Saturday, April 14, 2012

Is it time for baseball to give up some tradition and become more modern?

Fenway Park in Boston is the epitome of tradition in
Tradition. It is a word synonymous with baseball and rightfully so. Of the other four major sports in America, none have a tradition as rich as baseball. No where else can you visit a stadium over one hundred years old. Or count championships dating back to 1869. Or find a stadium that was built to resemble one of the past. When changes are discussed in baseball, purists stop them and start throwing around tradition. It is time for those people to give up on tradition and let Major League Baseball grow into a twenty-first century sport. 

With baseball in the first weeks of a new season, I have had some time to think about the sport. With the other four major sports rapidly changing, baseball seems to be stuck in the past. It always seems like baseball is behind the curve (no pun intended) and accepts change at a slow pace. Baseball may still be called "America's Past time" but it would be hard to find many Americans who agree with that statement. The National Football League now reigns king in America. If baseball ever wants to climb their way back into the discussion as America's sport, they may want to consider changing a few things. These changes would appeal to the masses and help boost baseball's television ratings. In order to flourish again, baseball must implement:

A shorter season: With 162 games in a season, it is hard to get excited about baseball in April. Sure people watch games, but more would watch if the season started later in the year. Starting the season in April puts baseball in a tough spot. The Final Four is just ending, NHL playoffs are beginning and the NBA playoffs are right around the corner. It is hard to commit to nine innings of baseball when an elimination game for the NHL playoffs are on. Major League Baseball needs to consider cutting the games by a quarter or more and creating a season with 100 to 120 games. This will still create exciting pennant races but will allow for more viewers during the summer months. 

A salary cap: Quick, name the only major American sport without a salary cap! This one isn't too hard, it is baseball. How baseball still does not have a salary cap is beyond me. It is ridiculous and slowly ruining the sport. One of the reasons football is so popular is because of the parity of the sport. While certain teams are consistently successful, the playoffs rarely look the same. This is not the case in baseball. When was the last time the Yankees or Red Sox did not make the playoffs? 1993. That is 18 years of at least two teams ALWAYS in the playoffs. Try doing that for the NFL, NBA or NHL. A salary cap would actually make all teams more competitive. Instead of keeping talent on major market teams (LA/Bos/NY/CHI), a salary cap would spread the talent throughout the league. 
Albert Pujols just signed a $254 million dollar contract
but would a salary cap help keep players like him in
smaller markets?

A salary floor: This would go hand in hand with the salary cap. When you implement a salary cap, the floor is in place as well. No longer would teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres or Oakland Athletics be able to eek by with barely 50 million dollar payrolls. These teams might become more competitive and some (Pirates) might actually make the playoffs sometime in my lifetime. 

Instant replay: Yes, baseball has some replay but not nearly enough. Now I do not want every play reviewed but the excuse of "human error should play a role in the game as it always has" no longer works for me. The NFL is starting to review nearly every play, while baseball just stays stuck in the old days. Technology is our friend and baseball needs to start accepting it into the sport. The last thing I want is my team to miss the playoffs because the umpire made the wrong call.  

How many of these will ever be introduced into baseball? My guess, three. Instant replay will be the first, followed by a salary cap and salary floor. I do not think a shorter season will ever happen because owners make too much money off of ticket sales. However, I know one thing for sure, baseball would be better off ditching the "tradition" excuse and entering the twenty-first century. 

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