9 Ways To Improve MLB
Baseball has been enjoying record revenue recently, but during that time, it’s seemingly been losing popularity among the masses. The short-sighted would say, “Who cares? Profit is profit.” But such an anomaly isn’t sustainable. There are a few things wrong in the world of baseball. Some are subjective, and some… aren’t. Those things just need to be fixed. Let’s go through nine tweaks that could change the game for the better.
While baseball's national stage is obviously the playoffs, there are 162 games before that and that revenue pays a lot of bills. Further, most of the teams in baseball don't make it into the playoffs, so for fans to feel like they have something at stake outside of a trophy, they need rivalries. And the easiest way to find a rival is to just look who's closest to you. Interleague play has helped, but it needs to be taken further. Your closest opponents are your most hated. Take that hate and use it to sell tickets.
9. Stay Regional before Going National
If you implement a rule, but don’t enforce it…what exactly is going on? The MLB has a policy in place to ensure that pitchers adhere to a shot clock of sorts. If they fail to, they’re warned, then they’re assessed penalty. However, nobody enforces it. Ever. It’s like traveling in the NBA. So, pitchers take a very long time between pitches. And considering there are 200 pitches per game, that drags things out. Speed it up. Make the threat real. There’s nothing taken away from shaving three seconds off the ritual. That’s ten minutes a game right there.
8. Speed Things Up on the Pitching Side
The longer the batter waits, the more inclined he is to call time and drag things out even longer. I’m a little more sympathetic to the batter since he’s at the mercy of the pitcher, but let’s try to keep them in the box. Your spikes are plenty clean, I promise.
7. Speed Things Up on the Batting Side
Some of these points are objectively (at least in my opinion) pretty good ideas. But some of them change the nature of the game to an extent that baseball can’t half-ass the changes. Decide if 162 games is too long. The old guard will likely say no, younger generations, perhaps a little less patient, will want the stakes of each game to be raised. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but baseball needs to figure out in a lot of different ways, if it wants to reinvent the game or keep going as it has. Because splitting the difference will likely piss everyone off.
6. Decide Whether or Not It Wants to Reinvent Itself for a New Generation
There have been so many TV schedule debacles in the past five years or so, it’s remarkable they haven’t made this a higher priority. Baseball has gotten better about this, maybe even “good,” but if you want people to see your games, schedule as few against each other as is possible, and never, ever, ever, ever go up against an NFL game. Maybe a Thursday night game. In the first round. But that’s it. Granted, this doesn’t directly improve baseball, but it gets more people to watch the game, and the bigger a part of the popular consciousness baseball remains, the better it will be.
5. Take the Person Who Schedules Their Playoff Games Into the Street and Execute Him
Baseball, maybe more than any other sport, has built itself on icons. Staid celebrity players. In all sports, as attention spans shorten, those icons become fewer. But baseball is reeling from that, and a mass phase out of the old-guard of stars. There are new ones waiting in the wings, but they need to be marketed differently. Ads don’t make stars anymore. Take the “Hunter Peyton can’t Parallel Park” business and market the hell out of it. It’s fun, it gets his name out there, and it gives the games a slight human interest tint. It’s not hard, but it needs to be done.
4. Cultivate Your Superstars
This may sound silly, but it’s foolish to think that baseball can compete with the NBA or NFL in terms of excitement or swagger. It can’t. But as those sports price out their fans and offer very little peripheral amenities besides the game, baseball has always worked to give the fans something else. Three-and-a-half hours in a chair is a long time. Even die-hard fans will want to stretch their legs. And where players stretch their legs, there’s money to be made. I don’t think you need t-shirt cannons and strobe lights, but keep pushing what works. The walkout music is fun for every one. The races around the warning track are fun. Make baseball's more of an experience than other sports, which are just games.
3. Focus More on Being a Pastime Than a Sport
Honestly, I don’t know a good way to do this. And I’m a huge fan of pitching duels and low-scoring games. But for a sport to get traction, you need highlights. And a lack of offense, or even strikeouts don’t make for good highlights. I can say this, being a better critic than an author: Don’t just make home runs easier. Since some unpleasantness in the late 90’s and early 00’s, people get creeped out by home runs. Speed and contact hitting seems to be where it’s at. Again, I don’t know how to facilitate those things, other than maybe giving runners more favorable rulings, and getting more players on base for big plays, offensive and defensive.
2. Get Some Offense Going
Having trouble getting people to your games? Do one concession item and do it better than anyone else. I know that doesn’t sound easy, but it is in that everything tastes better at a ballpark. A hot dog tastes best when it’s $9 and eaten in an uncomfortable plastic chair. No idea why. It just does. People will crave that food and that alone will get the fair-weather fans to the ballpark once a year, and they will spend money on that item. Get a celebrity chef to make something simple and fun. Then promote the sh*t out of it to make it a necessity for the ballpark experience.