As the regular season of Major League Baseball wraps up, its time to evaluate changes that took affect this year and whether or not they worked.
1) Instant Replay — Fail. This experiment did not work. Having some joker in New York reviewing plays did not help the game any. He got it wrong as often as the Umpires on the field did, so what was the point? All instant replay eliminated was the part of the game the fans have come to love: The Argument. There is nothing more exciting then having your manager come out and argue a play call. It pumps up the fans and it pumps up the team. Who can ever forget Billy Martin kicking dirt onto the umpire as he argues with him? That’s baseball and that was sorely missing this season. Instead, we got a kinder, gentler, more boring game. Get rid of Instant Replay!
2) Inter-league Play — Fail. The point of having two leagues is so they face each other in the World Series and until then, it’s a mystery which league, or which teams are better. Having cross-league play all of the time takes the mystery out of it. Get rid of Inter-League Play.
3) No more blocking the plate — Fail. At one time, one of the most exciting plays was the play at the plate as the throw and the runner reach the catcher at the same time. The runner who slam into the catcher to dislodge the ball. The catcher would brace for the impact and try to hold onto the ball. I realize they did it to prevent injuries, but the rule started to get in the way of the game as they’d review any play at home in the off chance that the catcher might have sort of almost been blocking the plate. Besides, rules shouldn’t be made just because one team’s star player was taken out of the game for the rest of the season because he didn’t know how to stand without getting hurt. Bring back the catcher’s ability to block the plate.
Major league baseball is trying to improve it’s product as it competes against the NFL and NBA, but none of these rules help its standings and in fact, they ruin the fans’ experience.
About the only thing the MLB did get right is it’s stand against steroids. Bulking up players so they can hit a home run into the parking lot does not improve the game. Home runs might bring a moment’s excitement for the casual fan, but for fans who are knowledgeable of the game, they understand the best baseball is all about the fundamentals: getting base hits, advancing the runner, proper bunting, suicide squeezes, and pitcher duels.
Look, I admit I’m a purist about baseball. It’s been a great game for over 100 years and doesn’t need any tweaking to make it more accessible to the lowest common denominator. What it needs is more national exposure. Why is the NFL so popular these days? Because almost every team shows up on national television allowing people across the country to follow even the smallest market team, the Green Bay Packers. But television coverage in baseball is all regional. You want to see the smallest market team, the Milwaukee Brewers, you’re out of luck. There are few national games available. Baseball, to reach a wider audience, needs a significant national television contract to expose more teams to more people.
Baseball is still America’s pastime, but it’s a regional level. And until they make it available at the national level, it’ll never compete with the ratings for football.