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?