Dear Baseball: Cut The Fat

Todd Morse@@TheRiddleClassAnalyst ISeptember 16, 2008

Supply and Demand. No sport understands it better than the NFL. Larger rosters, short schedules, huge stadiums, continuous sellouts, undreamable television contracts, incredible ratings, and nearly immeasurable revenues.

As the country has exploded into the fast-paced technological age, the league has taken advantage in numerous ways no other sport has. More Americans identify with football than another sport, and no other sport comes close to competing. It almost makes you feel bad for baseball. Once the national pastime with popularity stronger than football today, its time has now faded.

Baseball's biggest problem is that it caters to an ideal instead of a market. Baseball's slow pace, long schedule, and egotistical like reverence for its history which in this modern day era of short attention spans and cell phones, is off-putting.

See, baseball has a problem with change.  Look at its commissioners.  While the NFL brings in visionaries who are willing to embrace change and reprimand those not willing to adapt with the times, baseball chastises those who dare to question its authority, and loathes its most visionary (and most profitable) owner in the Yankees George Steinbrenner.  It shivers at the thought of another new-millenia owner, Dallas Mavericks' Mark Cuban, buying the Cubs.

See, nine innings has always been nine innings, three strikes has always been three strikes, and they like it that way. It helps keep some semblance that a record is a record, despite the, ahem, small changes that have been made along the way which baseball purists all choose to overlook. 

Changes such as the height of the mound, which drastically impacted pitching numbers, or oh, say, deciding to allow players of other races to to play, or not testing for steroids until a scandal erupted, neither of which the implications should even need to be explained.  When thought about how many team, individual and league records have been rewritten from these three changes alone, it would make anyone scoff at the irony of the thought of pure baseball records. 

Baseball can rise to prominence again. But first, they need to stop caring about the history and start thinking like a business.  There's a saying in baseball - every team knows they're going to lose 54 games and win 54 games. It's what they do with the other 54 games that counts.

Baseball should slash the inconsequential 108 games and solely focus on the 54 games that count.  A 54 game season gives every team the opportunity to compete. Since every game matters, more would be shown on television. As more would be shown on TV, more people would be interested.

Ratings would improve and ad revenue would improve. Any big television contract would far outweigh the revenue the teams make from ticket sales. However, teams could enormously increase ticket prices, as there would only be 27 home games. Imagine the excitement in cities for only 27 home games. No more three and four game series.

More parity across the league, as every player matters and every pitch counts. No more fourth and fifth starters. No more weak links in lineups. Just the best players, just the best games, everyone pushing for the playoffs from game one through game 54. In addition, with a shorter schedule the World Series can end before the NFL season starts.

Yes, the idea is drastic, and it would whitewash the record books.  Sure, there would be new records, as someone would probably hit .650 for a season and the most home runs in a season would be 25, but the league needs to find its way again.  It needs a way to finalize its removal from the steroid scandal, to show fans that they can relate to short attention spans, long work hours and the stresses of new millennium.  

It needs to start over. Let Ruth stay Ruth, let Rose stay Rose, let Bonds stay Bonds, and let a new generation find new heroes.

Baseball may not ever become the national pastime like it once was, but it can own the summer, and this is how.