6 Things I would Change About Major League Baseball

I love the game of baseball. I have played it my whole life, studied it, and continue to learn from it and about it. There is no better sport in the world.

But, there are problems with Major League Baseball. Don’t worry, this is not unusual. In fact, you could make the argument that at any point in history there have always been problems with Major League Baseball. Thankfully, the current problems aren’t as bad as segregation, rampant steroid use, or a work stoppage. Nevertheless, I have a wish list of changes that I would like to see made to the product that is placed before us for 162+ games each year.

If I was given the ability to change anything about MLB, I would:

1.       Embrace the advances in technology to include instant replay analysis on plays that don’t involve calling balls and strikes. But, do so in a manner that does not slow down the game. Put an extra official in the booth who watches each play and determines within 10 seconds if a call needs to be reviewed, and completes the review within 30 seconds. It makes zero sense for everyone watching the game to know instantly if the call was correct or not, but the officials in charge to be blind until the game is over. The umpires need more support so that they won’t be crucified after a game based on their split-second judgments.

2.       Get rid of World Series home-field advantage being tied to the winning league of the All-Star game. There is no logical sense to it. At the end of the year, two teams make it to the pinnacle of the sport, and home-field advantage is decided by two hodge-podge teams playing an exhibition game? The only reason this is the case today is that MLB embarrassed itself by declaring the All-Star game a tie in 2002. In a kneejerk response to avoid that situation, MLB decided to “make it count”. I’d prefer we focus on the games that count (the World Series), as opposed to the ones that don’t (All-Star Game). Especially when MLB players don’t play the All-Star Game as if it counts (See the large number of players that intentionally avoided playing in the 2011 exhibition).

3.       Refresh the broadcast teams. Knowledgeable baseball fans can no longer listen to a national broadcast without going insane. Too many broadcast teams try to dumb down the game. Instead, they should be doing the opposite. Teach us things that we don’t know about the games. Tell us what’s happening in the clubhouses. This would not repulse the casual fan, and in fact I believe it would do the opposite. The casual fan may not enjoy baseball because he/she does not fully understand what is going on within the game. The broadcaster should be the gateway to providing that knowledge, not merely a voice describing what is clearly visible.

4.       Improve fan knowledge and awareness of some of the statistics that are becoming more and more meaningful. For example, currently when watching a game on TV, you typically see 3 statistics when a hitter comes to the plate: batting average, home runs, and RBI. However, most of the people who really care about these things will tell you that RBI is a meaningless statistic, and that batting average is diminishing in importance, unless it is also showed in unison with a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Fans need to be introduced to these statistics as well, so that we can become familiar with what a “good” OBP% or SLG% means, similar to how we know that a .300 BA is good. Just including OBP% and SLG% would be a good start.

5.       Re-align the leagues and divisions so each league has 15 teams, and each division has 5 teams. It is a competitive imbalance for the AL West to have 4 teams, while the NL Central has 6 teams. Putting 15 teams in each league will create some scheduling difficulties, which likely causes some interleague play throughout the whole season. But in the last series of the season, it doesn’t truly matter if the Royals are playing the Orioles from the AL or the Pirates from the NL.

6.       Stop discussing making changes to the playoff system. Adding an additional Wild Card team to each league would only increase confusion and dilute the meaning of making the playoffs. The exclusivity of the MLB playoffs compared to the other sports makes it special. It is truly an accomplishment to make the playoffs, as opposed to only proving your team is better than mediocre.

Most importantly, none of these changes would impact the integrity of the game. In my mind, the results of these changes would be an improvement to the competitive landscape, fan appeal, and fan experience. If I were in charge, I would view these as the three most critical standards of the quality of the game.

Peter Ellwood

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