It’s that time of the year again: the regular season is over, the playoffs are beginning and baseball is at it’s finest. But for some reason, I couldn’t care less.
Baseball is a sport that’s going through a relatively rough patch. Fresh off of the Mitchell Report and the steroids era, baseball is in dire need of an image change. Most of the current talk surrounding baseball pertains to who took what performance enhancer and the crucial need for the expansion of instant replay, as well as which branch of government Roger Clemens is currently lying to about not taking steroids.
Especially during this time in the fall when basketball, football and hockey emerge from their summer slumber, it can be hard for baseball to compete for the attention of the average sports fans. There’s just so much going on that baseball can sometimes slip through the cracks. This is not to say that the playoffs so far have not been eventful. We’ve seen the defeat of the imperial Yankees, the triumph of two underdogs in the Rangers and Giants making it to the World Series and the first postseason no-hitter in 50 years by the impeccable Roy Halladay. Yet, there isn’t much for me to get excited about.
In other sports, I always look forward to their respective postseasons, even if the team I support isn’t in the playoffs. I study matchups, I read previews and I spend hours watching playoff games, but I can’t say the same thing for baseball. However, all hope is not lost. With a few changes, baseball can make America fall in love with it all over again. So what exactly should be done to fix the game?
Firstly, baseball games need to be shortened. America’s favorite pastime? More like America’s favorite wastetime. The average length of a nine-inning major league baseball game is about three hours, an awfully long time to watch grown men adjust their jock straps and chew huge wads of tobacco in between pitches. If they manage to hit those pitches, they more often than not will stay in the infield. I’ve dozed off many times with a baseball game on TV only to wake up to the same score an hour later.
If I were the commissioner of the MLB, my first course of action would be to shorten the game’s length by not allowing players to step out of the batter’s box more than once during an at-bat. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen baseball players waste time by stepping out of the batter’s box after every pitch to look back at the dugout or adjust some piece of equipment, even if they don’t take a swing. I watch the games to see baseball, not to see Nomar Garciaparra fiddle with his gloves like an over-caffeinated origami artist. At least Garciaparra has retired.
It’s also time that baseball introduced a pitch clock. Technically, there is already a rule that says the pitcher must deliver his pitch 12 seconds after he receives the ball. If the pitcher doesn’t deliver the pitch in time, then the umpire will call a ball. I’ve never seen that rule enforced. With the introduction of an actual pitch clock (similar to the shot clock used in basketball) umpires will be more inclined to actually enforce the rule, forcing pitchers to pitch quickly.
This pitch clock is essential to speeding up games. Imagine how boring basketball would be without a shot clock. Teams could spend more time looking for Waldo than for a good shot without the pressure of a shot clock. With the implementation of these two simple rules, fans would be able to spend more time watching the exciting aspects of baseball that we all love rather than waiting for them.
The MLB also needs to address the expansion of replay. Just this season alone we have enough evidence to show why baseball needs to make this change: Armando Galaraga’s botched perfect game, controversial fair or foul calls in this years postseason and Derek Jeter’s Oscar performance of pretending to have been hit by a pitch.
There is no reason not to expand replay. One could make the argument that expanding replay would just lengthen an already long game, but some of these mistakes made by umpires can affect the outcome of games, even careers (as it did for Galaraga).
Just look at the World Cup this summer. FIFA faced heavy scrutiny for not expanding replay when we saw missed call after missed call, some of which affected the outcomes of games (remember the phantom offside call in the USA’s match against Slovenia? Remember how you felt like bashing that referee upside the head for making that call? Yeah, me too). Adding a couple minutes to review crucial calls in games is much better than dealing with the frustration and controversy of a missed call.
Not making these changes would be about as logical as a police officer tasing a cooperative student during a raid. It just doesn’t make sense not to make these changes.
Another thing baseball can do to increase interest and compete with other sports during the fall is to expand the playoffs. Compared to the NFL, NBA and NHL, baseball has the fewest number of teams in the postseason. Adding a couple more wildcard spots to the playoffs would mean that more people would watch the playoffs. Plus, having more playoff games would mean more revenue for more teams and baseball as a whole. If more people watch the playoffs from the start, they will be more inclined to continue to keep up with the rest of the postseason.
Baseball purists would argue that the beauty in the game is found in all the flaws, that we shouldn’t change any of the rules, that the game should be played the way it was made, that changing the rules would compromise the integrity of the game, blah blah blah. In this day and age of Twitter, Facebook and anything else that feeds our insatiable appetite for instant gratification, baseball is way too slow of a sport to continue to capture our interest. Some changes are necessary to allow baseball to grow and survive. The United States government doesn’t interpret the Constitution the way it was written in 1787: Why should baseball be played the same way it was when it was created? There are some flaws, and if we have the technology and means to fix them, why not?
Baseball is a beautiful game. There isn’t anything quite like going to watch baseball on a warm summer night. We get to see athletes making diving catches, managers making strategic decisions, as well as batters displaying their tremendous power — the only problem is, sometimes it can be a little boring. By making some of these changes, baseball can continue to grow and be loved by people all over America, and even the world.
Raahil Kajani is a sophomore in Branford College.