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OC Register: Alexander: Does baseball need fixing? Here are some ideas

51 posts in this topic

Baseball, you might have heard, is in trouble. On life support, even.

Its target audience is aging. TV ratings are a shadow of what they used to be (although the same can be said for plenty of other programming). All of the devices meant to cater to millennials haven’t roused them from Fortnite, Snapchat, etc.

We are overreacting a bit, aren’t we?

The reports of baseball’s demise are premature, but there are signs of concern, especially from within. Baseball people might be the most self-critical creatures in professional sports when it comes to examining their game and ways to improve it. That’s the genesis of pace-of-play initiatives and rumbling about infield shifts and what in the world do we do to make Mike Trout as popular elsewhere in America as he is in Orange County?

May I offer some suggestions? I mean, I’m sure if you follow the game you’ve thought of what you would do if you were Rob Manfred for a week or even a day.

Today it’s my turn, and here’s my platform:

1. TV exposure – widen it!

The Dodgers/Time Warner-Spectrum/DirecTV fiasco seemed to have been a tipping point in the relationship between baseball and cable networks, a warning of the dangers of overreaching … but rumblings are that the Cubs are thinking of going a similar route and launching their own network in the Chicago area. That, too, could get ugly.

Here’s a fix that solves two problems and should have been implemented years ago: Remove the “out-of-market” designation from the MLB.TV streaming service and the Extra Innings cable package. You pay, you get every single MLB game, home teams included, local commercials and all – including the Facebook Watch weekday games since there is no reason why that platform should have blanket exclusivity.

Opening up those platforms would give folks in L.A. who currently don’t have Spectrum another option. Additionally, it would remove what are patently ridiculous coverage restrictions in various regions. For example, people in Hawaii – 2,500 miles or so from California – can’t stream Dodgers, Angels, Giants, A’s and Padres games. Those in Las Vegas are prevented from watching all of those plus the Diamondbacks. And those in Des Moines are shut out of the Cubs, White Sox, Royals, Twins, Brewers and Cardinals. Absurd, isn’t it?

Another fix: Mandate that every MLB team put 40-50 games on local over-the-air TV, even if they’re simulcasts with the cable network. As we’ve often said in This Space, the first lesson of business is to seek out potential customers instead of forcing them to find you, and that includes cord-cutters. What sense does it make to limit your audience for the benefit of someone else’s bottom line?

2. Bring back the high strike.

With great fanfare, baseball reduced the strike zone 50 years ago from top of shoulders/bottom of knees to armpits/top of knees. Twenty years after that, with less fanfare, the top of the strike zone was lowered to the midpoint between the letters and the belt, meaning the top of the strike zone is now a couple of inches above the belly button.

Moving that upper boundary back to at least the pre-1988 limit will force hitters to swing the bat. The result: More action and a quicker pace.

3. The universal DH.

I never thought I’d write this, and people who have known me for a long time might be wondering what medication I’ve been taking. But it’s time to either adopt one set of rules for both leagues, or go to a 28- or 29-man roster in the National League as pitching staffs continue to expand.

After all, what’s more excruciating to watch? Pitchers hitting, aside from the Madison Bumgarners of the world? Or a position player pitching?

4. The electronic strike zone.

This is another innovation I didn’t expect I’d agree with, but the extreme variance – i.e., inconsistency – in various umpires’ strike zones suggests that its time has come.

Plus, a bonus: It will eliminate the emphasis on pitch framing. You can’t steal strikes if you can’t fool the electronic eye.

5. Banning, or limiting, shifts.

I know. This is the nuclear option. But a large part of the reason why baseball has become a Three True Outcomes sport – homer/walk/strikeout or nothing – has been data-driven defensive strategy, which has become so effective as to skew the game. Mandating two players on each side of second base would at least restore some of that balance.

6. Allow exuberance to flourish.

The complaints about how individual players are marketed – such as the apples/oranges question of why Trout can’t be as popular as LeBron James – don’t take into account the old-school “play the game the right way” mentality that remains so pervasive. If you are too flamboyant, show too much personality or otherwise violate the unwritten but sacred “code,” someone in either your clubhouse or your opponent’s will complain. (Or you’ll get a fastball in the ribs.)

It’s time to lighten up. Bat flips and celebrations are not a sin. Games in the World Baseball Classic between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where everyone celebrates and no one gets mad, are as much fun as anything you’ll see on a baseball field. What can possibly be wrong with that?

And the more players’ personalities emerge, on and off the field, the easier it is to market them. Feel free to check with people in the NBA offices about the way that works.

One final thought: It is popular to assume that younger people aren’t so interested in baseball. I would argue that if you go to a game and sit in the stands, you’ll see evidence to the contrary.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter 

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I definitely agree with the Dodgers' television part. I think MLB.tv should be free with no blackouts. Make money from advertising.

As for the pace of the game, I would not expand the strike zone, that kills offense. The best thing for pace is have 3 balls and 2 strikes replace 4 balls and 3 strikes (start with a 1-1 count).

DH for both leagues increases offense. But to really increase offense, 7 innings and 4 outs should replace 9 innings and 3 outs (28 outs vs. 27 outs).

I don't think there should be an electronic strike zone, or a ban on shifts.

I don't think baseball is in trouble. There will always be another generation of baseball fans because of youth baseball. If baseball were to attract new fans, it won't be because of players' "exuberance." It would be because the product would be more accessible (free MLB.tv) and more entertaining (less pitches, increase offense).

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8 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

 

5. Banning, or limiting, shifts.

I know. This is the nuclear option. But a large part of the reason why baseball has become a Three True Outcomes sport – homer/walk/strikeout or nothing – has been data-driven defensive strategy, which has become so effective as to skew the game. Mandating two players on each side of second base would at least restore some of that balance.

 

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter 

View the full article

The NBA needed to enforce the illegal zone defense rule, as it became more difficult to score. 

On the time subject, wasn't there a mound visits rule and time clock for pitches implemented?    Why then are games so long?

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8 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

part of the reason why baseball has become a Three True Outcomes sport – homer/walk/strikeout or nothing – has been data-driven defensive strategy, which has become so effective as to skew the game

No, the reason for the three outcomes is players are being taught launch angles for home runs and every other contact is a weak rollover groundball to their pull side. We need more skilled hitters that can do more than swing out of their shoes.

That would be the death of the shift. Batters that utilize the entire field rather than playing over the line. 

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5 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

The NBA needed to enforce the illegal zone defense rule, as it became more difficult to score. 

On the time subject, wasn't there a mound visits rule and time clock for pitches implemented?    Why then are games so long?

I think the mound visit rule is ineffective. The time clock in between pitches I believe is being tested in the minors. The games are quicker there. I do think the time clock in between pitches is unfair to pitchers, and besides that, couldn't the pitcher just step off the rubber?

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Just now, Blarg said:

No, the reason for the three outcomes is players are being taught launch angles for home runs and every other contact is a weak rollover groundball to their pull side. We need more skilled hitters that can do more than swing out of their shoes.

That would be the death of the shift. Batters that utilize the entire field rather than playing over the line. 

David Fletcher

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Agree with all of these I would add one more thing to it being realignment. I wanna see the Dodgers Angels Padres Oakland and San Fran in one division. Like wise on the East Coast with the Mets and Philly and Yankees etc. 

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There's an easy way to limit the shift....start bunting.

- I agree, blackouts are probably the worst part of baseball right now.

- Yes, an electronic strike zone is needed.

- Yes, to more emotion and yes to universal DH.

- And I'll add a few more.

1. Put a hard cap and floor on salary. It's always the Red Sox and Yankees. It'll likely be the Astros, Cubs and Dodgers for at least the next decade. This sport needs more variance. Make it more fair.

2. League and division realignment. Do an Eastern and Western League and create geographic specific divisions with the league. For example, the Angels would play in the California Division, with the Padres, Dodgers, A's and Giants.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, BackUpTheTruck said:

I definitely agree with the Dodgers' television part. I think MLB.tv should be free with no blackouts. Make money from advertising.

As for the pace of the game, I would not expand the strike zone, that kills offense. The best thing for pace is have 3 balls and 2 strikes replace 4 balls and 3 strikes (start with a 1-1 count). 

DH for both leagues increases offense. But to really increase offense, 7 innings and 4 outs should replace 9 innings and 3 outs (28 outs vs. 27 outs).

I don't think there should be an electronic strike zone, or a ban on shifts.

I don't think baseball is in trouble. There will always be another generation of baseball fans because of youth baseball. If baseball were to attract new fans, it won't be because of players' "exuberance." It would be because the product would be more accessible (free MLB.tv) and more entertaining (less pitches, increase offense).

No blackouts on MLBtv but I think there entitled to charge for it.

Leave the balls and strikes alone.

DH in both leagues is the only point we agree on.

Try electronic strike zone the umpires suck at it.

Leave the innings and strike outs alone.

at least 2 players on both sides of 2B, and can't position themselves on the outfield grass.

Other than that we agree...

 

Edited by Ace-Of-Diamonds

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I live over 500 miles from Seattle. Yet, I am blacked out of any Seattle games on MLB.TV. That's ridiculous!

Let them charge if an address is less than, say, 50 miles, MAYBE.

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25 minutes ago, Scotty@AW said:

There's an easy way to limit the shift....start bunting.

- I agree, blackouts are probably the worst part of baseball right now.

- Yes, an electronic strike zone is needed.

- Yes, to more emotion and yes to universal DH.

- And I'll add a few more.

1. Put a hard cap and floor on salary. It's always the Red Sox and Yankees. It'll likely be the Astros, Cubs and Dodgers for at least the next decade. This sport needs more variance. Make it more fair.

2. League and division realignment. Do an Eastern and Western League and create geographic specific divisions with the league. For example, the Angels would play in the California Division, with the Padres, Dodgers, A's and Giants.

I used to be a fan of the hard cap for floor and ceiling. But these big league big market clubs like the Yankees and Dodgers and Red Sox haven't won much lately and the big ticket free agents don't usually perform up to their contracts. So I am ok with just a penalty at the top but I think I agree with a hard cap on the floor similar to NBA or NFL. But hell yes! to the division realignment. 

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Another thing they need to do is shorten the season, and start the season sooner, cut down spring training by half. By the time the NFL is here baseball is third fiddle and is barely seen. Even the WS gets less attention than a random Sunday NFL or College game. I would like to see baseball playoffs end by early October/late September.

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Here are some more ridiculous, stupid rules that Baseball could implement. (All are done in jest).

Move the pitching mound back.

Because so many pitchers today are throwing 100 mph or above, the pitching mound should be moved back 2 feet in order to give the batter that extra split-second to react to the speed of the pitch. And the Batter more time to sh!t his shorts when Chapman pitches.

Allowing bats to be made out of a substance other than wood.

I’m not talking about aluminum or synthetic bats here. Hitters are already hitting the ball at unheard-of exit velocities. I’m talking about bats made out of a softer material, like sponge. It seems the act of bunting has become a lost art. So, a bat made out of a softer material would allow even the most inapt of batters to be able to lay down a soft bunt.

Limiting the leadoff distance for baserunners.

A  line will be drawn in the baseline 10 feet away from every base, and no runner may extend their leadoff beyond that point. This will allow catchers (especially those with weak arms) a better chance of throwing out a runner trying to steal the next base. And, because the baserunners leadoff will be shorter there won’t be as many attempted pickoffs by the Pitcher, which will keep the game from slowing down.

Designated Runner. 

The designated runner would be allowed to enter the game once every inning as a replacement for a slower baserunner. This designated runner would be known as the F.L.A.S.H. (aka, Faster Legs for A Slow Hitter). The ‘FLASH’ would be a nonplayer, in that he would not be a hitter, fielder, or pitcher at any time during the season. The FLASH’s sole job on the team would only be that of a designated runner. (Usain Bolt anyone?)

Gambling in the Stands.

It’s finally time to allow the fans to do online wagering on baseball from the comfort of their seat at the ballpark. Why should the fans have to go to ‘online sites’ to place their bets. Let each ballpark set their own odds on each play. Technology has improved enough that the fan should be allowed to wager from their handheld device, to the Ballparks gaming site, as to whether the next batter gets a hit or makes an out. Or, even if the next pitch is called a strike or a ball. (I know we do it when my friends and I go to a ballgame, we pass a beer cup. For each batter, the person holding the beer cup, bets on what the batter will do during that at-bat. If his guess is wrong, he drops a dollar in the cup and passes it to the next person. And this continues until someone makes the correct guess. And that person gets to keep whatever amount of money is in the cup).

Bring back Ladies Night.

Many years ago every Thursday night used to be Ladies Night at the Ballpark, and all women got in free. What ever happened to this phenomenon? I always thought it was a good idea to have more women in the stands. (Especially with the skimpy clothes that women wear now). Between innings, at a ballgame,  things can get rather boring. But if there were more women in the stands, and you had a good pair of binoculars, perusing the stands would be fun again. Oh yeah, and management would have more Thursday night sellouts as well.

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The high strike is back

I am starting to agree with electronic strike zone or simply get rid of the box on the TV, it isn’t the actual strike zone

I do want Universal DH

Find ways to get the game to be like it was in the early 80’s or the 70’s where the game was the same only faster.  

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10 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

redacted...

#1, agreed on all points.  When ESPN is televising the NBA D-League and not MLB more something is amiss.

#2 i dont know about high strike low strike just call the legal strike zone.  I hate seeing pitches that by the rule book are a strike ignored by umpires.  Yes most of those are higher in nature

#3 I fully agree.  I was watching the doger game last night and they got all excited about a sequence of a pinch hitter coming in that made the brewers change pitcher that resulted in another batter coming in.  a lot of nothing that took the better part of 10 minutes.  The comment was made "thats NL baseball"... and i thought no thats boring as F*ck as all i did was watch commercials. 

#4 No, i dont support this.  Umps are as much a part of the game as anything, they just need to be help accountable and get over the ego of it. 

#5 This is the one im truly torn on.  Shifts in varying forms even as simple as shading a player to RF when pitching them a certain way have always been part of the game.  Yes its gone extreme of late, another thing i blame the moneyball/sabr crowd for.  But it needs to be part of the game.  This is something the players themsevles need to stop IMO.  Re-learn to bunt, run the bases, and do something other than what they are playing you to do.  More seem to be doing this lately, thats a good thing

#6 Good god yes.  This isnt freaking golf.  Even golf needs to lighten the hell up on this.   Personalities matter, look at the NFL, NBA, Soccer... let them go.  They should market that shit not punish it .

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2 hours ago, Barrett said:

Agree with all of these I would add one more thing to it being realignment. I wanna see the Dodgers Angels Padres Oakland and San Fran in one division. Like wise on the East Coast with the Mets and Philly and Yankees etc. 

Where do you place Seattle?

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Here's how I would re-align with the DH in both leagues:

NL:

California

SD, ANA, LA, OAK, SF

West

SEA, AZ, COL, HOU, TEX

Midwest

MIN, MIL, CHC, CHW, DET

AL:

North

CIN, CLE, PIT, PHI, TOR

East

DC, BAL, NYM, NYY, BOS

South

MIA, TB, ATL, KC, STL

In addition to this re-alignment, you could expand the playoff to 6 teams per league. 3 division winners and 3 wild cards. WC #1 plays the winner of WC #2 and #3. Much bigger incentive to win WC #1, and generates interest for "pretender" teams much longer into the season.

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I'm down with the universal DH and realignment. I think DH will happen in the next three years. Realignment will get rolling after the Oakland and Tampa situations get settled and they can determine how many new locations are needed. Expanding to 32 teams seems inevitable

Limiting pitching changes, forcing players to stay in a certain area, banning shifts, and anything else changing the game drastically (three balls two strikes... yikes!)...   no, thanks.

Bottom line, though. None of these things are going to make baseball become a sexier sport.  Sure, sports radio shows largely ignore or mock the fact that it isn't, but the sport is healthy. MLB revenues topped $10 billion in 2017.  

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