Burning Questions: What Change Would You Make in Major League Baseball If You Had Unlimited Power?
The numberFire baseball crew will be - and has been - posting a feature called Burning Questions. The idea is simple: we pose a general question then provide many answers and explanations on the particular subject.
This gives you, the reader, a chance to hear opinions from many different experts, who, believe it or not, don't always agree on everything. What we do have in common is a knowledge of and love for the game, and we want you to be a part of the conversation. Feel free to pose an answer to this or a future Burning Question on Twitter, or tell us why you agree or disagree with one or more of our answers. These features are designed to start the conversation, not to offer a comprehensive solution, and often there is not a clear correct answer.
In this edition, Daniel, Jim and I - Dan - share one thing that we would change about the game we love if given unlimited power. There may be more changes we would make, but these three stick out above the rest in our eyes.
Kill the Save
Jim Sannes' thoughts: I had to think a while about this one. At first, I was leaning toward not letting David Ortiz hit against my beloved Minnesota Twins. But, since the Twinkers are around .500 right now, I can live with that injustice.
One injustice which I can not live with, however, is the inclusion of the save as a statistical category. There aren't a lot of statistics that actively cause teams to make stupid decisions. This is one of them.
It's the seventh inning. Phil Hughes has helped the Twins build a 4-2 lead, but he has walked the last two batters. Ron Gardenhire decides to go to the bullpen. Who would you rather call upon with the go-ahead run at the dish? Caleb Thielbar or Glen Perkins? Not to knock Thielbar, but I'd much rather have Perk.
Even though it, on its face, would make more sense to send out Perkins rather than Thielbar, almost no manager in the majors would do this. Why? Because a silly statistic makes them conform to some idiotic norm rather than do what is obviously the better choice.
I'm not saying that you should never use your best pitcher in the ninth. If it's a one-run game in the ninth, why not toss him out there and lock it down? But if I have a tight situation earlier in the game, you had best believe I'm sending out the guy that has the best chance of keeping those opposing heathens off the scoreboard.
Shorten the Schedule
Daniel Lindsey's thoughts: If I was running baseball, I would take measures to realign the sport, which, in turn, would help adjust the schedule for the baseball season. These two ideas would work hand in hand to increase the value of the sport.
Every year, the coverage of the NFL increases exponentially. It supersedes all sports during the year, even if one of the major sports happens to be in their respective playoffs. The NFL draft is in May, which trumps basketball playoff coverage for a couple weeks. And then the beginning of the season trumps the baseball playoffs, as the World Series doesn't finish until the end of October.
I highly commend the league for adding a wild card team as that has produced a high amount of drama in the last month of the season, but the schedule is too imbalanced and too long.
I would start with the beginning of the season; why is it in April? It's cold for that first month, and there are only so many warm weather stadiums in the league. I would love to see the season pushed back at least two or three weeks. Then when the NFL draft is over, we're just getting underway with the baseball season instead of six weeks in and people already losing interest.
Then, in the playoffs, I'd make the wild card series a three-game set and make it three days in a row - two games at the higher seed's ballpark with the third, if necessary, at the lower seed's park. We obviously don't want to make the playoffs longer, so if the wild card set is three games, I would turn the divisional and championship series into five game sets and keep the World Series at seven games - and even eliminate some of the days off in those series'.
While the logistics of traveling and building in any necessary tie-breaker games, the playoffs would be even more captivating. However instead of starting the playoffs a week into October, I would have them end at the beginning of October. The NFL is king that time of year - why have your business model's biggest success going up against a growing juggernaut? If we know the season ends close to Labor Day, the World Series could easily be wrapped up by October. And like April, cold weather wouldn't be as much of a threat either.
But what does that have to do with realignment? If the season is shorter that means fewer divisional games (currently 19 against each divisional opponent) and slightly more interdivisional games (usually just six or seven per opponent) and maybe even interleague games. The NFL thrives on a balanced schedule. With their divisional setup, they can rotate which divisions play each other every few years. You could even eliminate divisions within baseball to accomplish a more balanced schedule, but either way, the disparity between divisional and interdivisional games is too great. The NFL pulls off a balanced schedule, why can't baseball?
It seems radical, and it would be hard to embrace with the decrease of potential revenue but on the flip side maybe fans would come out to games more if the games meant more. Either way, baseball needs some life injected into the sport to compete with the year-round attention the NFL gets; shortening the season and bringing some scheduling balance to the sport could do a lot of good.
Extreme Home-Field Advantages
Dan Weigel's thoughts: While this my be more of a culture change than a rule change, I’d like to see an increase of teams creating obscure home parks and tailoring their roster to take advantage of said obscure home parks.
The Yankees are a good example of this. The new Yankee Stadium features an extremely short porch in right field, so the Yankees made a point to acquire lots of left-handed hitters with power to right. This has worked out well for them and gives them an obvious advantage at home, but I would like to see this principle expanded to the point of hilarity.
There are countless ways to do this. An easy example is to make the centerfield fence really deep, acquire the best defensive centerfielder in the league to cover it. Another fun one is to bring the fences in really close then acquire an entire staff of groundball pitchers and an entire lineup of flyball hitters.
Alternatively, a team could make the fences really deep, acquire the three best defensive outfielders in the league, a staff of flyball pitchers, and a lineup of line-drive, high-OBP, gap-power hitters. The possibilities are plentiful, and I would love to see teams take advantage of the ability to customize their home park and acquire a team geared towards winning baseball games in that park.
Baseball is the only major sport without uniform playing fields, so teams ought to take advantage of this freedom. Additionally, this would not only help the team win, but sell more tickets. Who wouldn't want to see a game in the park with the 250 foot fence? What about the park with the obnoxiously large centerfield? It would be interesting to see how far the league would let teams go before drawing a hard line and requiring uniformity within parks.