1. Eliminate the DH
This may come as a surprise to some, but allow me to explain. The way baseball is currently formatted; the National and American League’s play two completely different games a majority of the season. While many will argue that the inclusion of a DH in the National League would make the game more enjoyable, I disagree. Many baseball purists will say the National League is baseball at its best.
With the pitcher having to take his turn in the box, managers must implement more strategy throughout the course of a game. Bunting, double switches and ‘small ball, which are all essential in the NL, are aspects of the game that are generally lost in the American League. Instead of the World Series featuring different sets of rules depending on which team is hosting each particular game, baseball should eliminate the DH completely and return to the original rules.
2. Limit Time of Challenges
One of the biggest complaints casual fans generally have about baseball is that the game moves too slowly. The time allotted between innings has been shortened in an attempt to prevent lollygagging, and several other changes have been proposed. A ‘pitch clock’ is one such idea trying to get the pitcher to work faster, and a new proposition in which any extra inning played would be started with a runner on second base has gained momentum in recent days. While that idea may never see the light of day in the majors, there is a revision of a new rule that could help speed up the game and keep the fans interest at its peak.
The challenge system has seen its ups and downs, but one glaring negative aspect has been the length of time it takes. Managers have paused games for minutes at a time waiting to see if they should challenge a play, and once the review is initiated, the decision from New York takes far too long. If the fans can clearly see what the call should be in 20 seconds, why is it taking five minutes for a verdict? Clean up this process, and time will be saved.
3. Allow Bat Flips
Basketball players celebrate nearly every shot they make, some hockey players have elaborate celebrations after goals and in the NFL hip thrusts are commonplace, but in baseball, if you show any positive emotion, you are chided and deemed a distraction. Jose Bautista, Yasiel Puig, and Bryce Harper, to name a few, have been portrayed as poor teammates, fair or not, and have been accused of not respecting the game.
But why? Because they have passion for the game they play? Fans love those three players, and many more who aren’t afraid to express themselves, but the rest of the league seemingly dislikes them for the same reason. Bautista has been punched, Puig has been berated on numerous occasions, and Harper has had to come out and defend himself for wanting to have fun. Pitchers hype themselves up after getting a single out in the playoffs, making it even stranger that a batter getting excited over a big hit has become so taboo. If you don’t like them celebrating, it’s pretty simple. Pitch better.
So how can a bat flip help make baseball more fun you may ask. People love entertainment, and bat flips are unquestionably entertaining if executed properly. To help promote more bat flips and fun in baseball, MLB should come down harder on pitchers who immediately retaliate by intentionally hitting a batter. If they get suspended on a per start basis, rather than a broad ‘five game suspension’ where they miss one start, pitchers will stop hitting players for having some flair, and in turn, more bats will be tossed.
4. Shorten the Season
An MLB team plays 162 games in the regular season, which is almost two times as many games as the 82 games played in the NBA and NHL seasons. It’s easy to understand how casual fans can lose interest in a season that seemingly drags on for the majority of summer. For the most part, the best teams have distinguished themselves well before the end of the regular season, and while there are definitely times where a team manages to make their way into the playoffs in the last day or two of the season, there is arguably more of an upside to shortening the season.
Fewer games and more days off can result in a better product, healthier players, and more competitive games throughout the season. It is normal for the quality of play to go down in the last month of the season and into the playoffs. Although adrenaline and the reward of being in the postseason can provide great drama, imagine if the teams were fully healthy and playing their best ball of the season. Eliminating some of the regular season games to hopefully enhance the postseason could go a long way in helping the entertainment value of baseball.
5. Limit The Use of Bullpens
With pitchers throwing harder, hitters striking out more, and front offices and managers utilizing analytics more than ever, bullpen usage has become outrageous. Between specialty relievers brought in to throw to one batter, the time spent visiting the mound, the relievers gently jogging to the mound and warm-up pitches, half-innings in the latter parts of games can take nearly an hour. That amount of time for three outs is just absurd. Halfway through the 2016 season, more pitchers had already been used than during the entire 2010 season.
With baseball currently in a Dead Ball Era and more pitchers being used than ever before, the game has accordingly slowed down to a snail’s pace. To help limit this problem, I’ll go back to No. 4 on my list. Shortening the season to allow for more rest will limit the amount of players being used in a game, and will most likely result in fewer six-reliever innings, cutting down a ridiculous amount of time from the game.