The 2020 MLB season will get underway in late July with a 60 game schedule shoehorned into just 66 days. The players will receive 100 percent of their prorated salaries or 37% of their full yearly salaries.
Now that the mud fight between the players and owners is behind us — for now — it’s time for me to assume the role of Baseball Czar and fix a sport that is losing traction among sports fans.
The biggest issues facing MLB are pace-of-play and lack of real action within the game. While an average baseball game lasts slightly less than an average NFL game, the competing contests seem so different.
Compare the two games to two Oscar-winning films with comparable running times: The Godfather and The English Patient. The Godfather has a running time of 177 minutes while The English Patient 162 minutes. Watch both and tell me which flies by and which one drags on and on and on? The Godfather has the pace of an NFL game, while The English Patient the pace of an MLB game.
A few simple fixes to speed up the pace of play is to institute and enforce the pitch clock. 20 seconds to get a signal from a catcher and deliver the pitch seems reasonable. Once a runner is on base, the clock is shut off. If the pitcher is cited for delay of game, a ball will be granted to the hitter. Also, enforce the hitters to stay in the batter’s box. If a hitter violates this, strike one will be issued against the batter.
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Pitching changes will be done the way any other substitute is handled in every other sport. Simply signal from the dugout that the pitcher is being taken out and let the bullpen know which pitcher is entering the game. No need for the manager to waddle out of the dugout to the mound and wait for the relief pitcher to jog in from the bullpen. On third down, Bill Belichick doesn’t go to the Patriots’ offensive huddle and return to the sideline with Sony Michel and then reverse field and escort James White from the bench to the huddle.
Let’s also shave 30 seconds off of the time between innings. Broadcast outlets could sell more advertising while the game is being played, similar to how professional soccer sells spots during the flow of its game.
My minimal changes should reduce roughly 20 minutes per game without effecting the “integrity” of the game.
Another problem with baseball is that 40 percent of all plate appearances result in one of three true outcomes: home run, walk, or strikeout. These are plays that are devoid of action.
In an average game, there are approximately only 48 actual action plays (single, double, triple, groundout, line out or fly ball). With an average game being 190 minutes, that means that there is an actual play once every three minutes and forty-five seconds. Cue the snoring.
Historically, when baseball is at its depths, home run numbers mysteriously skyrocket. Look at both the 1920 and 1998 seasons. Those years came on the heels of the 1919 Black Sox scandal and the canceling of the 1994 World Series.
That template won’t work now because the home run has been cheapened. Last year saw a record 6,776 home runs hit, led by the Minnesota Twins with 307 and the New York Yankees with 306.
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If players aren’t juiced (wink wink) then balls are. Why not reverse course and deaden the balls a little bit. I’m not saying go back to the Dead Ball Era of the early 1900s, but let’s make home runs rarer and more valuable. Chicks no longer dig the long ball. (And I’m not referring to the newly renamed country music group.)
Another move I would institute is banning infield shifts. It would help speed up the game and make at-bats more entertaining.
I would implement the universal DH. Having a pitcher hit two or three times per game takes the excitement out of the game. I want hitters hitting and pitchers pitching.
Instead of starting extra innings with a runner on second base, let’s unveil my most extreme rule change. In the ninth inning and beyond, both teams can redo their batting order. Let’s see Mike Trout face Aroldis Chapman with the game on the line.
While we are changing the dynamic of the game, let’s also fix the layout. Thirty teams split into two leagues means we have to have interleague play every day. I’m fully over interleague play, so if it were up to me, I would reconfigure the leagues and divisions.
Blue Jays (Moved From A.L.)
Under this plan, we now have fourteen American League teams and sixteen National League teams. No more interleague play.
The schedule has to be 162 games to create enough revenue to appease both owners and players. To make the season shorter, the schedule should have 12 doubleheaders scheduled. Every Saturday will be “Double Header Day.” The two leagues could alternate this new fan-friendly schedule. Each team would have six home, six away, single admission Double Headers. This would shave two weeks off of the regular season schedule while keeping the same inventory. The owners would lose six dates but the goodwill they would create with fans would be invaluable.
As commissioner, I’d expand the playoffs to six teams per league. The Division winners would draw byes. The next four best records in each league would qualify. Those teams would be seeded based on their records. That first round would be best-of-five. The winners of that round would advance to the Divisional Round. The Division winner with the best record would face the lower-seeded team from the first round in a best of seven Divisional Round. The League Championship Series and World Series would also be best-of-seven. Under my plan, the postseason would be a week longer, but we are condensing the regular season schedule by two with twelve scheduled double-headers.
Now as commissioner I have to get owners and players to agree on these changes. Wish me luck.
John Sapochetti is Co-Host of The “SAP & KAT SHOW” heard On FullPressCoverage. Follow Him On Twitter @JohnSap25