Ever since Rob Manfred took over as the Commissioner of baseball back in 2015, baseball has undergone a series of changes. From the pace of play revolution to the introduction of instant replay, the game is a lot different than it was 20 years ago. Like it or not, baseball is in the most progressive era of its history, which begs the question: what will be the next change? I polled some Diamond Digest writers, and here are the results:
- Pay Minor Leaguers a Living Wage – Mick Callahan
“Because they need to be able to support themselves to play baseball.”
How this has not been addressed already is beyond me. Depending on the level, minor leagues earn, on average, under $10,000 a month, with that going as low as $1,300 per month in Single-A. These are guys trying to fulfill their dream but can’t support themselves. Minimum wage in New York state is $13.50. Let’s say, they’re working three hours a day, 28 days a month. That would end up at a little over $15 an hour for playing a game. Why would they stay there? While, yes, some are top prospects who have signing bonuses and know they’re on their way to the big leagues, what’s the point for the career minor leaguer, when he knows the moment the season ends (and during it), he’ll need a second job.
- Implement the DH in Both Leagues – Brian Schlosser
“As fun as it is to watch pitchers hit at times, and the ‘strategy’ involved of a pitcher hitting, more roster spots could open up for high octane power guys who don’t exactly have a spot in the field, and the offensive side would increase.”
Ah, the question that has been thrown back and forth for years. Ever since its adoption in 1973, how to handle the designated hitter situation has been a hot topic around the league. The traditionalists want to get rid of it altogether and keep the strategy of double switches, when to pinch hit for your pitcher, and other things that come with the pitcher hitting. Others, like our own Denis Ackerman, think that having the DH situation be different in each league is what makes baseball so unique, and no change is needed. I land on Brian’s side, however, that both leagues should adopt the rule. MLB needs to pick a side in the matter. They can’t have different rules depending on who’s hosting the game. That would be like if the Eastern conference played with five players, and the Western played with four. The reason to go for the DH is like Brian said, it would open up spots for big power hitters who aren’t the best in the field like J.D. Martinez, Nelson Cruz, and Jose Martinez. While it would take some strategy out of the game, fan engagement would also increase because, while everyone loves some chess moves, seeing the pitcher come up with the bases loaded and two outs is not exhilarating.
- Make it more appealing to the younger generation – Parker Bekkerus
“This could be done by advertising more of the best players (Mike Trout), as football and basketball do it with LeBron and TB12. They could also benefit from young superstars such as Acuña and Soto; just let them have fun with the game. MARKET THEM as the future of the game. Don’t take out bat flips because that’s all baseball is in the news for nowadays.”
One of baseball’s biggest problems, for years, has been a lack of interest from the younger generation (my generation). Some of it may have to do with how the game is played, with a lot of down-time where boredom can come swiftly, but as Parker says, marketing is their biggest problem. They need to show the fun and exciting parts of baseball. Market the charisma and energy that so many young players have. Plaster Mike Trout’s face on billboards and commercials. Put Francisco Lindor’s smile on display. Show the kids that baseball is a fantastic sport with great people. Also, as Parker said, don’t get rid of bat flips, please. I love them, kids love them, most baseball fans love them. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Willians Astudillo absolutely pimping separate home run balls is just…awesome.
- Spontaneous Replay – Payton Ellison
“Baseball’s (and football’s) current replay system are currently not being used for its original intention: to get rid of painfully awful calls. I believe the 30 second time to wait for a response to challenge, followed by two and a half minutes to look for the tiniest spec of air between bag and foot/hand dramatically hurt pace of play. Replay calls should be made specific (tell the umpire exactly what you are challenging) and spontaneously, made within 10 seconds of the play. The review time should be limited to a minute.”
One of baseball’s biggest rule changes under Manfred was the implementation of a challenge system, where on just about any play besides called balls and strikes, the manager can request a replay review from the umpires. This is a necessary addition, but has substantially slowed down the pace of play that Manfred has talked about. It takes too long for manager’s to request a challenge, and even longer to actually review it. Payton’s recommendation is perfect. If a manager wants to challenge, he needs to let the umpire know instantly, no holding your hand up at the top of the dugout steps while your replay team checks 20 angles to see if they can steal a base. Once the challenge is made, the crew has one minute to decide. If they can’t by the end of that minute, they go with the original call, because there’s obviously not enough to overturn it if they can’t decide in one minute.
- Better Marketing (less TV blackouts, more national broadcasts) – Ryan Ruhde
“Increase nationwide fanship especially with younger fans – if they can’t watch baseball there’s no way they’re gonna know if they like it.”
Blackouts are an issue that gets me upset. There’s no point in them. I want to watch the Yankees, but I’m not home. If I’m already paying the money for MLB.tv, why can’t they let me watch the actual team I like? Do they really think people would rather watch games on their phones and computers than on TV? Viewership on those channels won’t change, but people would actually be able to watch the games they want to watch. How is that a bad thing? Getting rid of blackouts is a must, and more national broadcasts is another good idea, that links together with promotion. If you live in California, but either are a) a Yankee fan or b) love watching Aaron Judge, and you don’t have the money to spend on MLB.tv, you should be able to watch the game more often than once or twice a month. ESPN already has about four games a week, which is perfect, but FOX, FS1, and MLB Network should have an increased amount of national broadcasts, without the fear of blackouts too.
- Cheaper tickets, more promotions by teams and a revamped marketing system (social media, apparel, television hype) – Jordan Lewin- Skversky
“To make the game more accessible, more modern (marketing) and more communication about the game is important.”
As you can probably tell by this point, marketing, or lack of it, is a big issue in baseball. As Jordan says, another problem with it is the price of tickets. While at times it does depend on the quality of the team, from the cost of seats to food, taking a family of four out to a baseball game can be an over $500, affair. Some families just can’t spend that, and baseball should be catering to everyone, not just people it can squeeze some dimes out of. As a whole, tickets should be cheaper, but my suggestion would be making tickets in the bleachers no more than $40. Sitting in the bleachers is an awesome experience, but the view isn’t worth $100 per person. Make sure that anyone can enjoy a game. Baseball made $10-billion in revenue last year, losing a little money to increase fan engagement (which will then result in a gain of money) is well worth it.
- Fix the arbitration system – Adam Koplik
The current CBA is awful in so many ways, making a strike when it expires very likely. One of the most significant problems I have with it is arbitration. Arbitration is a process that goes on for either three or four years (depending on service time manipulation) if the team and player can’t reach an agreement on a contract for that season. While, usually, organizations are able to avoid arbitration, when they don’t, it’s an ugly process. The team and the player both put out a figure that they would like to contract to be worth, and they each have to present cases to an unbiased arbitration judge, who will then side with one of the two and decide the contract price. The claims the team makes utterly destroys the relationship between the two parties. Back when Dellin Betances went to arbitration, Yankees’ President Randy Levine said the right-handers $5-million demand was, “like me saying I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut.” These relationships can be ruined so much, that they are hard to repair, and, when the player hits free agency, that could play a big role. MLB needs to find a better way to handle contract disputes. They can keep the arbitration system, but make it a closed-door hearing, where each party makes their case in front of the judge, in private, and then the judge picks a side. Emotions wouldn’t factor into either case, and the facts can win out.
Earlier in the week, we put a poll on our Twitter asking what fans would do if they were named the commissioner of baseball for one day, these are my two favorite responses:
- Set a minimum salary cap – @CollachiaHunter
I love this idea. Tanking has been somewhat of a growing issue the past few years, after the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros built their future world champion ball clubs off of years of top picks, now everyone wants to try it. If MLB allows tanking, it would take the competitive spirit out of the game, and be awful for the sport. Teams should try to win every year. Setting a minimum salary cap would be the perfect move. Now, the cap shouldn’t be too high, or else teams would just overpay veterans to meet the threshold, but putting it at the right price would make sure that teams aren’t trading guys before arbitration just to clear the money off the books, but are still allowed to play their young guys. It would make the league as a whole more competitive, and would also lead to a faster moving free agent market, with teams needing to hit the mark.
- Move back the mound – @PassonJim
When Jim suggested this, it was the first time I’ve ever seen this idea brought up. It’s definitely a radical idea, but when you dive into it, it’s not that insane to fathom. While five feet may be too drastic, two or three could be perfect. Safety wise, it would give the hitters more time to get out of the way of that 99-mph fastball zooming to their head, and it would also provide the pitchers with a split second more time to get out of the way of comebackers. For the actual game, hitters would have more time to see the ball, which would result in an increase of offense and, frankly, more exciting games.
And finally, from DD writer Kristian Lloyd…
- Leave the game as is – Kristian Lloyd
“The game of baseball is perfect. Maybe hold umpires a bit more responsible though.”
I do believe that baseball needs to undergo some changes, but when we think about it, it really is the best game in the world. Fix some things up here and there, but MLB needs to make sure they never lose the magic that makes the sport so enjoyable. Some rule changes are necessary, but nothing that would lose the greatness of the game we’ve come to love.
Featured Image: Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons