from school?  The problem is compounded by after school activities and homework that this proposal does nothing to solve the problem.  Last year they started many of the playoff games in the east before 8:30 PM and my kids 11 and 12 were able to watch a good part of the games.



Since: Feb 26, 2011
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:52 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

A pitch clock would never work in baseball, too many things are going on between pitches... hitter getting a sign, checking where the fielders are playing, catcher waiting until the batter is ready before he puts down the signs, in today's games the catcher has to wait for the manager to give the signs, etc. etc. But, I think umpires can control the tempo by following the rules that are already in place.

Blackouts should completely be eliminated!

I think more Saturday day games would be great, the only issue with this one is having to leave after 3 innings due to the heat.  Games could begin earlier, such as 10:00 or 11:00am and even late afternoon like 4:00 or 5:00pm, to allow for the people with kids not to sit in the blistering sun for a majority of the game.  It seems like the 12, 1, and 3:00 start times are almost unbearable in the middle of the summer.  I know its only an hour difference, but it can be a huge difference with the temp.

In my opinion, the replay idea is horrible!  I suppose I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to the sport of baseball.  I enjoy listening to the debates, even arguments, about a missed call and even the call that went "our" way.  It adds to the excitement of the game, its a way for generation to generation to connect.  Even the missed calls have their place in the history of the game.  How many people will ever forget Jim Joyce missing the call? I can't think of any other sports where an umpire (ref) missed a call and was able to show a nation how much class he has and how much he loves the game.  The same for Armando- what a way to show people how to react when something does not go your way!  The game of baseball is designed for failure.  The greatest of players succeed only about 30-35% of the time.  The umpires do a pretty good job, they probably get the call correct 98+% of the time.  Even at times when the play is replayed and slowed down, it can be hard to tell on some calls.  If we go to using replay, what is even the point of having and umpire? 

As far as the DH goes, it makes me no difference.  I feel as if the DH has made managing an easier job, but pitching a little tougher.

Agreed that the owners shouldn't be penny pinchers, but at the same time, I would love for the price of my ticket and food to go down A LOT!  A few years ago $45 got me a ticket a few rows behind the Pirates dugout, whereas in St. Louis it got me barely into section 250. 

Disagree that the season should be shorter, but agree that Spring Training should be.  If they cut down the lenght of ST, then the season could start a week or more earlier. 

If you want Jose to go away, then quit having articles about him (CBS)!  I don't care that he is trying out for a Mexican League team or that he was into MMA!  I'd rather read about Indy league teams!


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com