NBA Commisioner David Stern announced he will retire in February 20141, which means Bud Selig shouldn’t be too far behind. Selig took over in 1992, and has done a lot to the game, mostly positive, throughout his tenure. But is 78 years old, and as Bill Simmons pointed out, how does it make sense to have a 78-year old man running a company whose primary target audience is probably 16–40 year olds? Regardless of who is running the show, there are five significant changes that I think will happen in the next 10 years.
1. Further Playoff Modifications
The most obvious change will be some sort of modification to the newly expanded playoffs. MLB added a second wild card team this season which led to a one-game Wild Card game to decide which Wild Card team will actually advance to the LDS rounds. This season, one of those teams still made it to the LCS, and if it weren’t for a horrible collapse they would be playing for the World Series right now.
This one game nonsense won’t last though. It’s not enough of an advantage to the team with best record, since they have less time to scout their opponent and have to play a team who just won a big game. There are a lot of ways MLB could go. In a perfect world they would chop 10 games off the regular season and make all four rounds of the playoffs best of 7.
That will almost certainly never happen though. So the alternative likely is to expand the wild card round to best of three and perhaps try and find a way to give division winners even more of an advantage. Maybe 4 home games instead of three. Possibly remove the day off between wild card round and LDS? At some point in the next couple of years something about this new playoff format will change.
2. Expanded Instant Replay
MLB added instant replay a couple of years ago and continues to expand what can be reviewed by it. This should continue. It seems to make sense for them to adopt a feature of either the NFL or NHL, a dedicated replay official.
Perhaps this is done via a central location, like the NHL, where a couple of guys are watching all the games in progress and reviewing plays accordingly, and then signaling to the umpires when a play has to be changed. An alternative would be the addition of another umpire or league official in each stadium who reviews plays and reports results to umpires on the field.
Baseball moves at a slow enough pace that neither of these systems should significantly slow down the game. And unlike football, almost every questionable call is immediately identified as correct or incorrect via instant replay.
It makes no sense why MLB wouldn’t do this.
3. Rules Changes to Speed Up Games
Attendance at sports venues continues to decline. With a 162 game schedule, baseball’s problems are probably not getting better. One of the chief complaints about people’s interest in baseball in general, is that the games are just too long and slow. People have long discussed baseball’s need to rectify this, and there are so many obvious solutions it just doesn’t make sense why they haven’t.
So much time is wasted in between pitches, especially when a ball was not fouled off or hit. The rule that makes the most sense would be to prevent batters from stepping out of the box without making contact with a pitch. The same rule should apply to the pitcher walking off the mound. This alone would make most at-bats faster. Additionally, a “pitch clock” should be added, which forces the pitcher to throw a pitch within a certain number of seconds since the previous one. These changes alone would trim 30–60 minutes off of each game. Two hour games are a lot more watchable.
4. Unified DH Rule
Now that the Houston Astros are moving the American League West, it means that both leagues have 15 teams. This also means that there will always be at least one interleague series going on, as opposed to the current setup of having them in two big chunks in the middle of the season. Right now, the difference of DH vs. no DH is minimized to just a couple of weeks of the season, but when this is more spread out, it might play a bigger role. Having a DH gives an edge to the AL, while games without probably favor the NL.
Despite what all the purists think, offense sells tickets. It’s time to forget this rule difference and unify it. Personally I am fine with either, but I think it has to be standardized. There is no “charm” here, it’s just weird.
5. All-Star Game
Lastly, expect some sort of change to the All-Star game. There is a strong possibility that the home field advantage to the winner will be phased out. Most people think it’s silly and unfair, and it probably is.
It’s also possible that some other sort of drastic change will be made. All-Star games as a whole are losing appeal. With interleague games, YouTube, satellite packages and such, the old school draw of seeing players you don’t normally see has completely evaporated. It’s just not interesting. There is no way an NHL-style America vs. The World theme makes sense since there is already the World Baseball Classic. The fact that there is no obvious solution here is probably what most limits this one from being a reality.
- I do think it’s weird this was done so far in the future [↩]