By Mark Hanrahan
Extra Innings Co-Host, Thursdays at 6pm on 1460 Kxno
Yesterday on Murph and Andy, heard here on 1460 KXnO from 2-4pm, the guys were talking about ways to fix baseball. It seems that on the heels of the World Cup (yes, the World Cup is considered over here) that this has been quite the topic of conversation. In fact, it’s the third time I have heard a host mention it on radio this week. Now, I am not going to try to get into a “Does Baseball Need Fixed” discussion, in fact I will save that for my next post. For purposes of conversation I will strictly keep this to ways to fix Major League Baseball, as it sits today. The thing is, I think I can suggest some changes that would not radically change the game or the way it is played on the field, but drive up interest and further embrace the REGIONALIZATION of the game and not try to force teams (Yankees, Red Sox) on people that don’t care.
Step One, EMBRACE REGIONALIZATION. This is the exact OPPOSITE thing that College Football is doing and frankly, I think it is going to blow up in their face. Baseball needs to accept the fact that their fans are fiercely loyal to their teams and use that to foster growth within individual fan bases, which will in turn trickle over to more fans in general. How do they do that?
The first step is easy:
BUILD ON RIVALRIES
This is really a pretty easy three part change. Step one, more games within the division. Let’s use the Chicago Cubs as an example. Right now, the Cubs will play 19 games against each division opponent or 6 series. Let’s increase that to nine three-game series between each team. That would commit exactly half the teams’ games to division play. I would also eliminate four game series, but we’ll get back to that later. This will make division games that much more important and help fans become that much more familiar with the teams in their division and the players on those teams.
Step two, limit interleague play to teams of the same division in the opposite league. This would serve many purposes. It would increase interest in regional teams, but would also make it more of a rarity to see players in the other league, building interest in the All Star game and National Broadcasts. If you never get to see a player like Mike Trout play your team or available on local television, you will be more likely to watch him play on National Television.
Step three, and this is by far the most radical one. Base the standings off of series wins, not individual wins. We would eliminate the four game series all together and teams would get win based on a series win. Total wins would move to the first tie breaker when it came to the play offs and playoff seeding, making them still important to eliminate tanking. This would immediately increase the interest in rubber match games and make it that much more important to have a deep pitching staff and team. If a team get’s down 1-0 they will fight like hell in that second game to not lose the series in game two. Each individual game would carry on more importance that day in time. Sure, there will be SOME throw away games, but it would definitely drive interest through the dog days of summer.
The second step:
SHORTEN THE SEASON
No, I would NOT eliminate games. I would require each team to host 9 double headers. Teams could get creative with promotions, have concerts between games, but stress that teams offer one ticket options for both games. Make it an event, a day at the park, bring in amusement rides, whatever it takes. But 18 double headers throughout the year could would shorten the season by a full week and a half and offer many more off days for the players. More off days will help decrease injuries, keeping the stars on the field, even if they may only be in for one game of a double header, those fans still get to see them play.
BUILD ON THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
Andrew and I spoke about this on our show last week and about what baseball can do to increase interest in the World Baseball Classic, but for sake of keeping this blog RELATIVELY short, I will offer one suggestion for this that ultimately impacts the Major League Season. Every four years, eliminate the All Star game and play the Final Four of the World Baseball Classic during the All Star Break. All games would be played at one site be it stateside or abroad and the tournament could conclude in about two weeks. It would take some creative scheduling, but it could be done and people would get to see these teams compete at the peak of their season. Players would then rejoin their teams for the stretch run of the season.
I know, I know, owners would hate to see their investments competing that hard in the middle of the season. So, are you telling me that teams like Real Madrid and Manchester United don’t care about their investments? It’s just that, an investment and using those players to increase interest in the game is GOOD for the owners and good for the bottom line.
Later this week, I will address how the myth of the decline of baseball is greatly overstated.