I'm a lifelong baseball fan, but even I realize that Major League Baseball needs to seriously consider ways to make the game quicker, less-expensive, and better all-around. If baseball is to thrive into the 21st century, which will be dominated by short-attention spans cultivated thanks in part to social media, MLB should consider making these 9 changes.
1. Institute a pitch clock
Six years ago, I never would have advocated such a thing. But in 2006 my Boston Red Sox traded for Josh Beckett, whose less stellar outings (which are becoming more frequent), are torturous, sleep-inducing slogs through opposing lineups. There are pitchers like this on every team—guys who like to play head games with baserunners and batters by just standing at the rubber, looking like he’s about to pitch the ball, when in reality he’s just waiting for the batter to call time. Pitchers like Beckett are a big reason why games take longer than three hours. The solution is a pitch clock. With no runners on base, pitchers should have to start their delivery within 10 seconds of receiving the ball back from the catcher. With runners on, the clock is extended to 15 seconds. In addition to pitches, pickoff attempts would reset the clock.
Rare photo of Josh Beckett actually pitching.
2. Prohibit batters from calling timeout
Batters calling timeout would become less of an issue if a pitch clock were instituted, since most batter timeouts occur because the pitcher is taking too long to deliver. But since we’re cracking down on gamesmanship by pitchers, it’s only fair that batters be deprived of this as well. And if a bug flies into the batter’s eye, too bad.
Derek Jeter is so respected in baseball, umpires now call time out for him.
3. Limit pitchers to one pick-off attempt per base per at bat
Some pitchers, including Boston’s Clay Buchholz, have developed the awful habit of boring fans to death by developing a bizarre obsession with throwing to first base repeatedly, no matter who’s there. Eric Chavez on first? That’s two throws. Casey Kotchman? Better make it three. Joe Mauer? Holy god, that’s worth four throws right there—one for each steal he had in the first half.
The only reason Clay Buchholz isn't throwing to first base in this photo is because there isn't a baserunner there.
4. Move or disband the Florida teams
Florida has the worst fans in baseball. The last time the Miami Marlins won the World Series in 2003 (as the Florida Marlins), they ranked second-to last in league-attendance. The year the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series in 2008, they ranked third-to-last in league attendance. In recent years the Rays have fielded young, competitive, and exciting teams, much to the enjoyment of hardly anyone. These franchises must be saved from their apathetic fan bases and moved elsewhere, or disbanded and have the remaining 28 teams fight for the scraps.
If Giancarlo Stanton hits a home run in Marlins Park and nobody sees it, does it still count?
5. Institute a salary cap
Despite the recent success of small market teams such as Tampa Bay and Oakland before them, there is some correlation between having a high payroll and regularity of playoff appearances. Instituting a salary cap would level the playing field, make teams think twice before throwing ludicrous amounts of money at free agents, and most importantly help rein in ticket and concession costs at the ballpark. As the yearly payrolls of MLB teams rise, so does the cost of going to MLB games. Of course, it will be a cold day in hell before the Major League Baseball Players’ Union agrees to such a thing.
To one billion and beyond!
6. End guaranteed contracts
Speaking of things the MLBPA would never agree to, MLB should take another page out of the NFL’s playbook by adopting a policy of no guaranteed contracts. This way, instead of John Lackey being paid $15.25 million to sit out with an injury for the entire 2012 season, Boston could simply cut him without having to pay him the full amount. Not necessarily because he’s injured, but because he sucks anyway.
I'd be laughing too if I got paid $15 million just to watch games from the dugout.
7. Limit teams to one pitching coach visit per starting pitcher per game, and none for relievers.
How effective are coaches’ visits to the mound really? I only pitched up to Legion ball, but I never felt like they helped much. I imagine the conversations during mound visits at the Major League level are a little more nuanced, but ultimately, the coach is out there to tell his pitcher to stop sucking. Nothing more. Mound visits just make a long game longer.
Believe me, there is nothing Rich Dubee can tell Roy Halladay that he doesn't already know.
8. Nix interleague play
I was against interleague play when it first started in 1997. Back then the prospect of a Red Sox-Expos matchup didn’t intrigue me much, and neither did the vision of Tim Wakefield having to bat in a National League park. More than this though, is the loss of a certain mystique in the World Series. Since by now every team has played every other team regardless of league, there can be no new World Series matchups.
No one has ever said, "You know what I'd really like to see? Jered Weaver with a bat in his hand."
9. Get rid of God Bless America
After September 11, 2001 Major League Baseball parks hopped on the patriotism bandwagon by holding renditions of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. Although this has been scaled back somewhat depending on the park, at the very least the song can be heard in every MLB park on Sundays. This violates the sacred principle of the separation of Church and Baseball.
God Bless America is a horrendous song, and worthy of an ejection.