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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cut down the time between innings. Run a clock, give teams 2-3 minutes max. Show your commercials but keep the action moving.
- 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.
- 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.