Once a sport inventor, always a sport inventor I guess.
After watching a youth baseball game a few weeks ago and then catching a major league baseball game, it was clear to me why baseball is losing.
It’s too slow. There are too many periods of inactivity. There are 1 million rules and another million unwritten rules. There was a time when the sport made sense for mass appeal, but all everyone wants to talk about these days is football season because there is lots of action — even tho I find football pretty boring and the weather pretty terrible.
Here are some ideas:
1. Shorten the game to 5 innings.
A baseball game is official after 5 innings, so why play nine? No good reason other than that’s how we’ve always done it.
2. Double headers at every game.
No need to shorten the season if you’re having more double-headers and games are shorter. While teams are going to lose money on beer sales and other concessions, small price increases would offset. Plus more games going to extra innings probably wouldn’t hurt.
3. More teams.
Baseball is too regional. Promoting more minor league teams to the majors would help, but this is unrealistic and I don’t want to try to deal with the mental gymnastic of how to make this work. But I do have some ideas.
4. Shorten the season to 144 games.
This is good for the record books because you can almost start from scratch.
5. More geographic balance.
Two teams in New York. Two teams in Chicago. Two LA area teams, plus a team in San Diego. Two teams in Bay Area. It’s no wonder no one cares about baseball. While the NBA lets teams move to Oklahoma City and hockey has success in strange places like Tampa, baseball struggles in those same markets. Requires too much inventory, too many games and too long a season.
6. Split the leagues into a true major circuit and junior circuit.
Promotion and relegation in baseball would surely be interesting. For the purposes of the majors, it wouldn’t actually be true promotion and relegation. You’d just split the majors into say 24 teams in the senior circuit and 12 teams in the junior circuit (so expansion by six teams). The junior circuit teams would vie for a chance to make the senior circuit, but would still compete for a league championship for their own. Good for fans during years when the team is struggling and has minor league attendance has pointed out — people go to baseball games regardless of what’s going on, so it doesn’t really matter. I think people just like winning things or a chance to play for something.
Meanwhile the major circuit could have its own playoff format. It’ll never happen.
7. Raise the mound.
This is overdue.
8. Bring in the fences.
People want offense. Kids want to see home runs, not a 1-0 pitchers duel. Baseball needs to respond with a game that is more fan friendly and not just for t-shirts or giveaways.
9. 1 inning. 27 outs.
In the vein of Twenty20 Cricket, I propose my most radical idea 1/27 baseball. Visiting team gets to bat until they get 27 outs. Then the home team comes up to bat. Think of the drama involved in this? It would change everything out baseball strategy and it’s a lot more like cricket in that way. But if you didn’t change ANYTHING else about the game, it’d be a super interesting spectacle to watch.
You could do things with roster limits if you wanted to combat fatigue, but in general, I think this model at least would create the kind of drama that baseball lacks right now without some of the more drastic changes I’ve proposed.