OK, let’s be clear: we all love baseball. We’re Americans; it’s our sport. But we all know that baseball has problems. Here are my suggestions for ways to make it better.
Will any of these be implemented in our lifetimes? Not a chance, particularly the further down the list you go.
5) Dump The “Uncaught Third Strike” Rule. If you strike out, you’re out, simple enough. This rule comes into play way too often in the kids’ league I’m involved in. I suppose it adds some excitement to the game, especially on the lower levels, but it’s really just a gimmick.
4) No Domes. Duh.
3) Scrap The DH. Another duh. The Designated Hitter is a dumb rule in the first place, as it artificially separates the pitcher from the rest of his teammates. The pitcher should be batting, just like everyone else on his team. The DH is just another gimmick designed to add offense to the game. For me, one of the greatest things in baseball is a pitcher who can handle the bat and help out the team with a hit.
But the biggest problem with the DH is its implementation in Major League Baseball, with only one league using it. In interleague games, one or the other team has to change its lineup, which can mean the whole way it goes about playing. That MLB has gone nearly four decades without unifying its rules on this is completely ridiculous.
2) Get Serious About Parity. This means real revenue sharing. This means instituting a salary cap. This may mean more NFL-style scheduling for interdivision and interleague play.
The salary cap would be the most important, though. Teams outside of the Bronx need to be able to negotiate for the top talent in baseball. As it is, whenever a major star’s contract is up, the talk immediately turns to which of three teams will nab him: the Yankees, the Red Sox or the Phillies. ONLY IF those teams aren’t interested, does the rest of the league get to take part in the bidding. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but clearly, it’s not good for the overall game if the teams with the deepest pockets can control the market for players to the extent that those three do.
Under a well-implemented salary cap, a team could still sign a player to a big contract … but then it would have to make compromises with the rest of its players, perhaps having to shed some other high-paid players, to keep the total payroll under the cap. The flip side of the salary cap is that teams have to be mandated to spend a certain amount, say 95 percent of the cap or so, to make sure everyone is committed to being competitive.
1) Shorten the season. As it stands now, it takes Major League Baseball SIX MONTHS of regular season to whittle 30 teams down to the eight that make the playoffs. Tack a month of playoffs on the back end, and a month of spring training on the front end, and you’ve got a season that stretches over eight months. That’s not a season; it’s two-thirds of the way around the sun.
Not only does MLB run the very real risk of having a lot of early-season games snowed out, but the same risk applies at the end of the season, during the showpiece World Series. This has of course happened in recent years on both ends of the season. I can remember going to an early-April game a few years ago that got snowed out … and this was in St. Louis, not Toronto. And we’ve all seen the World Series games when the fans are wearing parkas.
My solution? Scrap the 162-game season. Start spring training in mid-March, and start the season in mid-April (that way I can get my taxes done and not have to miss the game.) Let the season run for 20 weeks, which will get us to the first week of September … plenty of time to figure out who the playoff-worthy teams are. Then, start the playoffs. There’s talk now of adding another round to the playoffs, which would be a disaster if the season’s not shortened (but we all know they’ll probably do it anyway). Under my plan, even with an added round, the World Series should be done by mid-October … not November like it is now.
And while we’re at it, we shouldn’t make teams play six or seven games a week. Five is plenty. Two series: maybe a three-game divisional series on the weekend, and a two game interleague or interdivision series during the week. This way we’re not beating the players up day after day. AND, we can do more with fewer pitchers; the league is already stretched thin on pitching talent, and teams wouldn’t have to carry five starters if they have a built-in day off every three or four days.
Multiply it out, and our season becomes a nice, even, 100 games. I can think of only one reason why 162 games is preferable to 100 games, but of course that one reason will overrule common sense every time: no one makes as much money with a shortened season. But seriously, is it really a better sport if it’s diluted over 162 games?
Yeah, I know, we’d have to completely redo all the record books and so forth. But under my system, every game will matter and every game will be played during the summer.
OK, now it’s your turn to tell me I’m crazy.