(The above photo is mine, and was taken in the 1990s at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.)
Major League Baseball got a new commissioner this week. You say you missed that news? Well, you probably are not alone — and therein lies the issue of why I’m writing this.
My own “newsometer” says the news of Rob Manfred’s election to succeed Bud Selig caused barely a ripple. Had the NFL or NBA changed leaders, it would’ve been inescapable on TV and social media.
Yes, our so-called national pastime is way down the ladder in ways that people spend their time and money in the 21st century. It seems only purists — and not coincidentally, most of them seem to be over 40 — pay regular attention. Simple — to many people, it’s boring. It does not translate well to TV, and it’s too expensive for many people to attend in person, especially in a weak economy.
So a priority for Manfred would seem to be fundamental changes. Not easy, as major changes need the cooperation of both the owners and the players’ union. But he accepted the job, so suggestions go with the territory.
So now, here are my 5 ideas to help MLB:
- MORE DAY BASEBALL: This would help get children involved, as they now care much more about instant messaging and video gaming. In the postseason, play the weekend games during the day, too. The players’ breath wouldn’t freeze during the World Series.
- EXPAND DH TO THE NL: The fact that the leagues still have a markedly different lineup option is amazing, and skews statistics and managerial strategy. Purist prefer the National League style of play, with bunts, pinch-hitters, double switches, etc. But the high-scoring nature of American League games is far more appealing to casual fans and younger people. Remember, change is necessary.
- LOWER TICKET PRICES: Baseball is getting like the NFL, beyond the economic reach of working-class families. This includes ballpark food and parking prices, too. Everyone knows that most of the revenue comes from television. Hey, if restaurants — a business that caters to families — can let kids eat free on certain days, why not have similar promotions in baseball?
- MARKET THE STARS BETTER: During football season, you can’t escape Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Ditto for LeBron James during basketball season. Yet when Albert Pujols homered to end a 19-inning game this month, or Clayton Kershaw pitched a no-hitter this season, hardly anyone outside of the West Coast knew. And there was no All-Star Game tribute for the late Tony Gwynn, a Hall of Fame member. Inexcusable. There are plenty of ways to beat the drum these days.
- SCALE BACK INTERLEAGUE PLAY: Except in a few instances, it’s overrated. Makes sense to have Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs and Dodgers-Angels. But I detected no unusual “fan buzz” for this weekend’s A’s series at Atlanta — and both teams are playoff contenders. Concentrate on divisional rivalries — the fans sure do.
— What are your ideas for changing Major League Baseball? Tell us in the comments below.