If I were the Commissioner of Baseball (i.e. My Plan to keep Baseball the National Pastime, via the “DLP”)
Now that we’ve entered the month of Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, it’s time to examine the sport and think about how to make it better. Over the years, my thoughts have evolved. Below, I’ll explain what we, the keepers of Baseball, should do to keep the National Pastime at the forefront of American sports.
Is there any doubt that football, especially major college and professional football (NCAA FBS and the NFL respectively) have overtaken baseball as the national pastime? This has been in the works for decades, even half a century now. Football continues to gain in popularity while baseball has taken a step back. It’s known as an old man’s game now, which is quite sad. It’s sad because baseball is a fantastic sport. Are we losing the kids? Are we letting them walk elsewhere because of our constant thrust to be the ‘gatekeepers of tradition’?
It’s time for change in the world of baseball. Before it’s too late, Major League Baseball might want to take a serious look at change. Major change. Why not? Do we want to become a dinosaur in the world of American sports? Many would argue we already are.
One of the overriding problems with the state of Baseball is the idea of weighing tradition versus modernity. Do we speed up the game or keep it as is? Do we build new stadiums or keep the old ones? Do we adjust to keep humans interested because of our ever-shorter attention spans? Should we consider revamping more things, such as uniforms, format, and scheduling? Do we go as far as changing rules? Format of the game? Anything and everything?
I don’t think we need to reinvent the game. However, MLB should consider these drastic changes to entice new fans while keeping traditional fans interested and enthusiastic about their game, their passion.
If I had the power as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, here’s what I’d do:
- Revise the schedule: Shorten the regular season. (* I have the entire schedule outlined below! We’re gonna call it the “DLP”, the Dutch Lion Plan.)
- Change the playoffs to be longer series. How about a best of 9? Believe it or not, there is precedent. In the early 1900s the World Series used to be best-of-9. You’re more likely to crown a “true champion” the longer the series. This new concept of the one game playoff for the two “wild card” teams is a joke. The New York Yankees won 100 games last year and then had to play one game vs the Oakland A’s (97 wins) to determine who would make the playoffs? Stupid.
- Move the Playoffs up to August. Baseball could OWN August. Their main competition would be against what?….. the U.S. Open tennis tournament?, the NFL preseason? Sure. Bring it on! Baseball’s TV ratings would be sky-high. In fact, the ratings would go through the roof! I’m serious. Think about it. This is exactly what we need in the dog days of Summer. My best explanation for this change is my own personal fan situation. I’m a HUGE baseball fan. Ask my family. I plan everything around baseball games. I literally watch hundreds of games from April through August. So why is it that when September hits, I’m watching college football all day Saturday and the NFL all day Sunday, plus Thursday Night Football, plus Monday Night Football, all the while eschewing baseball? I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’ve already watched literally hundreds of baseball games by September. Football only lasts 14 weeks plus bowls for the college season and 16 weeks plus playoffs for the pro season. By September and October, I’m a little burned out on baseball and welcome the start of a new football season. Sure I’ll still watch baseball on those days when football isn’t on, but what days are free from football exactly? I guess Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That’s about it. Ever heard the term “Football America”? Yeah, it’s here and it’s awesome. Meanwhile, baseball is stuck pulling an iron sledge…..that is, competing with Football America. And let me drop a hint on that…..you’re not gonna win. Baseball is not gonna beat Football. Love it or hate it, it’s true.
So, How do we fix this problem? Easy. Move October up to August. It’s not really that hard. I studied the schedules from 2018 and ’19 and figured it out. The downside is the lack of a traditional cool weather, October baseball feel. No more Mr. October or Mr. November situations? Yeah, that stinks. Oh well.
Look at the bright side. Who will become the first Mr. August? The positives completely outweigh the negatives. TV ratings will skyrocket. Attendance will increase. The entire sports world will be talking about baseball because there really isn’t much else going on in sports in August. Sure, there’s preseason football and a couple of golf and tennis tournaments. No basketball. No hockey. No soccer. Just the dog days of summer…… the season of BASEBALL! * (For more details on my proposed schedule, see below)
Other changes I’d propose to my “Cabinet of Baseball”, who is sure to vote for anything I deem worthy:
- We need a balanced schedule! Every spring when the Sox schedule is released, I look at what games I want to attend. I always look for the L.A. Angels, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, maybe Toronto Blue Jays, and maybe the Texas Rangers. We want to see Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Dustin Pedroia, etc. With the current unbalanced schedule, we only have one home series per year against the A.L. East and A.L. West division teams. One year we wanted to see Trout and L.A. so we went to a miserable early May night game. It was about 40 degrees and we froze. Mike Trout did indeed hit a home run though. Worth it! However, I’m absolutely sick and tired of seeing our AL Central division rivals: Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, and Minnesota. Not many people seem to realize that every team plays their 4 division rivals 19 games each every year. That’s 76 games out of 162 per year against the same tired teams. Using our new format as outlined, we could easily schedule 10 games each versus each team in the same league. That would be 14 opponents with 10 games each. That would equal our 140 game season. I love interleague play, which is a 20 game schedule. Those 20 games could be reduced if we need, as long as we keep playing the main interleague rivals (i.e. CHI Sox vs CHI Cubs, NY Mets vs NY Yanks, LA vs LA, SF vs OAK, etc). Those are supremely important. I will die defending the idea that these are truly the best rivalries in sports.
- One pitching change maximum per inning / Minimum 3 batters faced. C’mon managers! Let’s speed it up. No more LOOGY’s (“Lefty Only One Out Guys” who come in to pitch to one or two lefties before being pulled for a righty to face a righty). Fans are bored. Even diehards are getting up to walk around or they’re switching channels on the TV. It’s tedious in the extreme. Baseball needs to do something!
- Designated Hitter (DH) in both leagues. Who wants to see pitchers hitting? Nobody wants to see more whiffs. Modern times call for specialists. Why do we make pitchers hit in the NL when most guys can’t even swing the stick? It’s just dumb. Pitchers hitting is like quarterbacks being forced to play defense and tackle a hulking running back. That would be silly. Football has evolved. Players don’t play both ways anymore. So why is the National League making their pitchers “play both ways”? You know how offensive penalties are drive-killers in football? In the same way, pitchers coming up to bat are inning-enders in baseball. It’s boring. Chicks dig the long ball. They don’t dig low-scoring games caused by pitchers striking out with runners on base. It’s time for the DH everywhere. Everyone in the world is already using it except for the stubborn National League. C’mon NL. Get with the program!
- Revamp the entire Baseball Hall of Fame including voting procedures. Induct PED users and just state the facts. Write on their plaques the following: “So and so is suspected of using Performance Enhancing Drugs. He was named in the Mitchell Report. He failed nine drug tests. OR, So and so never failed any drug tests but we think he did PED’s because his head is big. Etc.” In some cases, the fact is…… the player is suspected to have used steroids but nobody really knows. State the facts. Let the people judge if they like the player, but if they deserve to be recognized as Hall of Famers based on how good they were, then they should be Hall of Famers. * Best example: Barry Bonds. We all know Bonds was a first-ballot Hall of Famer before he was even suspected of using steroids. He was named the Player of the Decade of the ’90s by Sporting News before he got jealous of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s epic home run race of 1998. Supposedly, Bonds was unhappy that they got all the acclaim when he knew they were on steroids and he said to himself, “If I did PED’s, I could put up 70 homers too.” Sure enough, he put up 73 in 2001. So was Bonds a cheater? Most likely. But we don’t know for sure. As far as I’m aware, he never failed a drug test. Therefore, this is like putting a guy away for life in prison but they can’t find a victim, a weapon, or a motive. It’s just that, oh, we THINK he did it. Also, was there even an MLB rule against PED’s at that time? No….. no there wasn’t. Was Bonds a Hall of Famer regardless? Most assuredly. Is Bonds a jerk? Many think so. It’s that fact that keeps him out of the Hall more than the ‘roids. Just ask a sportswriter. Many traditionalists say they NEVER want to elect a PED user into the Hall. Well guess what? They already have! Look at Jeff Bagwell and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Remember that one Spring where Rodriguez had lost about 40 or 50 pounds? Yeah, it’s true folks. Look up his photos. * Now let’s address gamblers, cheaters, and generally bad people. From most accounts, Ty Cobb was a jerk, yet he’s in the Hall of Fame. Drug abusers, racists, bigots, and jerks plaques are lining the walls in the Hall of Fame already, yet some players for some sins are not allowed in. Best example: Pete Rose. Hey, if you’re good, you’re good. Just because you’re a lying, cheating jerk doesn’t mean you weren’t a great baseball player. Put Pete in the Hall and let the people form their own opinions. Did Rose gamble on baseball? Yes. Did he bet against his own team? I’m not so sure. Should he be banned from Baseball forever? I don’t think so. While we’re at it, we should induct Shoeless Joe Jackson too. I’ve read a lot on the 1919 Black Sox and from my research, we know Shoeless Joe was one of the greatest hitters ever. Did he accept money? Yes, he probably did take the money. However, did he throw World Series games in 1919? No, it’s highly unlikely. Why do I think this? He led the Chicago “Black” Sox in hitting in that 1919 World Series loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Is one hundred years enough banishment? Yes! Jackson, his family, and the fans have paid their dues….. for a full century. The White Sox organization is missing out on what could be a HUGE ceremony this year during the 100th “Anniversary” of the 1919 White/Black Sox. If only MLB would let them, the White Sox could hold a dramatic “Shoeless Joe Jackson” Reinstatement ceremony. Talk about media coverage. This would be a huge statement.
- Let the fans see more batting practice before the games start. When we go to Sox Park, they open the gates 90 minutes before the first pitch. I try to get in as quickly as possible and catch some home runs in batting practice. The goofy thing is the home team is already finished with their pregame hitting. So we can only catch balls from the opponent. That’s ok in many regards. However, they should at least switch it up and swap batting times once in a while. Even once a week would be refreshing. I bet they’d get more fans in the park earlier, which means more time to sell concessions. So why doesn’t Sox Park do it? Only they know. Do other parks? I don’t know. Please let me know in the comments section if you know of other ballparks batting practice rituals.
- Ten cent beer nights! Disco Demolition Nights! More fun promos! The White Sox, like most baseball teams, seem to do an excellent job with their promotions already. Most franchises do bobble-head giveaways, free t-shirt nights, Elvis night, bring your dog to the park night, etc. However, new and interesting promos are always encouraged. Gimme a crazy throwback like 10 cent beer night. Nothing could possibly go wrong!
* Dutch Lion’s detailed MLB schedule proposal entitled the “DLP” (Dutch Lion Plan)
And now….. the moment you’ve all been waiting for!…. The “DLP”. The “DLP” includes the following:
- Drop the regular season from 162 games down to 140 games
- Opening Day is moved up to mid-March by using Spring Training sites for real games that count. This would be about 2 weeks. Then the traditional Opening Day will still happen around the normal dates. Teams will be back in their home cities around April 1.
- Every Sunday becomes an old-fashioned Doubleheader. The owners can charge somewhere between the price of 1 and 2 home games. They will probably sell out most Sundays with first pitch landing around 11 am for the first game. Think about all the concessions they can sell! Beer sales don’t end until the 7th inning…… of the 2nd game. Attendance will skyrocket. Sure, there are less home dates, but a much higher average attendance per game.
- Regular season is over by the end of July
- Postseason begins on August 1
- World Series takes place from August 20-August 31
Detailed analysis of each bullet point:
Old schedule: 162 games
New schedule: 140 games
Old schedule start date: around April 1
New schedule start date: around mid-March
- We will use the last two weeks in March at Spring Training stadiums to start our regular season schedule. This will be about 15 games prior to the “normal” start of the season. People love traveling to Arizona and Florida for Spring training so why do we waste our time with 30 fake games down there? It’s overkill. In modern times, the athletes are easily ready by mid-March anyway. The days of Spring Training to help the offseason insurance salesmen is from a bygone era. In fact, this era probably ended by the ’70s. In modern times, these dudes make millions of dollars and are in great shape year round. They don’t need 6 weeks to get rid of their winter belly fat. So why are we still using this outdated schedule? One word: Tradition.
Old schedule end date: around October 1
New schedule end date: around August 1
- So if we take away August and September regular season baseball, that adds up to about 50 to 55 games. (Last year, the White Sox played 29 games in August and 27 games in September. That’s 29+27 = 56 total games.) So how do we structure the new “DLP” format? Add in about 15 games at the Spring Training sites in March and we’re looking at replacing (56-15 = 41) games. How do we achieve that? Well, first of all let’s just cut 22 games from the schedule. Let’s move down to 140 regular season games from 162. Great. That leaves us with (41-22 = 19) games to make up from March to the end of July. How do we do that?…..Dutch Lion has an IDEA! We bring back the traditional Sunday doubleheaders. How many Sundays do we have from April, May, June, and July? We have about 17 Sundays during those four months. A Sunday doubleheader each week would provide about 17 games. That leaves two more games. Hmmmm. Let’s take two less days off over four months and voila! We did it! 140 games from mid-March to the end of July. Then we can start the Playoffs on August 1.
Last year’s Playoffs started on October 2 and ended with Game 5 of the World Series on October 28. Therefore, the current format takes about 1 month. Currently, there are too many built-in days off during the Playoffs. Therefore, we can cut out a few “travel” days. Along with our idea of making best-of-9 game series, with less days off, the team with more depth, in other words, the better team is more likely to win rather than the team with one or two dominant starting pitchers.
All of this will add up to our World Series Game 7 which will take place before the typical Labor Day kickoff weekend of football season.
In conclusion, the entire month of August would be a celebration of the National Pastime. The interest, the ratings, and the overall exposure of baseball would make up for all the changes to tradition. Plus, the TV money would make up for the loss of 11 home dates per team. The owners could live with that, trust me. Eventually, the game of baseball would prosper with my proposal. I believe in this idea. “The DLP”……. Give it a chance, before the National Pastime becomes the National Past-It’s-Time.