This is kind of a random topic that could be addressed at any point, but I was talking about one of these ideas with one of my buddies the other night which inspired me to go all out and think of four more ways to improve baseball.
Baseball is depending on the time of the year, anywhere from my 1st to 3rd most favorite sport. I don't think most favorite is proper English, but neither is 56% of what is written on this site so let's just move on.
I love baseball and think it is for the most part fine, but like everything in life there is always room for improvement. I could do without the old-timey crusty losers who get mad at bat flips and players having an ounce of personality. But I like how there's 162 games. I don't want that to change. For 6 months straight if you want to watch the Sox (or your shitty team that doesn't really matter) they are there. It's like the line in Fever Pitch, they're always there for you when other parts of your life may not be.
Sure games could be a little quicker, but I think that's more just the ADHD generation with no attention span not being able to appreciate all the little nuances that make baseball great. Baseball is the thinking man's (or lady's) game. Baseball is also almost the exact same as football in the sense of stop time between plays and actual time of action during the game. You don't see people complaining about pace of play in the NFL. To me that's what makes it the perfect in-person sport. You can fuck around with your buddies in the stands, and still be able to not miss the action.
People have talked about radical ideas to change the game like 7 inning games, starting runners on 2nd base in extra innings, and shortening the season. I personally am not a fan of any of those ideas. Baseball is the one sport where statistics still truly matter and with all the history and whathaveyou chopping two innings off a game or 30 games off the schedule will fugggg everything up so it's a no thank you for me in that department.
That being said I have a few (five) ideas to improve the game of baseball. You may like some, I hope for my sake you do. Without further ado here they are.
1. Eliminate Divisions
Of all my ideas this is by far the most radical, and one that I understand will likely never happen because of the money generated with division champs gear and shit like that, but I truly believe deep down it's a good idea in the long run for beisbol.
Before 1969 there were no divisions in baseball. So it's not like this idea is unprecedented. For like 400 years it was just the AL and NL. Whoever finished the regular season in first won the Pennant and went to the World Series. There were plenty of seasons when teams won 100+ games and didn't make the World Series which at the time was the only playoff round. Then from 1969-1993 (except for strike shortened 1981) there were two divisions: East and West with a league championship series between the division winners to determine who represented each league to go to the World Series. In 1994 the league broke into three divisions adding the Central, this also added the Wild Card into the mix to give the playoffs a round 4 teams. This change allowed the best 2nd place team to make the playoffs.
Currently in baseball each league is divided into three divisions. East, Central, and West. The division winners automatically make the playoffs and the top two non-division winners (wild cards) play in a one game playoff to determine who goes on to the division series. I am a fan of the expansion of the playoffs over the years. Cinderella runs are what make sports great. If we knew what was going to happen the sport would suck and not be entertaining. Case and point your 2017-18 Boston Celtics. We have plenty of examples of teams who have won the World Series as wild cards: 97 & 03 Marlins, 02 Angels, 04 Red Sox, 11 Cardinals, and 14 Giants. I think that's everybody. Who knows how history would look if there was a wild card in 1970's?
Unless MLB is going to change it's current 5 team playoff format with a one game playoff I think the league should eliminate divisions and just go back to an American and National League. Goodbye divisions. Instead of having three division champs and two wild cards you now just do five best records make the playoffs. The only thing it really changes is division titles as accomplishments for teams to hang their hats on. In a perfect world teams would have a balanced schedule against their league. This way fans get more opportunities to see players from cities who don't come to town that often. I think this is way more fair and rewards the best teams which IMO is what we should be doing. It doesn't hold arbitrary divisional alignments loosely based on geography to determine who wins the World Series.
As a Red Sox fan you could think I'm just saying this because of the chance the Red Sox could end up winning 100+ games this year. That is partly true but I've also thought this for at least five year. Lol at me 4 tweeting at Salk.
This way the best teams don't have to play in that (while exciting) gimmicky play-in game. I personally am not a fan of the one-game playoff. I just think in a sport where you play 162 games to get to the playoffs to have one game determine who goes on is not fair where anything can happen. Especially should a wild card team finish above a division winner in the overall standings. Not only is it unfair for the wild-card teams but the #1 seed as well. The #1 seed is required to play the wild-card game winner. This really can end of hurting the #1 seed as they could be facing a team who is actually the 2nd or 3rd best in the league instead of 5th.
The perfect and most glaring example supporting my claim is the 2015 National League Standings. That year the Mets ended up winning the the pennant. Mainly due to great pitching, the bat of Daniel Murphy and the fact that they got to avoid 2 of the 3 NL Central juggernauts despite finishing with the worst record of National League playoff teams.
In 2015 the Dodgers won the West with 92 wins. The Mets won the East with 90. The NL Central featured three playoff teams. The central champion Cardinals who went 100-62 (possibly the most forgettable 100 win team of the last 20 years, close runner up 08 Angels), the Pirates won 98 games and Cubs won 97. The 98-64 Pirates season was done after just one playoff game when they ran into Jake Arrieta in the Wild-Card game when he was on one of the most impressive starting pitching runs I've ever seen in my entire life. 98 wins and poof. Just like that they're one and done.
That season under my rules would've had the final NL standings look like this:
1. Cardinals 100-62
2. Pirates 98-64
3. Cubs 96-66
4. Dodgers 92-70
5. Mets 90-72.
In the 18 seasons completed this millennium the World Series winner has averaged just 89 wins. I thought that seemed low so I took out the 83 win Cardinals and 103 win Cubs to balance things out and it ended up with an average of 94 wins which is still surprisingly low imo. The 2004 Red Sox also won 98 games and were a wild-card. Back then they didn't have to worry about a play in game, but they very easily could've lost a wild-card game had it been in existence back then, which would've been against the 91-71 Oakland A's. Imagine how different baseball history would be if the 2004 Red Sox lost in the fucking wild card game? That year despite being the "wild-card" they had the league's 2nd best record. Just like the Pirates.
This way every win and every game matters. You won't hear that "games in April don't matter" bull shit because now those few games could be the difference between avoiding the play-in game or not. I think this season where you could see the Red Sox and Yankees both win 100 + games and one would have to play in the Wild-Card game. Then say they win they get to face the other team in the ALDS. Meanwhile the Cleveland Indians who will end up winning the Central this year may end up with like 86 wins and automatically appear in the ALDS. Under my format they could miss the playoffs entirely.
2. Add a Pitch Clock
Pace of play has been the big buzzword talking point in baseball the last few seasons. I never played the game competitively so I understand there are a lot of little things players understand that I never will, but as a fan who's been watching for nearly 20 years (see my last blog) I do think there are tons of guys who add unnecessary time to the game with stupid routines and antics. Most notably my man Nomar and his batting gloves. Pitchers like Alex Cobb and Yu Darvish are some of the worst offenders for taking their time on the bump.
I think we eventually will see a 20 second pitch clock in the game. Even though it'd annoy me because it's not a 0 or 5 number but I'd be fine if it was even 22 seconds. The minor leagues already do it. I believe over time as more and more guys will get used to it it won't be a big deal. But for now with the strongest union in America you know guys aren't gonna wanna change. Maybe 20 years from now the pitch clock will as much a part of the game as the count.
What should happen is you have 20 seconds to pitch and if you don't release a pitch in time the batter gets awarded a ball. While I don't want NBA like shot-clock reviews to see if guys get pitches off in time I think a loose 20 seconds at the umps discretion is a good compromise, although I'd prefer to see a stricter interpretation. I just think the idea of challenging over whether or not a ball was still on a guy's fingertip at .01 is idiotic.
3. Bring Back Blocking The Plate and Breaking Up Double- Plays.
The play at the plate used to be one of the most exciting plays in baseball until it got ruined because Buster Posey was out of position.
Much like today's outrage snowflake culture instead of finding a middle ground, the league decided to ban collisions at home plate all together. One major injury to a star and it's sayonara. Now runners can be ruled safe if it determined a catcher was breaking the rules by protecting the plate aka doing a thing that was a major part of the game for 100+ years. Baseball needs more excitement and action as "being boring" is one of the biggest complaints against the game today. Ruining one of the most exciting plays in the game because of a freak injury imo is a little extreme and has definitely hurt the game. Casual fans love shit like home plate collisions. Btw If this injury happened to Brayan Peña the rule is never changed.
Same thing goes with breaking up double plays. While I think plays like Chase Utley in the 2015 NLDS are dirty there are clean ways to play hard and break up a potential twin-killing while still being safe. If a former middle infielder in Michael Young is for breaking up double plays, who in theory would be getting "protected" by the rule if he was still playing today speaks volumes. Bring back hard-nosed smash mouth baseball.
4. Allow Teams To Use a Pinch-Runner Once a Game Without Losing Whoever He Replaced in The Line Up.
This is the idea that sparked the list. I don't like how in sports like baseball or soccer once a player is removed he cannot return to the game. I guess I get it in a match-up stand point, managers could bring in players depending on who's pitching. With today's advanced metrics that could be a nightmare.
However I do believe there is a happy-medium here. I'm pretty sure this is a rule in the Women's College World Series and Little League World Series where a pinch-runner can enter the base-paths for a player but not take them out of the line up.
Managers would be more likely to be aggressive in late innings. There have been probably hundreds of times in my life where I wanted to Red Sox to pinch run for David Ortiz late in games, but the Sox wouldn't so they could still have his bat in the line up should the game continue. Then in the reverse times where in extras they'd pinch run for him but not score then an inning and a half later you have Darnell McDonald hitting 4th. Not ideal.
The rule I have works like this: Once a game a team can use a designated pinch runner. This runner may take over for any base-runner without taking over for him defensively and in the batting order. The runner would only be allowed to stay in the game for that base-running attempt. Should the game continue he would be removed from the game and not allowed to reappear. Should the team somehow bat around in an inning where the designated pinch-runner is used the original hitter must hit.
What I like most about this idea other than the potential strategic component and excitement to the game is that it's a big change, but still not that drastic. Definitely different a little outside the box in baseball standards, but you aren't completely altering the game and it's history by adding this. Plus most importantly you are finding a way to add excitement to the game which is something it drastically needs.
5. Market Stars and Allow People To Post MLB footage Online
What's this man's name?
If you don't know you're proving my point exactly.
That is Mike Trout. Hands down the best player in baseball. Two-time MVP. 5 Silver Sluggers. On base machine. He could get hit by a truck and die tomorrow and still make the Hall of Fame with what he's already accomplished.
The major problem with baseball is this man is marketed worse than planned parenthood in Syria. I love baseball and watch hundreds of games a year and have probably seen 40 live Mike Trout at bats in my life. The dude is never on tv and isn't really broadcast in commercials or endorsements unlike other superstars in the other sports. Trout is the most glaring example of the league's star issue but he's not the only one. How many casual baseball fans know who Trey Turner is? Or Nolan Arenado? Francisco Lindor? Exactly.
Baseball's biggest problem is baseball. They need to broadcast the amazing things these dudes do on the diamond every night of the week. But guess what if you tweet out a recorded clip from your tv MLB will suspend your account. Every league needs to copy the NBA's policy with social media. They realized that having highlights shared on social media actually helps expose the game and it's brand. Major League Baseball and the NFL both need to take a page out of Adam Silver's book and let fans share homemade highlights.
Maybe if more people saw the crazy catches Jackie Bradley Jr. makes on a nightly basis they'd wanna see more? Perhaps if the average sports bum on the street knew who Carlos Martinez was baseball would be doing a little better? If baseball wants to not end up like the NHL as some weird niche league they need to broadcast how great their product is and how many young stars their are in this league.
So those are my five ways to make baseball better. What do you think? What should MLB to do improve it's product?