Major League Baseball is still the second most popular sport in North America but if it doesn’t adapt to the 21st century that will change.
In some ways, the NBA has already surpassed baseball. The NBA resonates better at the national level and big basketball games will do stronger television ratings than big baseball games.
But at the local level, baseball is still king.
Yet, when it comes to changing and adapting, baseball is holding on to a failing concept that the sport is already perfect. Instead of trying to appeal to a younger audience, they continue to cater to the older diehard fans that would never abandon the sport.
There was a time when the American and National Leagues were indeed separate leagues. But that is no longer the case. So the idea that the two de facto 'conferences' use different rules is absurd.
In one recent game, Alex Colome of the Tampa Bay Rays made his big league debut in a National League ballpark. He was forced to hit even though he had never batted before in his seven year minor league career.
The good news is that the DH is inevitable at this point thanks to the expansion of interleague play and the idea that the players' association would never allow owners to replace high-paying DH jobs with another low-paying bench job.
But in typical MLB fashion, they are dragging their feet.
When it comes to disciplining players, coaches, and managers, the umpire's lone option is the ejection. Unfortunately, this often forces umpires to choose between no punishment or kicking somebody out of a game for something that might not necessarily be worthy of ejection.
And yet, there are a lot instances in baseball that fall in between.
If MLB adopted something akin to soccer's yellow card system (two yellow cards results in ejection), it would allow umpires a second option when it comes to punishment. Baseball could also fine players for accumulating yellow cards.
The result would be more responsibility on the players to avoid multiple minor infractions and fewer quick ejections by the umpires.
Baseball has replay already but it is limited in what it can cover and the system is woefully slow.
All MLB needs to do is add one umpire to each crew. The members of each crew would then take turns sitting in a replay booth watching every play.
If there is a question on any given play, radio up to the booth and ask what the other umpire saw. Make a ruling and move on.
Because as it stands now, the fans at home are in a better position to make a call than the umpires on the field, and that should not happen.
You can make an argument that Derek Jeter and Bryce Harper are the only superstars in the entire sport. There are other popular players, but none that truly resonate outside of baseball.
One thing the NBA excels at is marketing their players and making superstars. Baseball does a terrible job of creating superstars and the salary cap has a lot to do with it.
With cost uncertainty when it comes to salaries, many teams are afraid to market their players out of fear of making them more popular and increasing the individual's value. The result is that the team is the focus in baseball and not the players. While that is fine for many of the older baseball fans, young sports fans crave superstars.
The lack of a salary cap is actually hurting the players off the field. And without superstars, the sport is losing steam.
Some will point to the idea that baseball is the only sport where the coach/manager enters the field of play on a regular basis. That's a silly reason to have a manager wearing a player's uniform.
It's an archaic practice that only serves to show that managers are often out of shape.
The fact is, many managers don't wear jerseys anymore, opting instead for hoodies or windbreakers. So if the managers don't want to wear them, stop forcing them. It just looks bad.
Players want to hit home runs and fans want to see home runs. But nobody wants to see juiced-up players hitting home runs.
The easy solution is to juice the balls up.
This can easily be done by stitching the baseballs a little tighter. That is exactly what many people think happened in 1987 when home runs spiked in MLB, years before steroids became a huge problem.
This move would once again challenge the legitimacy of breaking records. But there is a precedent. In 1969, MLB lowered the mound which immediately led to an increase in scoring. And to the surprise of nobody, the sport survived.
Baseball is a comfort sport. Fans rarely get terribly excited about baseball, but they like having it around at all times. If the NBA is the exciting mistress, baseball is the spouse.
More afternoon games would give fans more opportunities to watch the sport. And baseball is a sport that does well under the sun.
Between weekends and getaway days (final game of a series in which one team must catch a flight to next city) most days of the week already have afternoon games. So it would be easy to expand it to all days and put at least one each day on ESPN or the MLB Network.
Give the fans more options and they will watch more games.
The length of baseball games is not a problem. Afterall, the average baseball game is still shorter than the average NFL game.
However, the pace of many baseball games is a huge problem. And one reason is that there is no limit on the number of timeouts a player can call. If the catcher wants to call timeout and go to the mound, he can do it as often as he wants.
If teams were given a set number of timeouts to use during a game, the pace would pick up.
When it comes to colour, no sport does less to look aesthetically appealing than Major League Baseball. It's as if they haven't realised that the colour television has been invented.
Imagine how boring NFL or NBA games would look if one team wore white jerseys and the other team wore grey jerseys. It would be awful.
Young sports fans don't want boring and simple. Grey jerseys are boring and simple. Many teams have already adopted alternate jerseys that use a colour other than grey. And those teams are using those alternate jerseys more and more. But it is time to scrap the greys all-together.
As it stands now, teams are allowed to add as many as 15 players to their roster in September. The intent of this rule is to allow teams not in contention to evaluate younger players.
But what ends up happening is crucial games that decide who goes to the playoffs are played by teams that don't have the same number of players. One team might have 40 players and the other might only have 30.
And a sport that was played a certain way for 130 games is played completely differently in the final month.
One alternative would be to limit the size of the expanded rosters to something more reasonable, such as 30 players. Another option is to keep the 40-man roster but only allow teams to have 25 active in any one game.
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