First and foremost, congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for just a phenomenal postseason. That was some incredible baseball played in the last month. I think it was something along the lines of 8 comebacks during these playoffs. EIGHT! And the ultimate comeback was last night when you came back in the 9th inning from down 2-0 to ultimately win in the 12th inning. (I understand this is being published on Wednesday, but I'm writing it on Monday, so shut it; it's last night according to my calculations.)
Two years ago, I turned 30. I had planned on spending my 30th birthday wherever the Red Sox were playing. I felt that would be a really fun way to ring in a new decade. Plus I had only seen 1 baseball game up to that point, so I felt it would be fun.
I mentioned this to Shaun and said "I just don't want them to play somewhere lame like Kansas City."
I'll give you one guess as to where they were on my birthday.
It goes without saying that I elected to skip that trip.
I now regret that. I have sort of a soft spot for the Royals, and they've been a lot of fun to kind of root for over the past few years. (Plus they've been shellacking my friend Jake's Cleveland team for a while, so that's been fun.) I'm not saying I'm a *fan* of the team (I truthfully didn't care who won the World Series; I was just happy it wasn't the Cardinals or the Yankees.) There's a difference between being a fan and having a soft spot for a team. I enjoy watching them play and I think they have a lot of good character guys, so I wasn't upset to see them win. However, if it came down to the Red Sox playing the Royals in the ALCS, there's no question as to who I'm cheering for.
Anyway, the Royals won a championship for the second time in their franchise history and their first one in 30 years. Cool, right?
But this means that now baseball is done for the year. Thankfully I have this to help keep time. But a countdown clock aside, I'm a little bummed. I woke up today almost in denial that it all ended yesterday. (It snowed today in Calgary - very fitting that it was the day after the World Series ended)
I figured, though, while the memory of baseball was still fresh in our minds, I would write a blog about ways to change the game. I know that MLB was worried about losing fans and they were trying to find ways to shorten the game and make it more interesting. Now, I'm a fan of the game the way it is. Sure, cutting down time between pitches has made it go faster, but I don't *really* care about that. I like watching it the way it is.
But, in the interest of trying to get new fans, or keeping fair weather fans, I have a few suggestions on how the MLB could improve the game.
Please, please, please realize I'm only half-kidding. These are random thoughts I have on how it could be ridiculous fun to change the game. I know you purists out there would hate it and that's the reason for the disclaimer. While I feel it would be interesting to see some of these things come into play, I don't actually mean them.
But seriously, how fun would some of these be?
Shorten The Regular Season
This seems counterintuitive, I know. From a business standpoint, I'd expect that the owners would never go for this. But hear me out.
A regular MLB season is 162 games long. That's 81 games at home and 81 games away. That is an exhausting amount of baseball (particularly since games don't really seem to matter until July anyway.)
So here's my thought: Cut four 3-game series out of your regular season. Lose 2 road series and 2 home series. That puts you at an even 150 games (75 road and 75 home) and would mean that the regular season ends sometime mid-September, as opposed to the beginning of October.
What is the reason behind this, you're asking?
As a Pirates fan, Shaun has been heartbroken in the past few consecutive years where his Pirates have been good enough to make playoffs but not quite able to win the division, giving them a berth into the proper playoffs. As a result, they have had to play in a one game, winner-take-all game to get into the regular postseason.
With a shortened season, you could play a proper 3 game series for the wildcard. How is it fair that all regular season, teams play 3 or 4 game series and then when the season is on the line, you have to play 1 game? This year, the Pirates ran into an unbelievable Jake Arrieta who was lights out. They couldn't get anything off him. BUT; you give them 2 more tries against different pitchers and maybe they could make something work. One game just seems so unfair.
Plus with fewer regular season games, maybe the division series could be a full 7 games in lieu of 5 which could also be fun. But mostly I'm concerned with the Wildcard. If nothing else, for Shaun.
Change Regular Season Extra Innings
This one is a little out there. But I'm interested to see if it would work...
You know how in the regular NHL season, they have a shortened overtime (now with 3-on-3) followed by a shootout? It's because they can't have a game go forever during the regular season. It's fine to have marathon overtimes during the playoffs. In fact, if there isn't at least one, I'm usually disappointed.
I feel like baseball should be the same way. In the 162 games each team plays, there are often games that go to extra innings. Sure some of them end in 10, but every now and then they go to 11+ innings. That's a lot of ballgame. Plus if the baseball games are anything like Flames games, beer sales have stopped and then what do you do??
So how do we fix this, you ask? Here comes the controversial part...
Start extra innings with a runner in scoring position.
Whoa. Crazy right?
Half the battle of scoring is getting a guy on base. So put a guy out there for extra innings.
Say the 7th guy in the rotation goes down on strikes at the top of the 9th. Well have the 8th guy in rotation start on 2nd. Call it a league designated walk or some crap like that, which wouldn't have any bearing on a pitcher's stats (because that stuff is important.) Then you get the 9th batter up.
It would take some strategy on both sides. Depending on who was on 2nd, you might have to intentionally walk to load first so you have a better chance of a double play. As a running team, do you immediately put in a pinch runner on the off-chance that it works? If you gamble and it doesn't work, you have to sub out a key defensive player because of that move.
And, if after say, 12 innings, nothing works out? Home run competition. If the NHL has to do a stupid shootout, I think the MLB should do something as whacky. (I'm less serious about this part.)
This is still just a budding idea of mine, but I think it could be interesting.
When it came to the postseason, though, I'd go back to the regular way of playing. Marathon games are great for the postseason fans but I just feel like they should be restricted to just postseason. But at the same time, nobody wants to walk away from a game being tied. That's just super lame.
A couple of years ago, the higher-ups of the MLB decided to change the rules regarding runners colliding with catchers at the plate. Which means now, all of these would be illegal:
So here's my idea: make more contact legal.
It's probably a horrible idea (and by "probably", I mean "is") but since this is all just pretend anyway and nobody from the MLB is going to read this. Unless...
How great would a play at first base be if the ball came right as the runner got there but instead of running out the play, the runner could shoulder the first baseman? I mean, in some situations it wouldn't do much. Trying to put a shoulder into John Kruk would be a terrible idea. I mean; look at him:
Anybody who could be played by Chris Farley is not somebody I'd want to try and body check.
Oh, you think I'm joking about Chris Farley?
But I digress.
Full contact baseball would add an element of danger to the game that could be interesting. Now don't get me wrong here: I'm not saying players should be trying to hurt opposing team players. I'm talking clean, fair body checks. Not dirtbag moves like sliding into a second baseman spikes first. That crap is dangerous and unnecessary.
But running shoulder to shoulder into a second baseman? Well I'm sure that's fine...
More Joe Buck, Less Harold Reynolds
Truthfully, this has less to do with excitement and more to do with being annoyed. I love Joe Buck. He seems like a rad dude. You know who I could do without? Harold Reynolds.
Harold Reynolds seems to like to hear himself talk. I get that when you're paid to do analytical commentary to backup a play-by-play announcer, you want to have interesting insight. But that doesn't mean you have to talk ALL the time. Know when to shut up, dude.
He's not the worst one for this:
Shut the hell up, Pierre McGuire! You literally waited one second after Gord Miller's iconic "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?" to start putting your two cents in. Let the moment happen dude. Nobody wants to hear you right now. People want to hear the crowd celebrate a momentous occasion. And you RUINED it.
Reynolds never did anything that bad, but still: he had moments of annoyance. Can't we all just have a Vin Scully who doesn't need that second guy? When I'm king of the world, that's what will happen.
Also, if you hate the Pierre McGuire part of that video as much as I do, there this. The sweet sounds of silence. After a few minutes, he talks about the play. That's the way it should have been all along!
Anyway. No sense dwelling on that.
That's it, friends! A few things I figure could make a forthcoming baseball season more exciting for those who find the game too slow and boring. Obviously nobody is going to listen to me, but it's fun to dream, right?
Until next time...