Saving Baseball (and America?)
by Chad McNabb
Baseball is no longer synonymous with America. The two have grown apart. America has changed, but baseball is still partying like it’s 1839. Americans have too many other forms of entertainment at their fingertips now. In 1839, entertainment consisted largely of labor strike participation and not contracting influenza. The trends are startling but hardly surprising. According to an article by Marc Fisher in the Washington Post, Major League Baseball has the oldest viewership among any professional sport, with 50% of fans being 55 or older. The number of kids playing little league has also continued its two-decade-long decline. There were no Major League Baseball Players on a recent ESPN sports survey of Young American’s 30 favorite sports figures. While revenues and stadium attendance are still performing well, within two decades Baseball will come to a tipping point. What is the problem? It’s killing its prospective audience with boredom. There are too many games that take way too long to play. I am proposing 10 new rules to save the game. These rules will make the game more recognizable to our troubled society. Don’t worry girl. We got this.
Rule One: Shorten the season from 162 games to 16.
College football is the model here. In a college football season, every game matters. A two-loss team has little to no chance of competing for a championship. Does baseball even matter until after the all-star break? Not really. You don’t hear many people worried about how their team is doing in April or May. No more. Every game matters.
Rule Two: Shorten the innings from 9 to 7.
The custom of the “seventh inning stretch” is quite telling. If you have to sit in a position so long, watching other people play a sport, you have probably been sitting too long. The seventh inning stretch should be done at home. Why haven’t we questioned this?! It’s an insane custom that we have ignored for too long. No more. We speeding shit up.
Rule Three: Install a 20-second pitch clock.
Basketball has a 24-second clock that requires players to run the length of a court, usually passing to multiple teammates before a shot is launched. The pitcher is stationary. There is no running. Why does he need an offensive amount of time to make a decision? The first two violations in a single game result in “balls” being called. A third violation in a single game will result in the pitcher being ejected from the game and fined. There will also be a pitch count clock that monitors the number of pitches thrown in a game. Each team will be allowed 80 pitches per game. That should be more than enough time to get the job done. Exceeding that number will result in a forfeit.
Rule Four: Catcher's Stool.
Stop reading this article and attempt to squat down “catcher style” for one minute. Now imagine doing it through the entire Return of the King length of a MLB baseball game. It’s cruel, inhumane and nearly as damaging as NFL concussions. We might as well be waterboarding the poor bastards. It’s not only hard on the Catchers; it’s hard on the audience to watch such smut! Catchers will rest comfortably on stools from now on. No more.
Rule Five: No Instant Replay on Television Broadcasts.
In the age of DVR, there is simply no need to show the same play 5-7 times right after it occurred. If someone wishes to rewatch a play, that’s their business. They certainly have the technology to do it. We no longer will collectively sit through this nonsense. Fuck it, we’ll do it live.
Rule Six: Color Commentators: The Straight Man & the Wild Man.
Major League Baseball is willfully ignoring the Tango & Cash dynamite pair of commentators that America has long celebrated. The “straight” man and the “wild” man. The “straight man” is you’re no nonsense consummate insider, the stat nerd, the calm hand. The “wild man” has little to no knowledge of the game, substance abuse problems, and is easily distracted from gameplay. We are doing this Lethal Weapon style. Imagine Bob Costas and Pete Rose. Keith Olbermann and Sinbad! We will be bringing back the open bar to the announcer’s booth where it belongs.
Rule Seven: Drugs (here comes the hate).
An end to drug testing in baseball. In an effort to recreate the magical 1998 McGuire/Sosa homerun derby season, MLB will cease drug testing immediately. This doesn’t give a competitive edge to anyone. All players are welcome to partake, while the official league policy will remain neutral, other than to “decriminalize”. However, if a player hits a pitch completely out of the confines of the park and into the street it will count as two runs. Think of this as baseball’s three point shot. The current MLB policy is nothing more than residual cold war paranoia of Soviet dominance in the Olympics due to performance enhancing drug use. This misguided Soviet fear has demonized the entire concept of performance enhancing drugs. As a side note, drug testing for all substances is hereby banned. On June 12, 1970, Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter while high on LSD. Fly your freak flag.
Rule Eight: Brotherhood.
In the spirit of baseball representing the “common man,” on the Sunday night primetime game, attendees will be encouraged to bring rotting fruit from home. The commissioner of baseball will be contractually obligated to appear on the pitcher's mound and be pummeled with fruit from the stands for the length of AC/DC’s “Thunderstuck” which will be played at maximum volume over the speakers. Any salvageable fruit found on the field will be donated to local food banks.
Rule Nine: Economic fairness.
The average MLB player salary is four million dollars. Any player making less than this amount will be allowed to wager on games. Sportsbooks will be allowed to open in the stadiums where state law is applicable. On a related note, pitchers, the laziest breed of MLB player, will be required to work on the days they are not on the mound. They can usher fans to the restroom, work as team mascots or get their custodian on. The days of them chewing tobacco in the dugout are over. Full time work for full time pay.
Rule Ten: The Postseason.
MLB will model the college football playoff formula. Four teams will be determined by a committee made up of former players, celebrities, politicians, and scientists to determine playoff eligibility. Fans will also be able to vote for their choice for playoff eligibility via an official app. The top vote receiver will be guaranteed a playoff appearance.
This won’t be easy. But, think of your children. If you love the game you must admit there is a problem on the horizon, unless drastic measures are taken. Everything changes, often for the better. Goodbye old ass men. Go back to your ham radios and Lionel train sets. Baseball will become watchable again for our troubled times.