Like most major American sport leagues, there have been a myriad of changes. The creation of the designated hitter, teams leaving cities for greener pastures and expansion teams, primarily night games to cater to a TV audience. Over time it seems that Football has become the new American past time. It seems like every baseball analyst on TV or other radio show says that something needs to change.
The problem has and will always be that baseball is a grind. No other major sport plays nearly as many games as the 162 game MLB season, with about another month or so of playoffs. Here are two points to emphasize this:
1. Look at the popularity of Fantasy Baseball vs Fantasy Football. There is absolutely no comparison. Many people have a hard enough time staying focused on the 25+ player draft, let alone keep interested for basically a 6 month season. Compare that to a football season where you typically have 10 or so players and make changes once a week. In addition, a majority of games for that week are all played on the same day. Watching football on Sunday has raided homes across the US, and with games televised nationally from early morning until late at night, many spend their entire Sunday in front of a TV keeping tabs on their fantasy players. Even those at church and doing other weekend chores have their apps running keeping them constantly updated to see how their team is doing.
2. Is your team even in it by the trading deadline? Many teams have no hopes of making it, so there is always a huge buzz around which star players will be leaving a last place team to join another team trying to make a playoff run. So in other words a good number of teams have written off the remainder of the season off and raid the farm system for some hope for the future.
So if the grind of baseball will never go away, how can MLB up the ante? Here is my proposal:
1. Salary Cap – I am tired of players like Jayson Werth making an obscene amount of money. Even players who have been extremely valueable to the franchise (yes, I talking about you Ichiro), tend to hamstring an organization from rebounding from a horrible GM (Bill Bavasi for one) getting desperate and overpaying for talent in the craziness that is the free agent market. Case in point should be realized when both Pujols and Prince Fielder will hit the market at the end of this year. If they don’t stay with their current teams, these two players will make the GDP of most small countries look like peanuts. If you build in a system where teams have to spend money (like the Pirates), this will increase the overall competiton and create more parody year after year. Each team will have a better chance of keeping pace with the big market teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, and also prevent teams like the Marlins from having to binge and purge their rosters like they’ve lost a bet and had to eat 2 20 piece McNuggets and then left to deal with the aftermath.
2. Cap the length of Guaranteed contracts. Capping the length of guaranteed contracts would serve two purposes.
One would be to limit the liability of a bad signing (like a 10 year contract). Let’s say you put something like 4-5 years on free agent signings. Now even a monster contract like A-Rod goes down to 5 years @25 million. $125 million is still a lot of money, but half of what he got when he signed his monster 10 year contract. When Texas was trying to unload him, instead of having to try to negiotiate how to split responsibility the remaining amount on the contract with the Yankees (and still paying a ton for a playing not even playing for their team anymore), there would be less total money owed and therefore less liability to the team who simply can’t afford a player, or has given up on them for not performing or fitting in with the ball club (Insert every 99% of any Mariner free agent since they moved to Safeco here).
The second is a team wouldn’t be able to lock a player up for an obscene amount of time, but would be forced to keep that player happy to better ensure that they have the upper hand to resign. Coupled with the salary cap, not having the ability to land a ridiculously outrageous contract, teams would have a better ability to re-sign their players.
3. Remove the divisions. It seems like every year there’s 1 team that wins a division with a horrible record. By removing the divisions and making a set number of playoff spots in each league would allow for MLB to schedule a balanced schedule for every team in the league. Unlike Football where it would be impossible to create a balanced schedule due to the number of teams in the league and length of the season, Baseball could virtually remove all scheduling biases. Apparently good ‘ol Bud Selig it’s good for baseball to have the Yankees play the Red Sox like 30 times (a gross overstate, I realize) a season. Hardly unfair to other teams where their “rival” isn’t a team constantly atop the AL standings. If you make each League 15 teams, you could play each team in the league 12 times each, which would allow for each team to have 6 home games and 6 away games against each team. This would get us back to a 154 game season so that we could start the playoffs earlier, add another two teams to the playoffs and give the top seeded team in each league a first round bye or add an additional two teams and add another round. Or you could just keep the playoffs the way they are and we wouldn’t be playing baseball in November…There are a number of possibilities, but it’s kind of sad for Toronto and Baltimore fans knowing that unless they somehow compile a team of all-stars, they have no hope, and even if they do have the best team in baseball, they still have to play more than 30 games against the Yankess and Red Sox which is more than 20% of their schedule. Hardly fair considering there are other leagues that don’t have nearly that level of competition.
4. Fix the All-Star game. Return it to what it was: an exhibition game to celebrate the players (and give the ones lucky enough not to make it some needed rest), give back to the fans, and have fun. To have it decide home field advantage in the World Series is a joke. If they adjusted the format so that the Manager could pick their entire team, maybe I would change my mind. But honestly, having any Pirate on the All-Star team over the past 10+ years is just a shame if the fate of home field advantage is at stake. This changed the whole spirit of the game which was to honor at least one player from each team and provide a unique experience for the players that is special and can not be replicated anywhere else. Now it’s just another game where they are supposed to risk it all for low returns and risk injury playing in a game that really shouldn’t mean anything more than the experience of being a part of the All-Star game. I mean how classic was it to see John Kruk go up against Randy Johnson and “Mr. Snappy” with his helmet on backwards? That sort of spirit is a thing of the past with this new breed of All-Star games
5. Get rid of Bud Selig. No explaination needed here. This is just common knowledge.
What are your thoughts? Is baseball relevant to you? If not, what would it take to get you interested?