So lately I’ve been watching baseball for some reason. I have no idea why, it is a boring sport, but at the same time it is good background noise for when I am doing something. But watching it has gotten me thinking. The sport itself isn’t horrible, but the problem with it is largely what it has become. It is for money grubbing steroid junkies that just takes too long and every game means very little in the grand scope of things. None of this sits well in the modern age, and though I think the American public still have a certain respect for Baseball and WANT to like it, they can’t for all those reasons.
So my solution is that we scrap the MLB and start a new league. One that is dedicated not to having a new version of the tried and true method with lower paid, and thus lesser talented, athletes. But a new league in which we update the sport to modern times, holding onto some of the classic feel of the game. It’ll be tricky but I’ll give it a go.
First, let me emphasize how important it is to start clean. The history of MLB is rich, there is no doubt of that, but the last 20-30 years especially just need to be taken off the books. Unfortunately I don’t think it is possible to take the last 30 years off the books in the MLB and you are not able to have the first years in a different league, so you have to scrub clean totally. So why do we have to sacrifice the history of baseball for the sole fact that the last 30 years have ruined the sport? Well there are a lot of reasons really. First, there is the rampant cheating. We all know Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa all cheated using steroids in order to get their records. But Jose Canseco is also in the record books due to steroids, being the first player to ever achieve 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season (1988). This type of cheating goes back far and many many records have been broken thanks to steroid usage. Many people we can’t fully target but I’m sure had at least some part in steroids. Another reason starting fresh is good, is largely due to the rule changes that I will have following. It won’t be possible to break many records solely because the rule changes won’t make it possible. This further emphasizes the cheating because then the cheaters would be forever reigning in their records and that is unfair.
So the rules…
1) Salary Cap. You cannot deny the positive influence the salary cap has had on the NFL and now the NHL. It ensures that teams actually make a profit, ensures that there is a more even playing field between all the teams and you don’t have a rich vs poor approach that both NBA (due to its non-functioning salary cap) and the MLB have. It also ensures that fans have a positive attitude towards the players, because the salaries of MLB is ridiculous… $25 million a year is insane for baseball which isn’t even the #4 sport anymore. Hell even the $10 million a year is insane which is where NFL is fast approaching (if not already passed). First & foremost players need to play for the game not the money, though they should be compensated fairly for the profit they bring to the league as a whole. This being said, I don’t think that the salary cap should follow the NFL’s new rules that closely. I don’t think that players should gain a piece of merchandising that doesn’t contain their names or likenesses (for instance a Packers hat shouldn’t go to Brett Favre), nor should they get a piece of the licensing pie for selling the rights to a stadium and what not. They should get a cut of tickets (including luxury boxes), media sales (such as network deals), merchandise with their likeness or names, and even perhaps a small cut of concessions sold while they are playing for the team.
2) Profit sharing. Like the NFL the profit sharing of teams makes the whole league more stable. So you do a similar sharing where the visiting team gets 35-40% of what the stadium makes (including luxury boxes) and you split network deals evenly among the teams. This helps out poor markets tremendously.
3) Less emphasis on the Minor Leagues. This has helped destroy the college baseball system, and if you can unload the cost of maintaining these smaller organizations. Minor Leagues have their place much like the small leagues of the NFL like CFL, NFL-Europe, and ALF (arena league football) which the NFL sometimes brings in outstanding performers from. But with MLB there are like 4 teams per bigger team and it is ridiculous. Not only that many of them are going out because there are just too many. The MLBs minor league system dilutes the whole baseball experience. I think they need to return to letting the colleges develop young talent and force new players to have 3 years of college experience, not unlike the NFL. Baseball careers are much larger, this unloads the cost into college (which runs anyway) and helps give colleges more ability to put on a better show with better quality players. (As it stands colleges tend to have worse talent than the Minor Leagues do).
4) Instead of having 2-3 3-game series every week, I suggest going to 2 2-game series per week. There are far too many games per week for the average American. The sport needs to make each game more important. The 3-game thing only works if you make the series important. Like if you win a series, you get a point, the more points the higher ranking. However, this isn’t the case in MLB. So you do 2-game series to make the trip worth it (which I think was the original intent of 3-games) but not too much where you are deluting the game. You have one series scheduled for Wednesday & Thursday (maybe have Wednesday Night Baseball on TV) and one series scheduled for Saturday & Sunday. This way you capitalize on the weekends, continue the big Saturday baseball, and don’t narrow down the games to the point that it is extremely far away from what it currently is (thereby alienating any fans that may be left). Now the current schedule runs probably about 26 weeks, this rule change alone would then mean that our league has a total of 104 games a year instead of 162. The season generally runs from the first week of April to the last week of August (5 months), compared with 17 weeks of NFL. (4 months). I suggest cutting out the first 2 weeks of the MLB season, starting around April 15 and running through August. This brings our game number down to 96, which we will further lower to 90. The reason for this lower game number is again to stop the delusion of the games so that they don’t matter. Again, 90 is still a lot, and ideally you’d cut that down to about 50 games a year, but again we don’t want to totally alienate the current public and this is a good place to begin. In addition to this, the spring training will only run for 3 weeks, and will occur in the normal stadiums instead of Arizona. This creates a longer sense of the sport for fans who may miss the longer season and negate the need for spring locations which adds to cost, and also reduces chance of accidental injury during the spring.
5) In the same vain, we need to also lower the playoff period. Most people don’t care about most of the playoffs, even the world series is far too long. Instead of the current setup. We will do a winner takes all throughout the playoffs, the home field advantage goes to the one with the better record much like NFL. The exception will be the World Series which will see a 3-game series in a neutral city. The World Series certainly does capitalize on the length, and the 5-7 games of the series generally see much larger viewer turnouts, but reducing the number from 7 to 3 would greatly increase each individual game and we could then plan it to play throughout the weekend. I also think that the neutral city idea helps with teams that may be bad for an extended period of time so that their fans can see what they are playing for. Because it is a summer sport, even northern cities will get a chance to host a world series.
6) 7 inning game. Japan runs a 7-inning league and it is extraordinarily popular over there. They also say no extra innings so a tie is a tie, though instead we will institute a rule that says up to 2 additional innings and if there is still no leader then we can call it a tie (I honestly think ties are ok, especially with such a long season).
7) A pitching clock. I’m not entirely sure how to do this, and I’m sure MLB isn’t either or they may have instituted it. The problem is that if you give a pitcher 30 seconds to pitch, then the runners will generally know when they can steal a base (when the clock hits 29, run). Perhaps a rule can be instituted where that if a runner runs within the last 5 seconds and the pitcher throws to stop him then it won’t cause penalty. However, even this is with its fault because the pitcher could just throw over with 5 seconds left if he ran out of time (maybe you could give just 1 limit to this rule per batter). In my opinion the pitcher taking a long time to pitch is the single biggest reason for long games in MLB though and this needs to stop. The sport needs the pace quickened (although I understand they probably also don’t want to lose the concessions involved with a longer game, but they also don’t realize they are losing concessions from people not willing to go to the game). One possible rule I’ve heard brought up might be that the player can’t run until the pitch is off which may bring into play instant replay which would be bad as that would just offset the time saved I think.
8) Pitchers bat. I live in Wisconsin, grew up as a Brewers fan (yeah even though they always suck), and thus I know more intimately the difference between AL & NL. In my opinion national league is way better, and this is a nod to how the league has been played in the past. But there is no reason the Pitcher shouldn’t be able to bat, especially if there are only 7 innings. (I also realize the DH was an attempt by baseball to increase the scoring in the game which is both fine and understandable, but this is just how the game was meant to be played, and it certainly adds strategy to the game.)
9) 20 man limit. I believe the current limit is 25, however with the removal of the DH and 2 of the innings I believe this number can be dropped. This actually has several benefits. First, it maintains the benching a player strategy that baseball currently has, with the fewer players needed (2-3 less starters, less relief pitching, and no DH), ya need to lower the number. The second way it helps is that with fewer players also means each player will be able to get paid better. That’s just a bottom line and this will help out much more in the beginning. A smaller number also helps the talent become less deluted, meaning that each team will be of a much higher talent on average than a team that has 25 players on it.
10) Single conference, multiple divisions. I would suggest 1 conference with 4 divisions. Not two conferences as most major sports do. This way the number is even for the playoffs and you don’t have any confusion over what is the diff between AFC & NFC or AL & NL. It is just L.
11) A real steroids & drug policy. Clean up the league. Not just performance enhancing drugs but real drugs too. NFL goes to great lengths to try to make sure their sport is legit and with a good image and any baseball league needs to do the same thing. This is a brand and you can’t kill the brand with a bunch of druggies and cheaters who ruin the image. Be more strict, like the NFL’s policy that your 3rd strike is a full season suspension (I don’t even know what happens after 4), random drug testing for all players. This is still a serious problem in MLB and I don’t know why, their drug policy is weak at best.
So these are a few of my rules that I have come up with. Love em or hate em, they’d be best for the sport. (I’ve had a couple others that I just can’t bare to make concrete as they are more thoughts right now.)