I was excited when I recently received an email from SB Nation, letting me know that Jeff from Lookout Landing (who I know many of you love) has written an article for SB Nation's Decade of Change series. Some of you may have already seen it, but I thought I'd feature it on our site. It is certainly worth a read; both the article and the comments that follow.
Baseball, rather obviously, is a popular sport. An immensely popular sport. But it’s a sport that attracts particular sorts of people. It doesn’t have hockey’s speed or blend of skill and strength. It doesn’t have basketball’s pace or high scoring. It doesn’t have football’s ability to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t have soccer’s whatever it is that makes people like soccer. Baseball is a very deliberate game. It’s one of the only sports wherein competitors are able to think their way through almost any given situation before it happens. As such, it has a tempo all its own, and while it’s this tempo and thinking-man’s appeal that draws a lot of us in, it’s also the very thing that pushes a lot of people away. If you don’t like baseball because it’s too slow or too boring, chances are no one will ever be able to change your mind.
Baseball fans are okay with that. We’re generally not the preachy sort. We love the game and the league the way they are, and if you disagree, then the loss is yours and yours only. With that said, no matter how much we love the game, it’s not perfect, and not even the hardiest fan in the world would tell you it is. This game could use some changes. Not changes to make it more appealing to a broader viewership, but rather changes to make it more appealing to us, the core audience.
So what changes does Jeff propose that we make to baseball?
He divides his changes into three categories; entertainment, parity, and safety. Some of his changes have been discussed before on AN, such as the use of technology ("replay and robots") instead of the current umpiring system. He sums up his position by this quote:
Baseball is the only sport that has the opportunity to get nearly every single one of its calls right on the field. The only sport. We can review every single pitch or tag or foul ball without interrupting the pace of the game. So why wouldn’t we? I get that human error has some appeal in that it gives everyone something to talk about, but wouldn’t you rather have people talking about the game?
We have also previously discussed the speed of the game; the number of pitching changes, payroll disparity, and the length of the playoffs, but what about these ideas?
- Penalty for intentional walks
- Penalty for HBP
- What about Lasik Eye Surgery?
And I found this paragraph extremely interesting. It's something that isn't talked about much; perhaps because the A's, like the Mariners, benefit from the uneven distribution of teams:
The AL has 14 teams, the NL has 16 teams, and for some reason people just accept this. What it means is that, in any given season, any team in the AL will have a 14% better chance of making the playoffs than any team in the NL. That’s…what? How can you justify having four teams in one division and six in another? Being a Mariners fan, I know it works to my personal benefit, but that’s crazy, and no possible scheduling or interleague explanation can convince me that what we have now is somehow optimal. You don’t have to re-align all the divisions if you don’t want to. Just move one team over. It’ll be weird, but then it’ll be fine, and it’ll make a hell of a lot more sense.
So, what do you think of Jeff's suggestions? What would you change to improve your baseball-watching experience? What do you think will change in the next ten years? On the flip side, is there anything about baseball that you think should be sacrificed to draw in more casual fans?