Dear commissioner Bud Selig,
You may not realize it, but baseball is broken. As a lifelong fan, it really saddens me to say this, but the facts are the facts. Deep down, I have known this for a while, but it really hit me this last week.
I was out having a few drinks with friends, and with spring training just around the corner, the conversation naturally turned to baseball. As we bounced around, AL to NL, division to division, we started to talk about the NL West. When one of my friends mentioned the San Diego Padres, a funny thing happened. A table full of five of the better sports minds I know, all 20 something men, could not come up with more than four players that are on the current San Diego roster.
To put this in perspective, if you would have asked this same group of guys who was the punter of the Jacksonville Jaguars or the backup center for the Charlotte Bobcats, you would have gotten an answer back in about a quarter of a second.
That is when it really dawned on me. Baseball fans are old. And I don't mean that the game is just lacking teen-aged fans, most real fans of the sport are well in to their 40s and up.
Mr. Commissioner, this is a huge problem to your league and the entire future of America's pastime. But today is your lucky day. I have come up with five ways to make baseball more fun and exciting for a new generation fans to make it relevant again.
Expand the Playoffs
Playoffs are fun. Playoffs bring excitement. Most important, playoffs bring in TV viewers and millions of dollars in revenue.
That being said...
- Expand the number of playoff teams in each league from the current 4 to 6 (3 division winners, two receiving first-round byes, and 3 wild card teams)
- Have a best-of-3 wild card round, a best-of-5 division round, and best-of-7 rounds for the league championships and World Series.
Trust me when I say that the 4 wild-card matchups that this would produce would bring in more interest to baseball than the entire month of August provides.
With a 162-game schedule, there are a lot of cool promotions that MLB could and should be doing. Tops on the list for me would be a major league/minor league swap.
The basic premise of the idea is this: Have each MLB team play a 3-game homestand at their Triple-A affiliate's stadium, and have the Triple-A club do the same at the big league ballpark.
In my mind, this would be a huge win-win for baseball. It would allow more people across the country to see baseball be played in person at its highest level, and it would let diehard fans in the big cities get a chance to watch some of their club's great young prospects play in person.
Ability to Cut Players
As baseball fans, we have all seen it a thousand times. Our team's left fielder will hit .245 with 12 HRs a year for 5 seasons until the last year of his contract. And then by some miracle, he manages to hit .314 with 27 HRs just in time to sign a big new deal.
MLB, take a page out of the NFL's playbook . If players have to worry about being cut and missing out on a fat paycheck, they will play harder every game. There is no simpler way to put it.
Universal Playing Field
This has bugged me for years. Why is it in baseball that every playing field has completely different dimensions? Could you imagine watching NFL games in which Green Bay was playing on a 107-yard field and Denver was playing on a 94-yard one? Sounds ridiculous, right?
Baseball is a game of stats and numbers. But how can you put stock in numbers when players do not routinely play on the same size of field?
Reduce the Number of Games
Don't get me wrong, I love baseball and I love watching baseball. But having 162 games is just too much. It makes the season go on about 3 weeks longer than it should and it greatly waters down the talent level in MLB. Half of the No. 4 and 5 starters in baseball have no business being in the big leagues and it shows. A total of 130 to 140 games seems a lot more reasonable to me.
Mr. Commissioner, those are my recommendations. For the sake of our game, please feel free to "borrow" any of my ideas.
Alex Wibholm is an Iowa native and fan of major league baseball. He tries to take in several MLB games every year across the Midwest.