There is still no baseball today, but that just gives us another chance to talk about how great baseball is — and how to keep it that way.
Let’s get this straight before we go too far: Baseball is not dying.
That’s a silly, dumb, lazy narrative that gets too much play from people who should know better (which is a big problem given how many people there are with large Twitter followings who don’t know better).
As even the NFL learned last year, people tend to take any trend and extend it out far beyond where it might realistically go. That includes things that are wildly popular becoming less popular, however slightly.
MLB’s national television numbers aren’t great, but locally it is strong — and I suspect in the near future the latter is going to be a lot more important than the former as audiences continue to fracture.
Like everything else that has ever achieved greatness, though, MLB needs to stay on its toes to maintain its place.
Every league, even the NFL, should be aware creeping death is more than just a Metallica song.
Here are some suggestions for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who has spoken this week in multiple forums about many issues surrounding the game.
1. Institute pace-of-play initiatives immediately.
I know the MLB Players Association is notorious for dragging its feet on good-of-the-game measures, but they must accept that allowing pitchers an unlimited amount of time between pitches is ludicrous.
So is letting batters step out of the box anytime they want to address whatever nervous twitch or habit they might have developed over the years.
I’m also open to shrinking the strike zone.
2. Add two more teams.
This week, Manfred mentioned adding teams in Montreal and Mexico City.
This is a great idea.
I like expanding the league’s footprint beyond our country’s border, and this does so with both a new market and one that has worked in the past.
3. Realign the divisions (not the leagues).
Going to 32 teams would also create two 16-team leagues, an even number that allows interleague play to be contained to more-marketable blocks of the season (or eliminated altogether, but that’s another story).
That should mean new divisions, too, and the NFL presents a perfect model. Eight four-team divisions not only make balancing the schedule easier, it also creates tighter rivalries, which are great for any sport.
4. Get Congress to pass a law permanently banning the DH from the National League.
OK, that might be overkill, but it worked for letting the leagues do business how they want to and kept the NFL from intruding on college football Saturdays, so what’s one more to finish out the trifecta?
The American League can maintain its dumb rule, but keep it away from the Senior Circuit. They operated as two different entities for decades and nobody complained. I like the variety.
5. Expand rosters, but limit number of pitchers.
Give the MLBPA some more jobs and managers more options on their bench, but don’t let them specialize pitching even more.
A couple more spots for position players offers an opportunity for young players to get more exposure to the big leagues and veterans to extend their careers (and even mentor said young players).
But we don’t want to make it easier for managers to shut down an offense after, say, the fifth inning with power arm after power arm.
It’s easy to say pitching changes in a game or inning should be limited, but I’m not sure how well that will work in practice. It could create as more headaches, but I’m open to suggestions.
Anything else you’d like to see baseball adopt? Disagree with any of these suggestions? Let me know at email@example.com.