I love baseball, but baseball isnâ€™t perfect. I think there are a few things baseball could do to make itself more exciting, more competitive, and maybe just a little fresher.
1. When the home team loses, play a sad song. With the exception of nationally-televised games, baseball coverage is inherently partisan. Coverage is biased towards the home crowd: The announcers are some of the biggest fans of their respective teams on the planet, results of minor league games are often reported, and discussions of the most insignificant stories surrounding the team take up whole half innings, like who eats chicken in the clubhouse. But at the end of the game, win or lose, the home TV network will play the same triumphant, vaguely sporty song. It doesnâ€™t matter if the game was over in the third with the score 43-0, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Johan Santana all collided while trying to catch a popup and had to be rushed to the hospital, and Keith Hernandez missed his dinner reservation; they will still play that happy victory song. I propose that they not do that. Nothing irritates me more than that song after the Mets lose (which happens kind of a lot). Baseball is about stories, and at that moment, that song is completely incongruous with the storyline. I offer this as a suitable replacement.
2. Make revenue sharing merit-based instead of need-based. As it currently stands, the rich teams pay out a bunch of money, and the poor teams get a bunch of money. Some of the poor teams spend it, while others simply pocket it (Iâ€™m looking at you, Loria). Letâ€™s have a little fun with it instead and structure it like Arne Duncanâ€™s Race to the Top. If nothing else, Arne has shown us that you can get people to do crazy things they wouldnâ€™t otherwise do if you give them a wad of cash in return. If a team moves to a four man rotation: boom, $5 million. If the Mets start getting Ike Davis (their rookie first baseman who was a two way player in college) appearances in relief against lefties so that Pedro Feliciano doesnâ€™t have to come in EVERY SINGLE DAY: boom, $1 million. The Royals start a reliever for three innings, then bring in Greinke: boom, $10 million. You get the idea. I honestly donâ€™t care much what the potential innovations are or where the ideas come from. They could be voted on by fans, or decreed by Bobby Valentine. Hopefully teams would just try something different. Brilliant Writer Joe Posnanski has written that teams are deathly afraid of being different for fear of being called â€œunprofessional,â€ and the result is teams like the Royals who try to win the same way the Yankees do, and ultimately fail year after year because they simply donâ€™t have the same level of resources. Perhaps if there were tangible incentives to overcome the disincentive of conventional baseball taboos, we might see somebody take a chance and try something new. Weâ€™ll never know if all those funky ideas out there work until we get somebody to try them. Do the Pirates really have anything to lose?
3. Institute a salary cap and a salary floor. On opening day of 2006, the Yankees had a payroll of $194 million. The Marlins had a payroll of $15 million. Derek Jeter made $4 million more than the entire Marlins team. This simply isnâ€™t fair. It isnâ€™t fair to the rest of the league that the Yankees get to spend an order of magnitude more money (though the Yankees themselves arenâ€™t doing anything wrong). It isnâ€™t fair to the fans in Miami that Loria only spent $15 million and pocketed their revenue sharing money (Loria is certainly to blame here). Baseball isnâ€™t a market where we want a stratified set of products. Ideally, most of the clubs ought to have a shot to make the playoffs most years. Mandating a range of $75 to $125 million might help elevate those teams permanently in the cellar, it and might put a damper on those teams expected to win it all every year. At the risk of renaming this blog â€œJoe Posnanski says,â€ Iâ€™m going to reference another post of his about the inherent inequity of the status quo, and how the volatile baseball playoffs serve to obscure how unfair it really is:
[T]he expanded playoffs have been genius for baseball â€¦ because the short series have been baseballâ€™s one Yankee-proofing defense against the ludicrous unfairness of the New York Yankees. Hey, if the game is rigged, rig the game. The Yankees spend a lot more money than any other team. As a direct result, they had the best record in the American League in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2009. They made the playoffs every single year but one this decade (and going back to 1995). They are the best team with the best players every year â€” that sort of big money virtually guarantees it. So, you create a system where the best team doesnâ€™t always win. In fact, you create a system where the best team often doesnâ€™t win. For years the Yankees didnâ€™t win. They lost to Florida. They lost Anaheim. They blew a 3-0 series lead against Boston. They lost to Anaheim again and Detroit and Cleveland â€” and how could you say that baseball is unfair? Look, the Yankees canâ€™t win the World Series! See? Sure they spend $50 million more than any other team and $100 million more than most. But they havenâ€™t won the World Series! Doesnâ€™t that make you feel better?
4. Get rid of guaranteed contracts. With proposition 3 in mind, proposition 4 has, I think, an even stronger case. For fans, the only thing guaranteed contracts guarantee is that we are going to see players (too generous?) like Gary Matthews Jr. (and his OPS+ of 28) shuffled around the league. Who do guaranteed contracts help, other than bums like Mo Vaughn? A bad regime that gives out a few bad long term contracts can make a franchise non-competitive for years (see Toronto). Who wants to see that? Of course there should be some protections for players. All injuries should be covered, and there should be decent severance, pensions, etc. But the bottom line is that if I suck at my job I should get fired, and if you suck at your job you should get fired. And if Gary Matthews Jr. canâ€™t rack up more total bases in two months than Miguel Cabrera can in one game, he should be launched out of a cannon into the sun.
5. Add a few rules to shorten the game. I have to admit that Iâ€™m not sure if this is actually a good idea, but it is interesting. The SEC has recently instituted rules to try to keep the game moving. With no runners on base, pitchers will have 20 seconds to throw each pitch, or else itâ€™s a ball. If the batter isnâ€™t ready in the box before the last 5 seconds, itâ€™s a strike. I like that theyâ€™re doing this in the college game first, and it will be interesting to see how it goes. I would hope that this is the type of rule that would have an impact on the speed of the game, but almost never have to be enforced, kind of like the 3 second rule in basketball. Many people feel that baseball games are just too long to watch, and Iâ€™m sympathetic to that. As obnoxious as Joe West is, he has a point. I do worry that this change will make games go too fast for those who are in the stadium to watch the game and enjoy an evening at the ballpark, but the benefits to those of us at home may outweigh the costs. Maybe then I could even get Sarah to sit still and watch an entire game.