Fixing baseball has been a hot topic of late. This NY Post article, entitled “It’s time to debate the future of baseball” By Joel Sherman and Ken Davidoff July 12, 2017, has finally spurred me to respond:
Know What Baseball Is
Baseball must be extremely careful here. To change the sports so it matches others, just waters it down and takes away from what it is. It’s about branding and the message and decisions should always be consistent with WHAT BASEBALL IS.
The one thing baseball has done far better at than basketball or football for instance, is embracing it’s rich history. Just look at how The NBA treats the founders of the modern game, the original ABA and their players, to get sense of how they don’t respect history. However, I’m not saying baseball should be a slave to it’s history but it is a big part of who it is, and makes baseball a multi-generational sport. Fixing baseball does not mean you have to break it.
The minor leagues are thriving so it’s not necessarily the game itself that has to change. Heck soccer is booming, connects with millennials and families (finally after many many years of trying in the US) and the scoring is worse than baseball. 2 hours of watching can result in a one goal game. And yet fans pack the stands to watch it. So why not baseball?
What Do We Do To Fix It
The very first thing, in fixing baseball, is to make the stars far more recognizable. The fact that most people couldn’t pick out Mike Trout from a lineup is very very concerning. This has to change. I know there is fear in doing that, that is ingrained in baseball since the labor battles with Marvin Miller, but these players are already making obscene amount of money. That ship has passed. So promote your players, work with apparel companies on cool products (not cleats that the majority of the public has no use for), and work with the sports network on making these guys faces more visible.
The issue of steroids, which if uncontrolled, kills the strongest brand element of baseball which is it’s history. of all the sports, baseball’s records are the most important and known. We cannot allow that to be tampered with. But I have a simple solution for this. Instead of a banned product list, we do the reverse. An approved supplement database. And new ones can be sent in for approval before being allowed to be used. Think of the message it sends to the youth of today, we only allow supplement we deem to be safe. Store test results and let the players know that even if it may be undetectable now, we keep the blood stored and the punishment will be severe.
Finally, the big issue is pace of game. But here again, you do not want to do anything that takes away from the tradition and history of the game. We love comparing stars through the ages which is why we must be cognizant of that. Which is why there should be no messing with the balls and strikes etc. What we need is less time wasting, period. So pitch clocks, no stepping out of the box more than once per at bat, simple things to keep it moving. Stop the time wasting first and not only will the games be shorter, but it will give the feeling of the pace of the game itself increasing.
There are other things I would do but this is a start.