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Unsolicited Advice for New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

Any reader of this blog knows I’m a sports nut. I love football, basketball, soccer, golf, and just about any other sport.

I like the idea of Major League Baseball… I’ve been to lots of MLB games, a couple years ago we even dipped our toes into buying a package of tickets at Petco.

But I’ve since given up completely because the product of Major League Baseball lost it’s allure. I’d rather not go as opposed to find a way to go. Nostalgia only gets so much interest when the product on the field is defined by it’s boringness, worse it’s boorish attitude that it’s sense of historic value would be bothered by making the game more interesting to watch.

Yesterday, MLB announced that Rob Manfred has been hired to replace Buddy Selig as the new commissioner of baseball.

I think he has a tough job ahead. The NFL, NBA, and NCAA football and basketball are surging in popularity. And the rising popularity of the World Cup, 100,000 fans in Ann Arbor for a friendly, or even Sounder’s game in Seattle proves that soccer and specifically, MLS is on the rise. While it’s true soccer is a step-child to most other popular sports… don’t forget that it’s the world’s most popular game when the United States is rapidly changing demographically.

With the least interesting part of the regular season to come, there are more teams with less than 60% of their stadium filled on an average night than there were a year ago. Plus, fewer teams have more than 90% average attendance in 2014 than in 2012 or 2013. (Don’t forget about TV. TV is down,  too.)

So, with that in mind, I thought I’d offer a few unsolicited bits of advice for Mr. Manfred.

  1. You’ve got to speed up the game. Have you been to a game lately? Not much excitement. 95% of the game is like a middle school track meet. Too much talking, too much stretching, not enough action. You could easily shave 30 minutes off the typical game and increase the enjoyment of the live experience. A soccer player runs miles and miles each game. A baseball player trots to position and waits for something interesting to happen.
  2. De-emphasize the historical stats. Does anyone really care who is the best left-handed 3rd basemen when facing a sidearm pitcher from Canada? Of course not. It makes no difference to the outcome of the game. It’s all just time filler for a boring product on TV.
  3. Forget instant replay, you need a pitching clock. Pitchers hold the ball too long. It’s not unusual for there to be 30 seconds between pitches. Give the pitcher 10 seconds to deliver the ball to the catcher or first base. Never allow the batter to step out of the box to reset it either. If the pitcher doesn’t release the ball in 10 seconds, it’s a balk and the batter advances.
  4. Cut down the time between innings. Run a clock, give teams 2-3 minutes max. Show your commercials but keep the action moving.
  5. Loosen the strike zone. Watch the Little League World Series. With a less strict strike zone batters have to actually bat and defend the plate, making more contact with the ball and keeping the game moving.
  6. Give up the PED hoax. Let’s keep it real… PEDs have been part of baseball forever. Speeding up the game is going to keep players honest anyways. But if a guy wants to pull a Mark McGuire and put on 50 lbs of bulk in the off-season, let him. People like to see the ball fly 780 feet. And if that player wants to shrink his testicles to make that happen… well, it’s a free country, right?

What are your ideas for making MLB more interesting? Heck, what are some things you’d do to make other boring sports more interesting to watch? Leave a comment and share your ideas. Best idea gets to own the Indians. 

Photo credit: Fenway Park by Werner Kunz via Flickr (Creative Commons)

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

5 replies on “Unsolicited Advice for New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred”

I would say cut the number of games in the season. I don’t have time to devote 9 months out of the year on a sport let alone try to focus on more than one at a time. Get rid of the sport season overlap for the major 4 (Football, Baseball, Hockey, Basketball). Make the season 3-4 months and you’ve got something.

Funny–your comments almost mirror the comments Mike Greenberg of ESPN gave earlier this week.

Understand, I am a HUGE baseball fan and had season tickets when we lived in KC. I still attend 10-12 games/year. I appreciate the historical element of it and find it is one of the things that separates baseball from other sports (in a good way, in my opinion).

I like the idea of a pitching clock and the clock between innings to speed up the game. College games use the pitching clock to great effect. Re. the strike zone–no need to expand it. Just call the strike zone according to what the rule book says it is–from the crook in the knee to the letters across the chest. That’s why LL games go fast–the umpires there, as a general rule, do call it by that definition and players expect the ball to be around that area.

Totally disagree on the PED issue. That said, I DO think MLB needs to spend less time talking about the issue. If a player tests positive, simply send out a press release indicating why and the penalty, and then there is no further discussion. MLB can strongly encourage clubs and players not to talk to the media about it either. If the media doesn’t have a story, they’ll stop reporting it. Besides, MLB isn’t the only sport that enforces this. Just in the last week 3 NFL players were suspended for the same thing.

Two things I would add:
1) Immediately reinstate Pete Rose & Shoeless Joe Jackson but keep them from being involved in the active game today (e.g. Rose couldn’t be hired as a manager, hitting coach or even adviser to the GM). They have both served their penalty, and by lifting the ban, it would make both of them eligible for the Hall of Fame.
2) This pains me to say this as a NL fan, but install the DH in both leagues. No one cares to see the pitcher bunt, or as happens more often, strike out weakly.

Not uncommon for a pitcher to spend 30 seconds between pitches? I think it’s more like uncommon for a pitcher NOT to take 30 seconds! When I’m trying to watch a recorded game back, I routinely hit the 30 second fast forward button between pitches and don’t miss anything. Good stuff, hope some of it comes.

I love your first 5. Of the major sports, MLB is the only one to have a real PED policy. I’d hate to see them give it up. I’d like to see the penalties become more stringent though, something that I think will happen in the next collective bargaining agreement.

I’m no sort of purest, so:
– 40 game season. 2 games per week.
– 8 inning games.
– teams can only carry 5 pitchers total.

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