Baseball is dying. Older fans miss the game they had grown to love. Young people find it boring. It needs to adapt, but they shouldn’t fundamentally change the game. We say “no” to the Designated Hitter or any other gimmicks. Players need to play both defense and offense. They need to run the bases, and field their positions. The changes we’re proposing are all geared towards putting more action in the game. A higher percentage of pitches need to be put in play. Good defense and daring base running is exciting, and needs to be encouraged. Finally, the people in control of the game need to bring young people back. Make baseball more family friendly. Make your biggest event, the World Series, accessible to everyone, and finally, let the event be a reward for your best teams.
PHYSICAL CHANGES TO BALLPARKS
Move the fences back, preferably to about 500 ft. This would take the over the fence home run out of the game. It would bring one of the most exciting plays in baseball back in, the inside the park home run. Triples and doubles would also increase. This would force speed back into the game. A team could not afford one dimensional sluggers on their rosters. The long ball would still be important, but if the hitter doesn’t have speed, then the long fly would only amount to a double, while if the hitter has speed, any ball that gets by the outfielders is a potential home run.
This move also makes defense in the outfield crucial. Teams wouldn’t be able to put a player in the field who couldn’t cover ground. Again, rewarding speed at the sacrifice of power. This change would not affect players with both speed and power. The Mike Trouts and Cody Bellingers of the world would still thrive. Any ball they hit that gets by the outfielders is a potential triple or home run. Both the inside the park home run and triple are much more exciting to the fans than a traditional over the fence home run.
Another plus from this change would be how pitchers attack hitters. Not fearing the long ball as much would encourage pitchers to throw strikes, trusting their defense to make plays. More balls put in play is better for the fans.
This change would also bring the Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew and Pete Rose type hitter back in the game. These guys had no problem going the other way. They were hitters who didn’t swing for the fences. Are there any of those type players in baseball today? A hitter like that would hit more home runs in this environment, not less. Exciting players like Maury Wills, Louis Aparicio, and Bert Campanaris would return to the game. With the increase of players with speed, the stolen base would make a comeback.
Change strikeouts and walks to two strikes and three balls. This would force pitchers to throw strikes and get batters to swing early in the count. The immediate consequences will be more walks and strikeouts, but baseball would quickly adapt, signing more contact hitters and pitchers who can control the strike zone. The number of pitches to the average at bat will shrink, at the minimum by one, but probably closer to two. Fewer pitches mean shorter games. Another anticipated plus from this change would be fewer pitching changes. If the change reduces the number of pitches per at bat by two, that would reduce the number of pitches for starting pitchers by about 20%. Complete games would increase, and innings thrown by the team’s best pitchers will increase. These are all positive developments, but the most significant impact would be a higher percentage of pitches will be put in play. More action is better for the fans.
Have technology call balls and strikes, taking it away from the umpires. Baseball has a major problem when the fans at home can witness the many errors made by the home plate umpires. This is not a knock on umpires. Calling balls and strikes is a near impossible task. If technology can do it better, it should. Good for the fans and good for baseball.
BRINGING IN YOUNG FANS
Encourage teams to donate one game a week to families. On that day you might run a promotion that an entire family can attend a game for $20. Or allow an adult into the game at full price and children under 12 (or 16) in for $5. There’s probably other ways to make the game more accessible to young people. Capture them when they’re young and you have them for a lifetime.
Get rid of the Wild Card. Fans understand that a team that does not win their division is obviously not the best team in baseball. I’m a life-long baseball fan, but my interest in the World Series has never been lower. Not one of the seven games in this year’s World Series did I watch the entire game. Sorry Washington fans, but your team did not deserve to be there. The best solution to resurrect the World Series is to again pit the team with the best record in the National League against the team with the best record in the American League. Due to the money involved, this is not going to happen. But baseball could expand to 32 teams, and then split into eight 4-team divisions. At least this would eliminate situations where a second or third place teams wins the World Series.
The other suggestion to save the World Series is to never start a game after 6 PM Eastern Time. This could be a hardship for west coast viewers, but it would put the late innings on at a reasonable time for the entire nation. Young people can again watch the game at its best.
Baseball has a glorious history, but changes have been made throughout its history. We think these changes would not fundamentally change the game, but would make it a much more watchable game.