5 Ideas to Improve Major League Baseball

mlbI love Major League Baseball. And while I am an avid sports fan in general, Major League Baseball has always been my favorite. Strumings readers already know my passion for the Yankees, but Yankees haters will be happy to know that this Struming is not about the Yankees.

August 1 represents the completion of the second leg of three for baseball. Four months down, two to go. July 31 is always exciting since it’s the non-waiver trading deadline. (Note: Players who clear waivers can be moved in August). Several big players moved in July, including Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano, Jake Peavy, Ian Kennedy, and others

Unfortunately, at the same time that baseball interest is peaking as the season moves into the later months, the chatter about steroid abuse still rages and suspensions for many players are forthcoming imminently. Yes, this needs to happen, and I am happy to see the Players Union embrace punishments for the guilty. But once we get past the PED discussion which will ultimately fade, I wish there was more discussion about simple, but really important changes needed to make the great game even greater.

One of the great qualities about baseball are its traditions, some of which should always remain. But in order to make a great game even greater, things also need to change. Here are my ideas on making baseball an even better game:

1. DH in both leagues

Imagine the AFC playing with the 2 point conversion, but not the NFC. How about 3 pointers for West Conference in the NBA but none for the Eastern Conference? That’s what’s been happening in baseball since the 70s, and I don’t get it. There are purists who want the pitchers to hit—I respect their point of view. In fact deep down I agree. Others say that most pitchers are automatic outs and that makes the game boring. Here’s where I stand—The Major League Baseball Players Union will not allow the DH to die since there are a handful of players whose sole value (and talent) is hitting. The elimination of the DH would push them out of baseball. So whether you like the DH or not, it is a reality, so let’s make the NL and AL rules the same and have the DH in both leagues.

2. Expand to 32 teams and change the playoff format

Yes I know there are some weak franchises of the 30 teams now, some of which are struggling to survive. Solving the overarching problems of baseball will help them to some degree. Many of the problems weaker franchises face are self-inflicted. Bad stadium locations, owners which suck the enthusiasm of the market, and poor performance. These need to be solved individually. But from a macro perspective adding 2 more franchises bringing the total to 32 would change the structure of the leagues in several ways. I would suggest that MLB adopt the NFL model. 8 divisions –4 in the AL , 4 in the NL. Division Winners make the playoffs, as do 2 Wild Cards in each league. That’s 12 teams in total. Actually 2 more teams than the current 10. Those in the Commissioner’s Office who want meaningful games for more teams later in the season ought to like this.

Then give a first round bye to the top 2 NL division winners and top 2 AL division winners (a major incentive to play hard until the end of September even if they’ve clinched the division early). Then make the first round a 3 game series (all 3 games at the parks of the Division winners to reward them), and then move the final 8 teams into the traditional Division series, League Championship Series and World Series.  5 game series for Division Series and only a  5 game Championship Series, then 7 games for World Series. This ends the season at roughly the same time, but allows for an extra round, rather than the one-game wild card which I hate.

3. Cut WAY Back on Interleague Play

4 games a year per team max. That’s it. (I’d prefer it be eliminated entirely) But playing just 4 interleague games is enough to have a small taste. It truly stinks to have interleague play all throughout the year, but the current 15-team leagues forces it. Interleague play  diminishes the World Series and the All Star Game (by the way having the All Star Game “count” is a joke—it’s an exhibition). The solution for who gets 4 World Series games is simple– the team with the best record hosts 4 games.

4. Make Penalties for PED use harsher

The penalties need to be much harsher. MLB needs make PED use so painful and costly that fewer abuses will occur. The Players Union might now be open for doing this. Baseball need to move the dialog away from PEDs. It takes the focus away from the game and focuses it on cheaters. The irony is that Jose Canseco, one the game’s true creeps, was right all along years ago. If there was a more credible spokesperson years ago, perhaps we’d be past the issues by now.

5. Set a maximum salary cap of $200 Million

Yes this would hurt my beloved Yankees who’ve been the biggest spenders in the last 15 years, but they will live at $200 Million. And force every team to spend a minimum of $100 Million on salaries. Taking these actions will move the discussion away from salaries and “buying championships”, which by the way is impossible to do.

Baseball is America’s pastime. Baseball is American History. Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson are American legends. Though the game is financially stronger in the Selig era, in other ways it has been usurped by the NFL as the most beloved.

There’s nothing like baseball. And there never will be.

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  1. Some good ideas here, worthy of consideration. My 2 cents:

    1. The DH rule has dumbed the game down. NL baseball is a much better game — double switches and REAL managerial decisions on changing pitchers are where much of the strategy comes into play. Want to see more offense? Why not go all the way and have different offensive and defensive lineups? You are correct about the players’ union, though.
    2. Your playoff idea has some merit. But let’s give the new playoff formula a chance to see if it works. The two wild card system we now have is ok, I think.
    3. I TOTALLY agree. And with the exception of Yanks/Mets, Cubs/Chisox, and Dodgers/angels, does anyone care about inter league play?
    4. Agree on PEDs.
    5. I’ve LONG argued for a hard salary cap, AND real revenue sharing (a la the NFL). So I can agree here as well.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Thanks for feedback John. Good stuff. I want MLB game to be better. And I also want our Giants to win another Super Bowl. And yes, I want the Yankees to win every year (though I suspect you don’t agree on the last point). Look forward to seeing you & Ben later this month. Been too long.

  2. Will says:

    1. The DH, what is wrong with leaving it the way it is? It has been working just fine since the 70’s so leave it alone. We don’t need to have every american sport following strict rules of law for consistency. Baseball is way more fun by having diversity across the board. It is the only sport where the field and dimensions change at every park, following your logic all teams should play in perfectly symetrical consistent parks. If you watched the Dodgers Yankees game last night it is pretty easy to see the fun and strategy in the late innings as each manager tried to manage the pitcher hitting. No reason to change it.
    2. Why do we need more rounds of playoffs? When could we fit in any more the season is long, and perfectly so the game is a marathon and not a sprint, but to add another 3 game series will only add an extra week to an already long process. In baseball ‘Byes’ do not work, the players need to play daily to maintain their timing and consistency, most teams and managers would argue that a ‘bye’ is a disadvantage. As far as adding 2 more teams, I am all for it as long as they are not in the USA. Is it time for a Peurto Rican team or a Dominican Team?
    4. Agree 100% on PED’s a lifetime ban and loss of contract should be the deal. I can sympathize with the yankees who paid A-Rod in 2007 when he was far and away the best player in the histroy of the game and thought to be clean, to find out his skill was greatly enhanced by steroids meant we paid based on a performance level that was not real and the performance decline would be more significant. PED use should have contract ramifications. On the other hand a team like the blue jays who award Melky Cabrera a contract after a PED suspension should be ‘buyer beware’
    5. A salary cap would have a significant challenge in being approved by the Union and as the game continues to grow we would expect annual laborous negotiations concerning expanding the Cap to grow with revenues. A minimum spend level would also be difficult for teams in some markets, and it is also proven to not be required to win, the Oakland A’s seem to be successful with out it.
    6. Draft picks do not need these significant signing bonuses
    7. No expanded instant replay, some calls will be wrong and affect the outcome of games but the human element is important in our game and society

  3. Lonny Strum says:

    Thanks for feedback Wil. I respect your opposing points of view but it’s hard for me to agree in the basic rules of the game (DH) being different in the AL than the NL. But it’s been that way for 40 years now, so I guess it’s hardly fatal.

  4. Harley says:

    1. Terrible idea. No DH in either league and only used in the All-Star exhibition. It takes away the strategy and the advantage of the pitchers that can hit.

    2. Agreed on going to 32 teams, 4 teams and 4 divisions per league and using the same playoff system as the NFL. I would be open to a team in Mexico and re-alignment. Each team should have a sister team in the opposite league that is within reasonable driving distance. More why later.

    3. Inter league play needs better structure. Each year a team would play one home and one away 3 game series against the teams of one other division, rotating each year. This makes it possible to see every team in every stadium over the course of 4 years without overkill.

    In addition, each team should have a home and away, 3 game series against their sister team. For Philly, they could play Baltimore each year which is interesting, an easy drive, create bragging rights and good for both cities.

    4. Agreed on tougher penalties that include lifetime bans.

    5. Agreed on a salary cap but it has to be somewhat attainable for all teams with some type of revenue share to make it possible. Again, look at the NFL for guidance.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Thanks, Harley. I can live with no DH. But having different rules for each league is far worse than having the DH. Let’s kill it or embrace it.

      • Harley says:

        Kill it. How lame is that you need to have someone else hit for a pitcher. They’re pro athletes, right?

        Another point: The season is too long and I’d like to see it end on Labor Day and start playoffs on that Wednesday. It would make the games count for more. I know they will never cut the # games because of records and the lost media dollars. You know the media industry wants as much as they can get.

  5. Richard Wells says:

    1) The DH should be eliminated from the AL.
    2) There should be FEWER teams, not more. Fewer teams overall will raise the overall level of play, since weaker players will not land on any team.
    3) Interleague play is completely pointless and should be eliminated entirely. The novelty wore off a long time ago and reserving interleague play to the WS adds an element of surprise to the games.
    4) I’m willing to wait a little bit to see if the current PED punishments are sufficient to change player behavior. One gets the sense they are starting to get the message. Of course, punishment can always be increased later.
    5) A salary cap would probably help with parity among teams.
    6) The season should be SHORTENED by a couple of weeks, especially to accommodate the extra playoff games. As it is, the WS often extends into early November. It ain’t right.

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