Something’s Gotta Give
September 22, 2010 22 Comments
There are some things in sports that I just can’t bring myself to care about. The WNBA finals, Paralympic games, and the World Ultimate Championships are not events that I can honestly say I enjoy watching. It’s not a criticism to the incredible ability of these athletes, because they are world-class, but when it comes to spectator sports those examples are not at the top of my list.
However, as a fairly hardcore baseball fan, you would think it would be a given that the AL pennant race is a sports event that I would be excited for. This week’s four game series between the two best teams in the Majors, the Rays and Yankees, should be one of highlight’s of this entire season. Sadly, because of the current structure of Major League Baseball, I could care less about this highly anticipated series.
Tomorrow night, David Price and C.C. Sabathia, the respective aces for their teams take the mound in a game that could be the difference in deciding the AL East champions for this season. But really, in the grand scheme of things it hardly matters. No matter what happens, the Rays and Yankees are both going to make the playoffs handily with the only difference essentially being home-field advantage.
Moreover, this matchup isn’t too big of a deal for most fans because of the fact that their team is most likely already eliminated or at least virtually eliminated from playoff contention. Only 8 out of the Major League’s 30 teams make the playoffs, and it’s no secret that for most teams, the latter part of the season is meaningless. So then why doesn’t Major League Baseball do something about this and make the season more meaningful for a greater amount of teams?
It is a very utopian thought but if Major League Baseball stopped looking through their rose-coloured glasses and actually did something to change the game for the better it could very well increase the hype and fanfare around “America’s pastime.”
One thought that has been thrown around, and something that I am very much in favour of, is the idea of shortening the season by 15 or 20 games. This would do a couple of things. First of all, it would create a longer playoff season. Secondly, a longer playoff season means there would be more teams that qualify for the playoffs.
I think that shortening the season would add a lot more excitement to the regular season as well as the playoffs. More teams would be involved and thus more fans would be more heavily immersed in the regular season rather than just waiting until October once they’ve seen that there team no longer has a shot at the playoffs.
Seriously, everyone loves playoffs and there aren’t too many things more fun than watching your team grind out a playoff berth in a tight race. It just makes sense to shorten the season.
The major flaw in shortening the season is that future statistics will no longer be relevant to the past statistics of 154 and 162 game seasons. We all know that statistics and baseball go hand in hand, but as many have pointed out, the steroid era has made many of the stats that we hold dear to our heart almost obsolete. There are just so many stats in this day and age that aren’t nearly as meaningful as they were 20 years. We have no idea what stats we can and cannot trust.
Another aspect of Major League Baseball that needs to be changed is the salary cap. I have mentioned it before, but I can’t stress enough that baseball should switch to a hard cap. Now, I do realize that teams with lower payrolls can survive and succeed as shown by the Minnesota Twins and the Florida Marlins. Nevertheless, a couple of anomalies cannot change the fact that we have so many teams struggling to compete with big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.\
Case in point, the Oakland Athletics are no longer thriving under Billy Beane’s revolutionary “Money Ball.”
The MLB should take a page from the NHL’s book and make the change to the hard salary cap. After the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the league decided to set a maximum and minimum cap. This made it so low-budget teams were forced to spend a certain amount of money, as well as keeping high budget teams within an adequate spending range. This has raised the level of competitiveness around the league, and is evident by how close the playoff races have been each and every year post lockout.
If the MLB switched to a hard cap similar to this model, there would no longer be teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates. The perennial losers that make money for their owners in the financial department are forced to at least attempt to be more competitive. How would you feel if you had to cheer for a team with an owner unwilling to spend any cash?
In contrast to this, there would also no longer be the Steinbrenner-like Yankee run franchises that don’t have to rely on prospects, scouting, and quality farm systems to stay competitive.
As I mentioned earlier, I realize that my thoughts are Utopian but the idea of making changes that would make the structure of the game so much better, while not affecting the actual game play, is too tantalizing not to consider.
Baseball is losing its status as America’s pastime and I think it’s high time Bud Selig and his crew take some significant consideration into improving the game of baseball not just for the present, but for the next generation and beyond.
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