If you could change anything in baseball…

My conversation with Dan Okrent —in which I asked which three things he would fix about baseball—got me to thinking what I might change in the game should I be magically granted that power. These may be idealistic, but isn’t that the whole point of the exercise? Let me know what you think, and what you might change in the sport.

1. Adopt the NBA/NHL playoffs system (do away with divisions)

“Aaron Boone’s walk off-home run, big gap, Evan Longoria’s walk off-home run”

Above is a fictional answer to the question, “What are you favorite baseball memories of the last, say, two decades?” Which Evan Longoria home run? This one, of course. The game wasn’t too shabby, either, and the drama on the last day of the season was tremendous. This graph tells the whole story—the most epic collapse in baseball history, one might say.

That said, even as a total Yankees homer, I’m of the mind that the boys from Boston should have been the fifth seed in the AL East rather than having respective seats on their respective couches in October. A 90-win team should always make the playoffs, and the top six to eight teams in each league should always make the playoffs. Depending on the number you decide on—eight out of 15 teams in each league in the NHL and NBA works well—you could very well assign a first-round bye for the top two teams.

The argument was brought up in a 2010 Chicago Tribune online post. Bill Kline wrote, in explaining the small-market disadvantage that might result:

For some small-market teams, that would mean goodbye forever to the playoffs. No way the Pirates ever beat out 11 other NL teams to make the playoffs. But occasionally there is a chance the Pirates can scrape together, say, 83 wins, and beat the other five teams in the NL Central in a down year. Please, baseball, no division revision.

I think this is a false concern. The St. Louis Cardinals are a realistic example. One might argue that a team like the Cardinals, who snuck into the playoffs with an 83-78 record in 2006, might not make the playoffs, might not go on a tear, and might not win the World Series. To those people, I say you are wrong.

The Cardinals would have been the fifth seed last year, and in any other case, the argument can be extended to, “Does the team even deserve to be in the playoffs if they win a terribly weak division as a barely above-average team?” I can’t figure out for the life of me why they would. Then again, I’m a Yankee fan.

2. Take away All-Star Game home-field advantage

This strikes me as the biggest no-brainer. I understand what Selig & Co. were aiming for with this rule; obviously, putting more on the line will make the game tense, and gripping drama and, thus, raise TV viewership and revenue. This may be the cause. Fewer people were tuning into the Midsummer Classic, and throwing the World Series home-field advantage on the line was a clear (albeit illogical) way to drum up interest.

There are a few basic problems here. First, how the hell can you justify making the game so incredibly important if you let the fans vote for the players? “If fans vote, they’ll watch” and “If a ton is on the line, they’ll watch,” are separately logical conclusions but when put together, totally contradictory. Secondly, it hasn’t worked.

Check out this article. It’s all the MLB should need to do away with the ridiculous rule.

As for all of you, what changes would you make?

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Comments

  1. Brian Standing said...

    Eliminate the major league / minor league farm system model. No player development contracts and every team is on its own.  Reorganize the majors and minors in a way similar to the way European club soccer is organized.  The worst Major League team in each league each year gets dropped to AAA, the worst AAA team gets dropped to AA, and so on all the way down the line.  Meanwhile, the best AA team gets moved up to AAA, and the best AAA team gets to play in the Show. 

    So, based on last year, in 2012, Houston and Minnesota would be playing in the minors, while the majors would welcome in Columbus and Sacramento.

    With a little thought, you could extend the model to include the Mexican, Carribbean, Central American and Japanese leagues, too.

  2. John Ziccardi said...

    Electronic Home Plate Umpiring. Just like the lines in tennis which have eliminated virtually all argument. Have the correct call relayed into the plate umpire’s earpiece and let me call it out like they do now. No appeals. The game would be vastly improved.

  3. Jim G. said...

    1. A hard salary cap. Allow every team the opportunity to keep the stars they develop. Big market teams (or otherwise financially successful teams) could take their excess money and lower ticket prices and build their own stadiums. (How’s that for idealistic?)

    2. Eliminate the DH. It’s time to purge these incomplete ballplayers from the game. If it’s too frightening to put you in the field, it’s time to hang them up.

    3. Too many players are not getting out of the way of a HBP. There’s no fear. Or this brushing your uniform nonsense. I’m sick of seeing players get on because a pitch nipped a button. My rule would be: all hit by pitches would be a ball unless it hits you in the head, hands or wrists. BUT -  a pitcher is ejected if a two batters are hit in the same inning or a batter is hit two times in the same game. It does not matter if it’s the same pitcher. Whoever is pitching on the 2nd HBP is tossed.

  4. Michael Scully said...

    Since the Cardinals won the WC wouldn’t they be the 4th seed? I think you meant “that” instead of “last”.

  5. Nick Fleder said...

    Very interesting ideas, guys. Some more radical, certainly, than others, but all worthy.

    Michael, good catch. I did mean “that”

  6. Shane said...

    1) 7 inning games. ( The number of positive things resulting from just this one change are dramatic. )

    2) Some type of revenue sharing system. It would be hard for the Yankees/Sox/whoever to make a bajillion dollars a year if they didn’t have the rest of the league to play against.

    3) 140 game schedule.

    4) 2 leagues, 3 divisions, 8 teams/division.

    5) Playoffs :
      A) Divisional winners get first round off
      B) 2 wild card teams from each league,
        winner goes on to face team with best record.
      C) All series are best of 9.

    6) Instant Replay
      A) Manager can request IR on any play, any time.
      B) Once manager is over-ruled twice, he no longer has any IR requests.
      C) If the game goes into extra innings, Manager IR requests are reset.
      D) Electronic Umpiring for all balls/strikes

    7) Supensions and fines for blocking any base, including home plate.

    8) 2 bases for intentional walks.

    9) Cy Young, Ted Williams, and Ozzie Smith Awards.

    10) MVP award must go to 1 of the 3 winners above.

    11) No Saves statistic.

    12) Holds
      A) must face at least 2 batters.
      C) must get at least 1 out.
      B) no more than 2 runs can seperate the teams.
      C) no runners may score, including inherited runners.
      D) must be in 6th inning or later.

    13) No crying.

  7. GlenW said...

    Get rid of the All-Star game and shorten the season. Also make opening day an opening weekend with day games on Saturdays in the warm weather cities. In fact, most of April should be in warm weather cities (domes can be warm too). All network TV revenues should be distributed among all teams equally, especially the play-offs. World Series should completed by mid October.
    I agree with Dave W that batters should have to stay in the box, especially when previous pitch was a ball. He didn’t swing, why does he need to adjust everything?

  8. peter said...

    John Ziccardi you’ve got it right.  Computerized strike zone – relayed to the ump.  Nobody loses their job and the game has the same feel – with one big difference – they always get the call right.  This would make a drastic difference for pitchers who Really can hit the corners and batters who Really can lay off a pitch just outside the zone.  What an exciting game that would be! 

    This is the one and only major and maddening flaw in MLB in my opinion.

    Some people fear this would somehow detract from the game – but I think it would add enormously to the entertainment value.

  9. reggie Berizko-White said...

    I would like to see the American League eliminatethe DH. Baseball survived for many years with pich hitters batting for pichers at strategic times in game. The DH takes from the game not add to it

  10. Mateo said...

    @ Brian (#1):  So Joe Mauer would not get a chance to play in the majors this year?

    In my opinion, the one thing about the game that is screaming for change is replay.  Institute whatever electronic measures are needed to SIMPLY GET THE CALL RIGHT EVERY TIME.  Also, ban Joe Buck from all ballparks.

  11. Jeff said...

    1.  Eliminate allowing 2 coaches visits to the mound.  It is just a stall tactic which slows games down.  Pitchers are big boys, they can figure out what to do.
    2.  No All-Star game meaning.  If some method is needed, use total interleague records as the standard.
    3.  Mandate pitchers get a minimum of 1 out or pitch to 3 batters.
    4.  As everyone else said- no DH
    5.  No challenging suspensions.  This is a joke, allowing a player to be suspended for the most opportune series for the player.

  12. Southpaw said...

    My 2 centavos:

    1) Keep the DH. We got to enjoy many players in their later years who couldn’t field but could still hit.  Example: David Ortiz, Red Sox (who couldn’t field even in his salad days, maybe a bad example)

    2) Compress playoff schedules with fewer off-days. It now takes a month to play 15-18 games. November is for pumpkin pie and raking leaves, not shivering baseball. The off days tempt too many managers to over pitch their 3 best starters w/too little rest. Also punishes teams in playoffs who got there with deep 5 man rotations.

    3)Return to 154 game schedule to start the aforementioned playoffs a week earlier, which will   grow to god knows how many brackets in the future.

    4)After instituting (3) above, forever cocoon all records from 1961-present (the 162 game era) with a big, fat (*). This will also conveeeeniently seal off the excessive steroid fueled statistical records from the 90’s.  To also note, to this day, more seasons were played under 154 games than 162.

  13. Dave W said...

    I would like to see the batter have to stay in the batter’s box and be ready to hit.  Hopefully that would speed up the game.  When you watch the old games on ESPN Classic (by old I mean the 1980’s), it’s amazing how anyone could hit without stepping out and adjusting their gloves before every pitch.  How did Puckett do it?

  14. Wild Bill said...

    The biggest thing to put Baseball right again would be to adopt a television contract exactly like the NFL has. Basically all television contracts are done by MLB and all money from said contract to be divided evenly amongst each team. Thus small market teams can compete with large market teams, like Green Bay does in Football.

  15. Jim G. said...

    This really has become an interesting thread.
    A couple comments:
    @Southpaw – Ortiz is exactly the player I think should be retired. I’ll trade some sad pitcher at bats for the strategy no DH installs in the game. Plus, I prefer to see a great defensive play over a 500 foot HR any day, so I’m definitely bias against the DH.
    @Brian – the other problem with the soccer club setup is that all of a sudden Sacramento and Columbus need a major league park. Not necessarily out of the question for cities that size, but it is if there’s no guarantee there will be MLB played there. Then what about cities like Toledo. How could they handle a major league team? And that’s just triple A. What about when the Beloits or the Huntsvilles or the Corpus Christis work their way up? It was an interesting idea, but I just don’t see it working.
    I do like the replay suggestions.

  16. Shane said...

    While the absence of a DH does necessitate more moves on a manager’s part, it decreases the actual strategy in a game.

    The National League is virtually the only organized baseball league that does not use the Designated Hitter in its games. I like the fact that the AL has a DH and the NL doesn’t.

  17. Southpaw said...

    @Shane : Amen, brotha.  If MLB is going to re-align in 2013, ship Milwaukee back to the AL. I miss the DH, too.

  18. southsidemike said...

    So many good suggestions above…

    My Choices:
    Computerized strike zone, and lower mound to pre-68 level
    These two will speed up the game

    Salary cap that evens the field

    And a final throw-in for us true baseball fans…reinstitute the summer Sunday double-header to shorten the season.  Not the day-nite rip-off we have now.

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