5 Ideas to Improve Major League Baseball
I 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.