Does Major League Baseball Need Saving? Six Ideas that Will Help
Does Major League Need Fixing
There’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed among some of my lifelong friends. They no longer watch Major League baseball. No, I don’t expect every person to love America’s pastime, but these guys aren’t your average people. They were high-school baseball stars that went on to four-year careers playing the game in college. Even after college, we’d hang out and watch games, almost on a nightly basis. That’s not the case anymore. For one, they’ve gotten older and gotten married, so some of their time is occupied in a manner it never was before. But when I ask them about why they don’t watch it anymore, neither of them says they are too busy. No, they both reference an almost unthinkable response, “it’s too boring.”
As a high school teacher, I’m acutely aware of the increasing number of athletes playing lacrosse. In the past, lacrosse was a collection of kids that played baseball up until the point where they couldn’t hit anymore, and then made the switch to lacrosse. It made sense. However, at this point, baseball is losing some of its best players at an early age. For me, that’s a troublesome development.
I’ve thought quite a bit about what’s different now than just a couple decades ago, and the answer is … a lot of things. Chief among them, today’s kids need instant gratification. They text and tweet and expect immediate responses. They are lacking patience, and that’s reflected in every aspect of their lives. Baseball isn’t for the impatient. It’s a methodical, thinking man’s sport, where you only get to bat one out of every nine turns. So rather than play a sport built at a slower pace, they often search for another one.
As an avid baseball enthusiast, I’ve come up with a half-dozen quick fixes that will make baseball more watchable, and in turn, bring young kids back to the sport.
No More Pitcher-Catcher Conferences
Nothing breaks up the momentum of a baseball game more than the catcher trotting out to discuss something with the pitcher. If it was done for a specific purpose, I could deal with it. But more often than not, they are stalling, delaying or intentionally breaking up the momentum of the other team. It seemed like former Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek used to visit the mound about every time a runner made it to second base. I’ll admit it, it’s brutal. So, let’s get rid of those visits. If a pitcher and catcher can’t coordinate their signs in advance, then they better feel comfortable yelling instructions back and forth out loud. At this point, they visit not out of necessity, but rather, out of habit. Not in the new and improved baseball.
Maximum of One Pitching Change in an Inning
I think of this rule almost every night that I watch baseball. The specialization of bullpens has really contributed to the sluggish nature of the sport. I’ll give you an example. It’s the bottom of the 8th inning, one out and New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte is starting to struggle. So with a big right-handed bat due up, manager Joe Girardi calls on Joba Chamberlain to get him out. That’s fine, you can’t expect starting pitchers to finish every game they start, this isn’t 1907. The problem comes after that at-bat. Regardless of the outcome, if a productive left-handed hitter is coming up, Girardi will take out Chamberlain in favor of a left-handed pitcher, likely Boone Logan. And in a worst-case scenario, another right-hander will follow the lefty, and Girardi might bring in David Robertson.
It’s a nightmare. Each pitching change is about a four-minute process. The manager slowly walks to the mound, takes the ball and calls for another pitcher. He strolls in, throws eight warm-up pitches and then walks around the mound gearing up for a huge at-bat. Waste of time. Let’s limit pitching changes to one per inning at the most. So Girardi has to make a decision. Does he not have Pettitte start the inning, knowing he’s probably not going to get through it? Or does he bring in a righty who can get guys out from both sides of the plate? There’s too much specialization of the bullpen, and pitchers aren’t required to get tough outs. This change would definitely speed up a lot of games throughout the year.
Playoff Games Start at 7:00 PM
If you want kids to love baseball, maybe you should let them watch the most important games. Postseason games often start around 8:30PM, way past the bedtime of most kids. Even middle schoolers might only catch an inning or two before they have to go to bed. I realize this might hurt ratings on the west coast, but in the long run, it’s better for the sport. Kids on the west coast could see the end of the east coast games and the beginning of their own. It’s no wonder postseason ratings are down … no one can stay up that late … even adults.
Shorten the Season Back to 154 Games
The baseball season is entirely too long. By the time September rolls around, people have seen enough regular season baseball. If a team hasn’t made a push by game 154, they don’t deserve a playoff spot. The one major concern baseball purists would have with scaling the number back would be the almighty record book. “How can we compare baseball records when they are achieved with different rules?” Who cares? The baseball record book has taken a serious hit in the last ten years. Virtually every record set in the 1990’s and 2000’s is tainted, and deservedly so. So those purists would need to get over it. Less is more when it comes to regular season baseball.
More Saturday Doubleheaders
This goes along with starting playoff games earlier. If we want kids to like baseball, they need to be able to see it. For whatever reason, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of Saturday night games. I think that each team should have at least five weekend double headers, one game at 1:00PM and the other at 7:00PM. They used to do it all the time, but the advent of the five-man pitching rotation caused concern, especially for the agents of pitchers. Too bad. In the interest of baseball, we’re going to play more double headers. The season will get over more quickly and the playoffs will start in late September when the weather is more favorable.
Make Opening Day a Holiday
Opening Day for baseball used to be a momentous occasion. It no longer is. In fact, now the season starts with a single game on Sunday Night Baseball. This year it was the Texas Rangers against the Houston Astros … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …
In order to draw kids attention, let’s give them the day off from school. They can stay home and watch baseball with their families. One day of watching might lead to two, and the trend could continue from there. If baseball wants to be relevant, it should make the start of its season a much bigger deal.
So those are my ideas to help the game. Some might alter the way the game is played slightly, and perhaps the rules would be changed back for the postseason, but they need to happen. Four-hour baseball games just aren’t exciting … even for huge fans like me.
So let me know what you think? Are any of these worth pursuing?