Ideas for Making Baseball More Interesting

When I was a kid, I loved baseball more than anything, and I’m afraid I mean that literally — more than my family, my friends, even more than my dog. If given the opportunity, I would have played baseball 24 hours a day. And when I couldn’t play it, I would watch it on T.V.

Now I can barely sit through a whole inning of a game on T.V.

Judging from the World Series T.V. ratings for the past 40 years — they’ve slipped from a 22.8 rating/57 share in 1968 to 10.6 rating/18 share in 2007 — I am not alone.

Why? Maybe I and a lot of people have adult-onset A.D.D. and need more stimulation than baseball can offer. Maybe there are just too many other forms of entertainment. Or maybe the game is just too boring.

Is it more boring than it was in 1968?

No, but it hasn’t changed much since then either. If you are a traditionalist, which I am in many ways, this could be good news. But since sport is entertainment, you have to keep in mind that people get bored watching the same game play out every day.

Football and basketball may be more innately exciting than baseball, but just as important, they’ve also changed a lot over the past 40 years. They are full of innovation.

What is baseball’s biggest innovation of the past 40 years? Steroids maybe. Or the specialization of the pitching staff (yawn).

You may not like all the changes in other sports, but it does keep things interesting. Baseball, meanwhile — well, if you have watched enough of it, you know exactly what’s coming at just about any point in the game. You can predict what the manager will do in a given situation. You can predict what the commentators will say after the play.

Darren Everson has written a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal about how a few baseball managers are trying some new things, however marginal. Here are a few examples from Everson’s piece:

1) Having a relief pitcher play the outfield for a batter or two and then come back in and pitch; this gets around the archaic substitution rules — you can’t take a pitcher out of the game and bring him back in — while still letting you practice situational pitching.

2) Putting an infield shift even on a right-handed batter like Vladimir Guerrero, which means asking any of the three infielders who might field the ball to make a long throw to first.

3) If bad weather is forecast, don’t waste your starting pitcher; instead, start a bullpen pitcher. More broadly, use relievers to start the game but have them pitch only a few innings, bringing in your “starter” to finish the game off, including innings eight and nine.

4) Have your pitcher bat eighth instead of ninth so your ninth-place hitter can set things up for the top of the lineup.

I particularly like what Bill James had to say in Everson’s article about why most managers do the same thing in baseball:

“A blunder by a manager is a move that is A) unconventional, B) doesn’t work, and C) occurs at a moment of focus in the game,” says Bill James, senior baseball-operations adviser with the Boston Red Sox. “If you put those three things together, you have a blunder. As long as you do what’s conventional, you won’t be accused of a blunder.”

While none of the above examples are earth-shattering, they’d certainly make the game a bit more fluid and fun to watch. I am guessing that you all can come up with at least a few dozen other potential changes, including rule changes, that would make baseball better without damaging its great tradition.

A lot of these changes might not have to do with how the game is played but rather how it is presented on T.V.; the long commercial break between each half-inning, for instance, is a gilded invitation to go watch something else.

I understand that the game is the game and that you don’t want to start installing trampolines in the outfield, for instance. But aren’t there some things that could be done to make people like me who used to love the game want to watch it again?


El Greco

ROFLOL!
What's on TV? I'll get a snack, maybe a beer. A commercial. Change the channel. Eat a pretzel. Watch someone choose a briefcase. $500,000!Whoa! Bad boys, Bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Check my Blackberry. Nothing. Send a txt. Read a magazine. Article continued on another page! No way! I'm done with that, I'm not turninhg any more pages! That takes too long. Check weather channel. Play some spider solitaire. Click on YouTube. Funny. Click on Hulu. Wierd.Check the Costco e-mail. Oh, I'll get a hot tub tomorrow. TiVo the CW channel primetime lineup. Watch QVC. Oh, no models. What's on the news? Something about the President or somebody. Geez, why are they always telling us about some other country?! The purple pill? Do I need to take this? Check G4. Something in Japanese, too hard to understand. No, they fall in the water. Funny! Need some more pretzels. Twitter Jack and Ted. What's on TruTV? Download new wallpaper.
Oh, yeah, baseball. Just watch highlights.Too hard to follow. What's the beep for? Time for the Ritalin...
El Greco
sent via AT&T and Blackberry

Read more...

Super

Imagine the all too familiar scenario:
Team A: 2 out, all bases occupied but the batter strikes out or holes out a catch
Team B: 3 out, the bases were never occupied.
Shouldn't Team A be awarded a bonus run? Better still, (baseball purists will cringe), award a run for each base occupied. What is the point in stealing a base only to see batters giving up!!

Also, batters can make the decision whether to run to the first base or not depending on where they hit the ball except of course if he already has 2 strikes. Hitting & not running would count as a strike.

Tim Dellinger

"How to fix baseball": maximize the things you want to see, minimize the things you don't want to see.

Things I want to see: amazing diving catches. Throws from third to first. Double plays. Awesome hits. Baserunners taking risks.

Things I don't want to see: pitchers taking forever because they're the stars of the game.

The solution is easy, then. More hitting, less emphasis on pitching. Lower the pitcher's mound in order to accomplish this. Lower it to the ground if you have to! You could go to a dead-er ball if this tilts the game too much towards batters.

Jeff

Just to clarify things, there IS a 30 second time limit on pitches. No matter what you say, for better or for worse, umpires will refuse to enforce it.

T

It needs the excitement of NASCAR, so I say aluminum balls, carbon-fiber-lined gloves, and titanium bats.

MSH

Go back to the strike zone or the mound height of the 1970s. Let's face it - batters are smarter, in better shape, and have better plate discipline than ever before. It's time to give the pitchers a leg up.

Get rid of the DH.

The great Jim Kaat had a pitching philosophy of "Think long, think wrong." He'd get the ball back from the catcher, pause for a second and a half, toe the rubber, and throw. Maybe he was just that confident in his abilities. In 1976, a game that he started averaged around 2 hours flat.

Thomas Brownback

In the late 80s, Premiership League Football was struggling to make ends meet, and despite coming from a relatively tiny island, it has since reformed to become one of the most profitable sports in the world.

My favorite aspect of the football association could make a lot of dreamers in America flock to baseball again: all the leagues in the country are connected on a system where the highest competitors are promoted to the higher league, the weakest competitors are relegated to the lower league. So any neighborhood club could rise to win the national championships after a few years (though this seems unlikely, there are still some incredible underdog stories through this system). Also, more games late in the season are important: games at the bottom of the league are just as meaningful as at the top, maybe moreso. Also, games in lower leagues have more meaning, because they are playing for higher stakes.

(Also, the leagues could be smaller, but I don't know if that would improve the allure of the sport or not.)

Read more...

Scott

Change baseball to match-play format - each innings is scored separately, with one point awarded for the winner of each innings and scores resetting each time.

Then the next step is to have four teams playing at once.

waiting, waiting, waiting for the next pitch

Faster-Faster-Faster

3, 5, 20, 42, 48 (except for item #2), 55 (except items 1&4),

Dan

Limit the number of player initiated time outs to five per game. No more stepping out of the batter's box between every pitch. Once you're in, you're in, and you should be prepared to hit. If you have to step out, you burn a time out. Same thing when you slide into second or third. If you want to take a minute to clean yourself off and give your batting gloves to the bat boy, it will cost you another time out. Otherwise, just deal with a dirty uniform until you get back to the dugout. This is the only way to cut down on the time of games, which is getting ridiculous.

Steve

I think the way to speed up games is to keep the team that's trailing batting. When the White Sox are beating the Royals 8-1 after 6, there's no reason that the White Sox need to bat in the 7th, 8th, and 9th. Give every team 27 outs, clear the bases after every three, and give the winning team the choice whether to bat or not. If the Royals did come back, then the Sox would have the opportunity to use their outs. That would cut much more time off the clock than a difficult-to-enforce pitch clock.

Ryan

The beautiful thing about baseball is it runs like a clock; there are a few rules that set it in motion, every other rule builds off of these, and very little of it is arbitrary. Most of the rules that would make it "more interesting" are in direct contrast to the simplicity of the game. Like Bill James's proposed rule about not allowing a reliever to leave the game until they have given up a run. It would cut down on interruptions but there is no basis for such a rule. Keep the game simple; if it doesn't excite you enough, go basejumping.

Lee

A small but entirely cost-free improvement: when a batter is intentionally walked, allow him to just go to first base immediately. Don't waste time having the pitcher intentionally throw four balls away from the batter. Waive the batter to first base and get on with the game.

udthum

Eliminate the distinction between starting and releif pitchers. Have all pitchers pitch 3 or 4 innings, use them every three or four days. This would bring in a fresh pitcher early enough, before the starter gets into trouble in the 5th or 6th inning. It also would eliminate the delays while the manager changes pitchers, ususally for little purpose, for each batter in the latter innings.

jj

I would propose allowing batters to run either to third of first when they hit the ball. This would be awesome, imagine having two people on second running in two different directions. This would also mean your first basemen would probably have to be more athletic. Also I would really start looking for ambidexterous pitchers I think these guys could be a real threat!

Brian

Lower ratings are largely accounted for by the vastly greater array of entertainment choices available. However, that's not the only cause. One of the biggest mistakes Major League Baseball has made is its decision, in conjunction with its broadcast partners, to promote certain franchises to such an extent that all the others are regarded as second-class citizens. It hasn't always been this way. It used to be that people watched the World Series because it was the championship of baseball. It didn't matter if "small-market" teams like the Pirates, Royals, Brewers or even Blue Jays were in it. However, baseball has promoted the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets and Dodgers to the point where the average fan is completely unfamiliar with, and in many cases completely dismissive of, teams like, say, last year's Rockies and Diamondbacks-- even though they had the two best records in the National League in 2007. When they met in the National League Championship Series, ratings were the lowest ever, and many people in the press-- people who are paid to follow baseball-- bemoaned the dullness of the matchup and unfamiliarity of the players. If Seattle and Pittsburgh met in the World Series in 2008, it would shatter the previous record-low ratings even though a matchup between the same two franchises and markets in 1983, or even in 1993, would have been highly rated. Meanwhile, when Seattle played Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, no one complained about the small-market nature of the teams because the NFL does a much better job exposing its fans to practically every franchise.

There is just as much dead time in football as there is in baseball. In football, almost 45 seconds elapses between each play. All of the action in a football game could be watched in under 20 minutes of real time, so it is a matter of perception more than reality that baseball is somehow slower. Add to this the fact that it is not action, so much as the possibility of action, that ought to make things interesting. In baseball, there may be a lot of pitches taken, but there is a possibility that something could happen on every pitch. You never know what pitch is the one that will get put into play.

Regarding the competitive balance of baseball, it has already been pointed out that there is much more balance than the conventional wisdom holds. Indeed, half of all MLB teams (15 of 30) have reached the postseason IN THE LAST TWO YEARS. Sixty percent have made the playoffs at least once in the last three years. Only one-third of teams have not been in the playoffs within the last five years.

Read more...

Kevin H

How to make baseball more exciting?
one word: Blernsball
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGFWLI9az_k

Tim Dierkes

The major innovation of the past 40 years has been the creation and surge of fantasy baseball. Tons of people play, and it's a great way to get interested in a game you would not otherwise care about. It also causes you to develop favorite players on obscure teams or teams you don't root for.

At first I followed every Tim Lincecum start with rapt attention because he was on my fantasy teams. This year he's not but I've become a fan and I just like watching him dominate a game. I feel like I "discovered" him.

mikey

Baseball? I thought that sport died the year they cancelled the world series. Are they still playing?

David

Eliminating the DH would improve the game immensely, and not just in the AL.

Why? There are several reasons, but one of the main ones is that it would let pitchers return to their pre-DH role as enforcers. All that stepping out of the box to upset the pitcher's rhythm? No one ever did that against Bob Gibson -- at least no one ever did it twice.

There was a code of when you could throw at a batter and when you couldn't, and pitchers rarely threw at them in situations that would violate that code, because the pitcher too had to take his turn at the plate.

When the pitcher no longer has to bat, the constraints on throwing at batters have to be enforced by the umpire. And the umpire has to have a bright-line rule -- he has to prohibit all throwing at batters, even when the pre-DH code would have sanctioned it.

And once things changed this way in the AL, you couldn't have a rule that said, in effect, "It's okay to throw at batters in some situations in the NL, but not in the AL." So the NL suffers this consequence of the DH as well.

(The DH slows down the game in other ways as well, but the other ways affect only the AL. Those ways are more obvious (no easy out in almost every lineup), but I'm pretty sure cause less delay in the aggregate.)

Read more...