How To Make Baseball Better

When it comes to baseball, I’m a traditionalist.

Mickey Mantle

Mickey Mantle

So I’m not keen on Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci’s suggestions to change the rules by adding bonus batters and lowering the mound by two inches to pump up run production – see article here:

Verducci also calls for limiting the number of timeouts to six per nine innings (that would certainly speed up the games) and requiring relief pitchers to face at least two batters. Sure, fans would have fewer interruptions but I suspect some people enjoy the breaks to load up on hot dogs, pretzels and beer.

Verducci does call for shortening the 162 game season. As a traditionalist, I like the idea of bringing baseball back to it’s heritage of  154 games  – the way it used to be before MLB added 8 extra games in 1961 to accommodate expansion and the arrival of the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels. (And those Angels actually played in Los Angeles, not Anaheim).

As Verducci points out, Monday is the least popular day of the week in terms of fan attendance. Also, players need more days off. So why not schedule just one game on a Monday and make it a traditional baseball rivalry contest between the Yankees and Red Sox or the Giants and Dodgers or maybe the Cubs vs. the Cardinals? It would make Mondays special and allow more players to be healthy for the playoffs.

And while we’re at it, let’s shorten the playoffs. The World Series should never be about dodging snow flakes and sub-freezing temperatures while the gales of November are raging. But there have been more than half a dozen World Series games played in November:

I love the one-game playoff between the two wild card teams. The best of five format for the Division Series is great, but let’s also make the League Championship Series a five-game match-up, so the World Series can actually start and finish before Halloween.

It just doesn’t feel right to play baseball in sleet and freezing rain. After all, Reggie Jackson was “Mr. October” and not “Mr. November.”

And then finally, let’s get rid of the DH. I’ve never liked the Designated Hitter rule. The DH allows aging American League hitters to show off their one-dimensional offensive skills but it  dilutes the purity of the game.

Yes it’s exciting to see 40-year old David Ortiz smack one out of the park, but even more thrilling when a National League pitcher like Madison Bumgarner does it. In fact MadBum has 13 career home runs, with two of them against Clayton Kershaw.

The DH takes strategy out of the game – for example, what if your National League pitcher is due to hit next with a runner on second in the bottom of the 7th innning while locked in a 1-1 tie? If there are two outs, you might have to pinch hit for him, but if it’s MadBum maybe you like your chances with him at the plate and then pitching the 8th inning. The decision is a tough one for any manager, but that makes the game exciting. Plus, whatever happens, fans get to question the strategy of the manager, which makes for vibrant discussions on sports talk radio.

To me, baseball is nearly perfect the way it is, but a few tweaks might be good for the game. What do you think?

About Mike

Mike Luery is an award-winning journalist with 25 years on TV and radio. Currently, he is the political reporter for KCRA-TV, the top-ranked station in Sacramento. This is Luery's second tour of duty with KCRA, where he was also a reporter from 1984 - 2000. In between, he was NBC's Capitol Bureau Chief in California and a reporter for CBS 13 in Sacramento. Luery lives in northern California with his wife Carol. Baseball Between Us is his first book.
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