Tuesday, February 12, 2019

My Plan To Fix Baseball

Image result for baseball

Two weeks ago baseball introduced a slew of new rule changes that would help vault the game into a more 21st friendly sport. Changes that included a universal DH, a pitch clock, reliever rules, and a more! Baseball is going to become faster, more action packed, and these changes are going to revolutionize the game…

…if they get approved by the players union and Major League baseball. But the commissioner, Rob Manfred, can use his powers to enact any of these rules if he chooses…

…but reports are that he is unlikely to. But he promised that these changes are only a matter of time, and that they will be enacted very soon…

…by like 2021…

…nobody really knows. 

There is lies the problem with baseball. Even when the sport is trying to be exciting, it literally achieves the opposite effect. In the midst of another boring baseball winter, where Free Agent activity is as infrequent as ever, commissioner Manfred rolled out these changes that have amounted into no new changes. 

Why does baseball struggle so bad with this?

I love American’s pastime, and I still believe, even at its worse, baseball is the best game we have. But baseball needs to evolve. They need to be bold. 

Baseball needs to change. 

Nothing too crazy though. I am sure any baseball “purist” who reads this is going to have a coronary, but hang in there!

I promise not to destroy the sanctity of the game. I may ding it up a little bit.

First thing first. In order to make changes, one has to identify the problems. Here are the problems baseball has:

  1. Lack of activity
    1. Baseball’s Dog Days of Summer: What was once charming, is now a burden
    2. Winter Free Agent Freeze: November and December used to be hot with activity, now we are experiencing a Free Agent Freeze.

One of the common complaints about baseball in the 21st century is that the game is either too slow, or doesn’t have enough action to keep younger generations or casual fans captivated enough. While there is only so much one can do to address this issue, there is a couple of things that baseball can do. Baseball needs to encourage as much activity as it can, when it can. The ‘Dog of Days of Summer’ can consist of six to eight weeks of limited jockeying in the standings, and a large number of teams that are no longer playing meaningful baseball. With the continuing popularity of football, there is more of an entertainment value in preseason football, Hard Knocks, and fantasy football shows that appeal more to the common sports fan/ Baseball needs to find a way to deal with this issue. 

  1. Lack of marketing 
    1. Baseball’s Youth: The game has more stars under 28 than ever before. But they need to become house hold names. 
    2. Promote the games, not just the game: Football owns Thanksgiving and New Years. The NBA owns Christmas. Why does baseball not do the same? 

When one thinks of the most popular athletes in America. who comes to mind? LeBron James, Tom Brady, and slews of more football and basketball talents. Mike Trout is on a track to become one of baseball’s top 10 overall players, but you seem in virtually no commercials and his games are never ‘features’ on any sporting network. Same goes for other greats like Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, and Aaron Judge. These players, play in big markets, for marquee teams, and are relative ghosts compared to other athletes in America. If baseball wants to fix this problem, they have to repackage the way they present this product. Baseball has to make it their mission to make these players house hold names. There are a couple of different ways to do this. 

  1. Lack of creativity 
    1. Let’s upset some purists: Rivalries still work in baseball unlike how they do in the NFL or the NBA, so make them a new priority.
    2. Expand on what works: Bigger playoff format means more meaningful games during the regular season.
    3. Sometimes less is more: Shortened season, more doubleheaders, equals a more exciting product. 

As much as “baseball purists” try to protect the game from adopting, changing or becoming relevant, one thing baseball could do is just say ‘screw it’. If one is a baseball purist, then guess what? They are not going anywhere. Throughout history making changes to the schedule, playoff format, and slight rule changes have not hurt the game, they have enhanced it. But owners and the powers that be can no longer afford to be afraid. Think in bigger and bolder ways to improve the product. Just because professional baseball is the oldest of our team sports, doesn’t not mean we persevere the game as if it was some sort of ancient document. We have to let it out of its box and play with it a bit. 

Ok, that sounds weird, but you get my point.

If baseball really wants to make changes, they need to be bold and daring. The game is great, but the packaging needs improvement. Now my suggestions, will not fix all of the problems, because, after all, its baseball, and suggesting too much change may make the likes of Bob Costs or Brian Kenny’s heads explode. 

Unfortunately, this article will to address the changes baseball needs to make improve free agency or the sport’s marketing woes. Hopefully by improving the outlying problems of the game will help fix the internal woes. A more exciting on the field product could help fix the lack of offseason activity and players will become more recognizable. In the end, these are just a few fun adaptations baseball can take on. 

Here are few different ways baseball could improve: 

Change #1: Realignment 

North East
North Central
North West
Red Sox
White Sox
Blue Jays 

South West
South Central
South East

Problems it will fix: Problem 3:1: Rivalries still work

This is a more geographic/rivalry favor league format where the true rivals will take the fields more than ever. Instead of having cross-town rivalries be a once or twice a year thing, now they will become regular fixtures of the game. It will cut down on travel time, thus making doubleheaders easier and more functional. 

Change #2: Shortened Regular Season
-154 Game Schedule
-Double Headers on Sundays

Problems it will fix: Problem 3:3: Less is more
                                 Problem 1:1: Dog Days of Summer

There is no denying that the baseball season is a long, and monotonous season. Going back down to the 154 game schedule will not change the landscape of the game. By going to double headers on Sundays (3 out of the 4 times a month) the baseball season would end right at the end of August, just before the start of the football seasons. That way, once we hit the postseason, the games can be worked around the NFL schedule, thus appealing to the more common fans. 

Change #3: Expanded Playoff
-Top Two teams in each league get a buy
-3 Wild Card teams in each league
-Wild Card round: Winner take all 

Problems it will fix: Problem 3:2: Expanded Playoff
                Problem 2:2: Own the day! 

By expanding the playoff, the regular season will continue to be entertaining from start to finish. More playoff spots will mean less tanking, so early in a season, and by fewer teams. Plus, more teams involved means more cities involved, more fanbases involved, which will mean more people will be into the sport. All of our professional sports have at least 12 teams make the playoffs, and baseball is still lagging behind with 10. This is a simple, and yet, non-life altering fix baseball can make. 

What would also make this idea fun, is since the season is ending earlier, all four wild card games can be played Labor Day Weekend! The NFL season hasn’t started yet, and the one and done games is instant entertainment. 

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