How to Fix MLB's Regular Season, Playoffs and Future

Jonathan Cullen@@jcullen71Senior Writer IOctober 31, 2012

How to Fix MLB's Regular Season, Playoffs and Future

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    So that's how the season ends, not with a bang but a thud

    That was a bad World Series. Please save the hate mail San Francisco. I am not picking on your team, you guys played well. The Tigers? Not so much.

    What started off as a great postseason led up to a deadly dull World Series. The matchup between two evenly matched teams in the series never lived up to it's billing.

    Baseball was in desperate need of some World Series magic, something to make this October memorable, but it never materialized.

    Unless you are a San Francisco Giants's fan, the World Series had to leave you want wanting.

    The fans wanted something compelling, something exciting. I'm sure it is in the moment, but it is hard for me to recall a worse World Series.

    And it is not just me, reports on this series have said that the Series has gotten record low television ratings.

    It's time to address the elephant in the room: baseball's image and generation problem.

    Baseball is making plenty of money, specifically pointed out in this Forbes article by Mike Ozanian, it's just not making enough new fans to sustain the sports viewership moving forward.

1. Regular Season: 159 Games

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    Its three games. It's not a big deal.

    159 games. It would allow for a better playoff schedule.

    Cutting three games off of the schedule wouldn't be a big deal. Cut that May meeting between Seattle and Toronto or that September meeting between Miami and Milwaukee.

    Are the fans really going to complain about that?

    Give them a fair schedule. Inter-league is going to happen all season with the Houston Astros moving into the American League and no one is sure how that will impact the game.

    If you are adamant that you need to play 162 games, schedule three day-night double headers during the season. Let the teams have an extra pitcher of two for the day. For those extra three games you really want to play, bus in kids from public schools and private schools, low income areas, elderly fans, honor police officers, fire fighters, and military personnel.

    You know, the people who can't normally go. Kids that might be the future stars of the game.

    Don't make this about money, please.

    If you need to recoup the three games you are losing, add a fraction of a penny to each of the tickets you would sell during the other 78 home dates.

    Or just look at all of the local and national t.v. money that the sport has pouring in.

2. Wild Card Series: 3 Games

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    I know everyone loves the manufactured drama of the one game elimination, but it isn't fair to the teams and the fans of the teams trying to play in. If your team has one bad game (hello, Braves) you shouldn't see 159 or 162 games go down the tubes.

    Three games. The team that has the best record gets home field advantage. All three games are played at the home of the team with the best record.

    The second Wild Card team should face a disadvantage.

    Have the regular season end on a Wednesday. Start the Wild Card round on Thursday or Friday. Play all three games in a row.

3. Division Series: 5 Games

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    Have this series remain five games, starting the day after the Wild Card series ends.

    It allows the division winners to get their pitching rotations set without having them sit around too long.

    It puts the wild card team that moves on to this round at a disadvantage.

    The format can remain 2-2-1. Team with the best record has home field. One travel day in the series.

    This was the best round during the playoffs this season with all four series going to a full five games.

4. Championship Series: 7 Games

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    Same format as before. This series normally works pretty well.

    Format would remain 2-3-2. Team with the best record retains home field advantage. 2 built-in travel days.

    The Giants vs. Cardinals series went a full seven games this season.

    The Tigers were able to sweep the Yankees in four games, but a couple of the games were very compelling.

5. Day Games in the World Series

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    Baseball has day baseball every postseason until it gets to the World Series.

    This older article from USA Today's Michael McCarthy breaks down the problems that have occurred with the later and later start times.

    Under my proposal, MLB would play at least two games during the day and possibly three. I understand the scheduling is done to get the highest ratings, but if you are continuing to see the ratings numbers go down, try some different things.

    The next generation of fans are being virtually ignored by baseball.

    Super Bowl? Everybody watches, but it is one game.

    Baseball? Under my format a team might have to play 22 games before winning it all. If you want kids to start following baseball like prior generations, start involving them in the viewership.

    The change here would be the starting times and home field advantage.

    The team with the best record would get home field advantage.

    All times are Eastern Time zone. Would Fox be upset by this? Probably. But there is a need to have the games start earlier and end earlier.  

    Saturday, Game one at 4 p.m.

    Sunday, Game two at 7 p.m.

    Tuesday, Game three at 7:30 p.m.

    Wednesday, Game four at 4 p.m. (unless this is an elimination game)

    Thursday, Game five at 7:30 p.m.

    Saturday, Game six at 4 p.m.

    Sunday, Game seven at 7 p.m.

    I can understand not wanting to have games go head-to-head with the NFL on Sunday, so playing later makes sense.

6. Announcers: Time for a Change

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    Sorry Joe and Tim, it’s been great.

    Bringing in younger announcers for the World Series would help freshen up the approach. Having a new set of eyes might be exactly what the baseball audience needs hear.

    Television could look at using an analyst from each team that advances to the series. It seems like it would be a good idea and it's one that is floated at the end of this 2011 article by Al Yellon of SB Nation

    Everyone seems tired of Joe and Tim. People I know talk about this during every recent World Series.

    Pairing two home analysts with a television pro like Bob Costas would work really well.

    If Fox can’t get Bob Costas on loan from MLB Network, maybe they can look at going the network route by bringing in a younger play-by-play announcer like Don Orsillo and pair him with a Dennis Eckersley-type personality and a Mitch Williams-type of personality.

    All of the television talent should be on loan during the playoffs. If TBS does well or if MLB Network does well then Fox will do well.

    Hey, it's worth a try.

    Not every game is going to be compelling. Having announcers that can bring something new to the table and be slightly critical would be very helpful.

    Also, Fox should simulcast on FX using a format similar to Intentional Talk (MLB Network) format. Have the analyst comment on the game using an interactive format with twitter  and social media involved. Between the Internet, television, mobile apps, there is an need to embrace non-traditional media and embrace it fast.

    Attract a younger audience, give them a voice to express themselves. Give the traditionalist the traditional telecast while having an alternative outlet for younger fans to be involved.

7. Awards: Peek in the Envelope

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    Promote your stars.

    Like Miguel Cabrera.

    If you are having the World Series on Fox and voting for the major baseball awards has already occurred and concluded, what harm would it cause to announce the winners of the major awards during the first home game for that team's player?

    Imagine the boost that the Tigers would have received before Game 3.  After all of the players for each team were introduced, Commissioner Bud Selig walks out unannounced and gives Miguel Cabrera the MVP award.

    Imagine how Cabrera would have felt being acknowledge for his historic Triple Crown season by his home fans before a big Game 3.

    It has never made much sense to me that Cabrera will win the award and yet he will not be acknowledged by the Tigers' fans until next April.

    Sell your game. Make it interesting. People watch award shows. They love unscripted drama and reactions.

8. HOF: Embrace History

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    Somewhere prior to Game 2, baseball should be introducing this year's class of Hall of Famers to the national audience and embrace the history of the game.

    Move up the voting. Instead of the dead of winter, have the writers vote by the end of September.

    Swear everyone to secrecy. Bring out the newly inducted players before Game 2 of the World Series. People would tune in to see who was selected.

    Make a big deal out of this. Tell us why these players are being given your highest honor.

    Baseball hasn't always done the best job of teaching history to the younger generation of fans.

    Giving the elite players in the game one final turn in the sun, during your marquee event of the season, seems like it would be a great way to combine the generations of baseball.

9. Music: Give a Taste of the Town

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    Look, I love the Who. One of my favorite bands of all time.

    But, why exactly was Fox using the Who for their baseball coverage? The British Invasion for America's past-time?

    Both cities involved in the World Series this year have a rich musical history. Why wasn't the music from either of the great cities used?

    You could have easily used over 50 different artists from the Motown era and the punk rock era in Detroit alone.

    San Francisco has a rich musical heritage as well.

    Fox played it ridiculously safe by using the Who. Also, they continued to play to the classic rock crowd. This crowd already watches.

    Find some newer bands that are good, from the past 10 years or so.

10. Local: National Anthem

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    Nothing against the people who sang the anthem during the series, but who were they exactly?

    Game 1: Philip Phillips, winner of American Idol

    Game 2: Matthew Morrison, star of Glee

    Game 3: Zooey Deschanel, star of New Girl

    Game 4: Demi Lovato, judge on The X Factor

    Oh, they are all Fox personalities. I get it.

    I'm sure that I sound like an old fogey, but c'mon. This was the best they could do?

    Embrace your cities. Show some local flavor. This should be about the teams, fans and cities.

    This is not about Fox television tie-ins.

    It is completely embarrassing that part of this series was held in the epicenter of Motown and yet Aretha Franklin wasn't scheduled to sing an anthem until Game 5. Please.

11. Military Branches: Give Them Their Due

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    You have four games guaranteed for each World Series.

    You have four branches of the military.

    Hmmm. Seems pretty easy to me.

    Before each of the first four games, publicly honor one individual branch of the military, before each game.

    Each branch would get their own game of acknowledgement. This is not about being pro-war or anti-war, this is about honoring and respecting servicemen and women who serve our country with very little fanfare.

    It would also allow MLB to show that they are truly America's game.

12. All Star Game: Enough Is Enough

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    I get it, the 2002 All Star Game was an complete embarrassment to the game of baseball.

    Now let's go back to having it be an exhibition game again.

    Talk to players, teams and owners.

    Tell them the game is about selling the game. Reaching the young fans.

    Anybody voted into the game is expected to attend. This is an honor, not a chore.

    Anybody picked to the team is expected to attend. This is an honor, not a punishment.

    Talk to the MLBPA, make sure they understand how important this is.

    Players are expected to be in attendance for the entire game. No more stories about players charting jets and leaving after the fifth inning because they want to be in Aruba before the game is over.

    It's a three hour advertisement for your sport during the summer when no other sport is in season.

    Sorry guys, this is a job. Sometimes you have to go to the boss's house for dinner.

13. All Star Week: Selling the Game

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    All Star week is an opportunity to sell your game to your fans, young and old.

    Monday's Home Run derby should feature the top 5 home run hitters from either league with each league having one wild card pick. Sorry guys, if you are in the lead for homers, you need to show for the game. Have the MLBPA hep enforce this to the players.

    Each round would be cut to 5 outs. Shorten the television up.

    Move the futures game to Wednesday night, after the regular All Star Game. Make sure this game is televised during prime time, even if it is on MLB Network. Sell your brand. Sell your future. See the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.

    Promote the next wave of stars.

    In return for the MLB players buying in, give them the rest of the week off as reward. Hey guys, no games again until Saturday. Enjoy three days off with your families. Thanks for investing in your sport.

14. The Future: Kids and Community

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    I live in the state of Arizona, which is home to the Cactus League and spring training baseball.

    I am going to use youth baseball here as a barometer. Baseball is completely missing the boat in our community.

    Instead of all of the kids wearing uniforms and hats reflecting the teams of the Cactus League, the kids are playing on teams called the Owlz, Threshers, etc.

    Nobody is affiliated with a MLB team. Every other child should be wearing a Mike Trout jersey, or a Pujols jersey, or a Votto jersey, or a Dodgers cap or a Giants cap.

    Why is this not happening? My guess would be money. If money is why baseball is not getting involved with the next generation of potential players, fans and customers, they are completely missing the opportunity to have these kids learn about the modern day ballplayers.

    Baseball should be funding little league baseball throughout America.

    Sell the team brands. Promote the players.

    Given the presence of MLB in the desert, I can't believe with all of the money around that they are turning up their nose at the next generation of kids.

15. The Umpires: Instant Replay

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    It is time to take advantage of the technology that is available to you.

    Watching on HD television with Fox doing super slow-mo replays points out the fact that baseball is really dragging its feet when it comes to using replay.

    MLB needs to have an eye-in-the-sky umpire who can review fair or foul calls, safe or out calls, and home runs calls. The additional time being added into the game isn't a big deal compared to the potential controversy when the umpires get it wrong.

    It would take some getting used to, but it would help improve the product on the field.

16. Hall of Shame: Let'em in

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    I know you can't call it the Hall of Shame, but baseball has to embrace all of its history. Pretending certain players or certain years didn't exist doesn't make any sense.

    Baseball is complicit. Many people had to look the other way in order for the Steroid Era to occur.

    Construct a wing to the Hall of Fame that deals with players from the past 20-25 years. Make the players eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame under the stipulation that they need to come clean.

    Completely clean.

    If they come completely clean, it is not a guarantee that they will be inducted, but it will give clarity to the situation and allow the writers to know where they stand. Give them public service opportunities to talk to people about what they did.

    If inducted, their plaques would include the stipulation that they admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs which likely increased their career numbers. Their plaques would be held separately for the next 20 to 25 years.

    All-time leaders would remain players who have not admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs.

    Baseball could also address Pete Rose at this point as well. It is time to bring him back into the fold. His plaque could include his gambling admissions.