Let’s back away from the heavy topics and have a little fun with sports.
How many times have you watched a sporting event and said, “If I was in charge, I’d do that differently.” Yeah, me too. So today, I’d like to start a series of posts around the theme, “If I was Emperor.” We’ll start with baseball.
Why start here? Pitchers and catchers report for spring training this week, with positions players reporting next week. I haven’t completely recovered from my beloved Indians blowing a 3 games to 1 lead and losing the World Series, the 69th consecutive season without a title. And MLB just got a new collective bargaining agreement that doesn’t have any of my suggestions in it, but one day they will realize I know everything and put these things in.
1. Shorten the season. Right now, the season is 162 games in 182 days (that’s 26 weeks). Four of those 20 off days occur in July at the All-Star break. So really there are 16 off days in 25 weeks. That wears even the greatest athletes out. With the playoffs now expanded to include a Wild Card game, best of 5-game Division Series, and best of 7-game League Championship Series and World Series, the season now ends in November. This after starting spring training – at least for pitchers & catchers – around Valentine’s Day. So item #1 is to lop off 1 week of spring training. Then for the regular season, cut back to 150 games in 175 days (25 weeks). You’ll still have 4 off days at the All-Star break, but this still leaves the players 21 off days in 24 weeks of play. With 1 less week of spring training & regular season games each, the season ends the 3rd week of October like God intended it to.
2. Expand the American League. Add 2 teams. There’s a lot of clamoring to give Montreal a new team, so give them one (provided the billionaire that owns it pledges to build a new stadium with his/her own money). Give another city an expansion team, preferably in the Western US. Then you can divide each 16-league team into 4 divisions of 4 teams each. This will allow you to….
3. Stabilize the schedule. With your new league setup, you can now go to an NFL model of scheduling. Each team plays 24 interleague games, 6 games each against every team in 1 division, rotating each year. Each team would also play 6 games against the 12 teams in their own league in the other 3 divisions. That makes 96 games against teams outside your division. You would play the 3 other teams in your division 18 times each, a total of 54 games, to round out the 150-game schedule. This would eliminate the annual intra-city / intra-state interleague games that happen every year, like Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox and Reds-Indians. But those games would get even more special if they occurred once every 4 years. This would also ensure every team in a division plays the same schedule.
4. Make the National League use the Designated Hitter. I really get tired of this old, nonsensical notion that the National League plays a better brand of baseball without the DH. People go on and on about how much better it is in the NL since the pitcher has to bat, even though pitchers’ batting averages are typically 200 points lower than position players. They babble about the higher morality of singles, bunts and stolen bases, instead of the impure American League where everyone just waits for the 3-run homer (as if there are no NL teams that live on home runs, and forgetting that the Indians stole more bases than everyone else last year, and it wasn’t even close). And the card played most often? The double switch. People bloviate all day about how much better NL baseball is because the double switch is a critical strategy to employ. For the un-indoctrinated, the double switch is when the manager comes in to take the pitcher out of the game, and at the same time takes one of the position players out as well. In this scenario, the position player switches place with the pitcher in the batting order. For example, if the Cubs are playing the Mets and winning by 1 run in the 7th inning, and the pitcher is due to lead off the bottom of the inning for the Cubs, their manager might come out to bring in a new pitcher, but will stop at home plate and tell the umpire that in addition to the pitching change, he’s going to bring in a new catcher, and the old catcher was batting 8th. After the replacements are made, the catcher now bats 9th while the pitcher bats 8th. This means when the Cubs come to bat, the catcher bats first and all 8 other spots in the lineup will bat before the new pitcher’s spot in the batting order comes up. Why would a team use this strategy? TO KEEP THE PITCHER FROM BATTING, because he can’t hit worth a crap. The only pitcher on Earth who can actually bat is Madison Bumgarner of the Giants. He’s actually a very good hitter. The rest of them can’t hit their weight. And how often does this double switch happen around the National League? About once or twice a week, if you’re lucky. But NL people talk about it like it’s Moses up on the mountain looking at the face of God. Ridiculous. I would much rather have a DH that hits .250 with 25 home runs than a bunch of dufus pitchers with a collective .125 average bringing an automatic out to every turn through the lineup. There’s nothing holy about it. So stop the foolishness and make the DH mandatory in BOTH leagues.
5. Run a “shot clock” for pitchers and batters. Basketball has the shot clock, limiting the time a team can stand around holding the ball. Baseball needs a mandatory clock for pitching and hitting. Pitchers take forever to throw the ball when anyone is on base. In the 1970’s, Indians player Mike Hargrove was known as “the human rain delay” because of all the piddling around he did in the batter’s box before the pitcher could throw. Nowadays, everyone is Mike Hargrove. I do not understand why players have to step out of the batter’s box and ritualistically undo and redo their batting gloves between every pitch. GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!
6. Enhanced revenue-sharing. The teams have increased this in the last 2 collective bargaining agreements, but there needs to be more. Because of their popularity and immense local market, the Yankees can still generate several more times the revenue from local TV/radio broadcast agreements and ancillary programming than teams in very small markets like Milwaukee, Cincinnati or Kansas City (and whatever 2 cities get the next teams). Broadcaster Bob Costas, who is a bleeding-heart liberal that infuriates me most of the time, has this right. He says every team should keep 50% of its local revenue for itself, and 50% should go to the revenue sharing. His logic is that, for example, New York City provides the home team, the Yankees, but it needs Major League Baseball to supply the other half of the game, the road team. So since MLB provides 50% of the players needed to play a game, MLB should get half the local revenue. It sounds just Socialist enough to make me squirm, but it makes enough sense from a competitive balance standpoint that I can accept it, with a beverage or two to calm my squirming.
That’s my ideal baseball scenario. Or any scenario involving the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series.