How to Fix Major League Baseball
- Written by Michael Cogliano
- April 13, 2011
With a crack of the bat and a slow rolling ground ball back towards the pitcher, the 2011 Major League Baseball season is underway. It was a personal best last week when I managed 5 mutually exclusive naps during the 3 hour 44 minute contest between my beloved Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. After 3 innings I felt like I’d just been read 3 bedtime stories over a warm glass of milk. I’m not saying there’s no potential here; there is a lot of good pieces to work with. What we have to do is cut our losses about “America’s Pastime” and revamp the sport that makes such a lovely summer afternoon outing.
Step 1: Move the outfield walls back about 40 feet each. You might think this will mean fewer home runs, but trust me, I’ve got that covered. But before we get to that piece, imagine the entertainment value of watching one outfielder trying to cover half a football field by himself. A routine fly ball is suddenly a stand-up triple. High comedy!
Step 2: Cork the hell out of all the bats. Painstaking research (Wikipedia!) led me to discover that corked bats work because they make the bat lighter without losing power. What’s wrong with that? It’s not as though we’re harvesting cork from endangered Kuala bears; it’s a harmless substance that would make the game much more amusing.
Step 3: Go back to our late 90’s steroid policy. For those of you who don’t know the policy, it went something like this: Unless you jam a needle into your ass in the on-deck circle, we’re going to pretend these outrageous muscles are all-natural. Some of my most vivid baseball memories concern the utter delight involved in watching McGuire and Sosa crank out 70 home runs each. Let’s get back to our blissful ignorance. We still let people smoke even though it causes cancer, so why can’t we let athletes grow a couple of breasts, shrink their nuts, and hit baseballs through the stratosphere?
Step 4: Here’s my personal favorite reform: Before the last game of each series (last game only, the first few would proceed normally), there is a short ceremony before the opening pitch where all the players selected by the manager to start the game approach the pitcher’s mound and pull a slip of paper out of a hat. This slip of paper contains the position they will be playing for the entirety of this game. This may face some resistance originally, but imagine C.C. Sabbathia waddling around centerfield (which is now a small football field in size) chasing a ball but then firing a 96 mph fastball from the warning track to nail the guy at home plate. Tell me you wouldn’t watch this.
Step 5: A final piece of the puzzle: How can we close the emerging gap between big and small market teams? Here’s a thought. The average salary for a player on the New York Yankees is over 6 million dollars per year. The average salary for a Royals player is just over 1 million. Here’s the deal: You can overpay as much as you want, but at the beginning of every series, we take the disparity in the millions spot of that average and provide the poorer team with that many runs that they can choose to allocate over the series however they’d like. For example, if my beloved Cleveland Indians (average salary ~1 million dollars) faced off against the Boston Red Sox (average salary ~6 million dollars) the Tribe gets 5 runs to distribute the 3-game series however they’d like. This change will have a few important effects. First, teams that keep throwing money at players until something works will face significant disadvantages in many of their games. Second, we’ll see definitively who was being honest when they said “I just want a chance to win.” Sure, a guy can take 20 million bucks a year because he’s a superstar. But he could also take 4 million a year and go into every series with a 3 run advantage. The choice is theirs.
I’m excited already. These changes would send an afternoon at the ballpark back into the title of “America’s past time”. At the very least, it will make the game more watchable all over the country. Imagine trying to take a nap while a steroid hungry giant uses a corked bat to put a ball into another zip code. It's simply not going to happen.