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Unassisted
04-29-2008, 10:08 AM
http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/ideas-for-making-baseball-more-interesting/


Ideas for Making Baseball More Interesting

By Stephen J. Dubner (http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/author/sdubner/)
When I was a kid, I loved baseball more than anything, and I’m afraid I mean that literally — more than my family, my friends, even more than my dog. If given the opportunity, I would have played baseball 24 hours a day. And when I couldn’t play it, I would watch it on T.V.
Now I can barely sit through a whole inning of a game on T.V.

Judging from the World Series T.V. ratings for the past 40 years (http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/wstv.shtml) — they’ve slipped from a 22.8 rating/57 share in 1968 to 10.6 rating/18 share in 2007 — I am not alone.

Why? Maybe I and a lot of people have adult-onset A.D.D. and need more stimulation than baseball can offer. Maybe there are just too many other forms of entertainment.

Or maybe the game is just too boring.

Is it more boring than it was in 1968?

No, but it hasn’t changed much since then either. If you are a traditionalist, which I am in many ways, this could be good news. But since sport is entertainment, you have to keep in mind that people get bored watching the same game play out every day.

Football and basketball may be more innately exciting than baseball, but just as important, they’ve also changed a lot over the past 40 years. They are full of innovation.

What is baseball’s biggest innovation of the past 40 years? Steroids maybe. Or the specialization of the pitching staff (yawn).

You may not like all the changes in other sports, but it does keep things interesting. Baseball, meanwhile — well, if you have watched enough of it, you know exactly what’s coming at just about any point in the game. You can predict what the manager will do in a given situation. You can predict what the commentators will say after the play.

Darren Everson has written a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal about how a few baseball managers are trying some new things (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120907935062743195.html), however marginal. Here are a few examples from Everson’s piece:

1) Having a relief pitcher play the outfield for a batter or two and then come back in and pitch; this gets around the archaic substitution rules — you can’t take a pitcher out of the game and bring him back in — while still letting you practice situational pitching.

2) Putting an infield shift even on a right-handed batter like Vladimir Guerrero, which means asking any of the three infielders who might field the ball to make a long throw to first.

3) If bad weather is forecast (http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/21/how-valid-are-tv-weather-forecasts/), don’t waste your starting pitcher; instead, start a bullpen pitcher. More broadly, use relievers to start the game but have them pitch only a few innings, bringing in your “starter” to finish the game off, including innings eight and nine.

4. Have your pitcher bat eighth instead of ninth so your ninth-place hitter can set things up for the top of the lineup.
I particularly like what Bill James (http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/01/bill-james-answers-all-your-baseball-questions/) had to say in Everson’s article about why most managers do the same thing in baseball:


“A blunder by a manager is a move that is A) unconventional, B) doesn’t work, and C) occurs at a moment of focus in the game,” says Bill James, senior baseball-operations adviser with the Boston Red Sox. “If you put those three things together, you have a blunder. As long as you do what’s conventional, you won’t be accused of a blunder.”


While none of the above examples are earth-shattering, they’d certainly make the game a bit more fluid and fun to watch. I am guessing that you all can come up with at least a few dozen other potential changes, including rule changes, that would make baseball better without damaging its great tradition.

A lot of these changes might not have to do with how the game is played but rather how it is presented on T.V.; the long commercial break between each half-inning, for instance, is a gilded invitation to go watch something else.

I understand that the game is the game and that you don’t want to start installing trampolines in the outfield, for instance. But aren’t there some things that could be done to make people like me who used to love the game want to watch it again?

macro
04-29-2008, 12:34 PM
Item #1 from the list above might work, but the outcome might not be pretty if the pitcher can't field and misplays a ball hit to him.

I like #3, and it makes you wonder why that's not done more. We had a discussion here a year or two ago about unconventional use of pitchers in games. I think the strict policy of saving the "closer" until the 8th or 9th inning is not a good one. If the bases are loaded with none out in the sixth inning of a tie game, bring him in. If you don't, there may not be anything to save three innings later.

As for the long TV breaks, those are present in every sport, so I'm not sure how that makes baseball any different. I do wish they'd shorten the breaks in all sports, though.

Always Red
04-29-2008, 01:00 PM
There are only 2 changes I would like to see. First, to abolish the DH, and secondly to return the pace of the game back to when most games lasted about 2+ hours.

The problem is not the game of baseball. The problem lies with many of those today who watch the game with very short attention spans and expectations of constant action and entertainment.

In baseball, often the little things are really the big things. Many of the newer fans do not realize that, and neither does the media. There's a reason they mostly only show HR's on Baseball Tonight (though to be fair, they seem to have tried to get away from that.)

My very favorite game to see is a 1-0 thriller, with great pitching and incredible defense. Most fans today seem to prefer a 10-9 slugfest. Just my opinion.

oneupper
04-29-2008, 01:20 PM
My very favorite game to see is a 1-0 thriller, with great pitching and incredible defense. Most fans today seem to prefer a 10-9 slugfest. Just my opinion.

I really like a 5-4, 6-5 or 4-3 (like last night) game. Not too long, usually has a lead change or two, several situations with runners on...etc.

In 1-0 games, usually one or both pitchers are dominating. I sometimes feel bad for the guy on the losing side.

edabbs44
04-29-2008, 01:21 PM
Even the playing field and make the WS games watchable for kids (i.e. start game before 8:30 pm).

Johnny Footstool
04-29-2008, 01:44 PM
Judging from the World Series T.V. ratings for the past 40 years — they’ve slipped from a 22.8 rating/57 share in 1968 to 10.6 rating/18 share in 2007 — I am not alone.

I hate faulty logic like this.

In 1968, how many channels were available?

How about today?

If you want to measure the popularity of baseball, look at how attendance is steadily increasing each year.

Baseball doesn't need to be made "more interesting."

smith288
04-29-2008, 01:49 PM
Im for Instant reply on homeruns, fan interference and traps. Limit it to 2 a game and max the review to 60 seconds to 120 seconds maybe.

KronoRed
04-29-2008, 01:49 PM
One thing would help baseball.

The Base Ejector.

medford
04-29-2008, 01:57 PM
I like the idea of a relief pitcher playing the field for a batter or 2 to allow for a left specialist to come in to face a specific batter, IF said pitcher could actually play the field. One could argue how much worse can you get than Dunn in left field (Well man-ram for one), but certainly a guy like Ankeil could have done it. Or Kischnick (sp?) pitched and played the field some. Certainly there are other guys that would be more than servicable in the OF for a batter or 2 if it allowed you to keep them in the game.

For the Reds, I would think a guy like Marcus McBeth could do this should he ever make it back to the bigs. Perhaps try it out in the minors from time to time to see how a potential reliever would react if given the opportunity to field for a batter or 2.

Ltlabner
04-29-2008, 01:58 PM
Two words:

Landmines in the outfield.

HumnHilghtFreel
04-29-2008, 01:58 PM
For the final out of every inning, special balls will be used. These balls will have been soaked in kerosene and lit on fire for game use.

Install dunk tanks behind the plate, with one lucky fan sitting on the plank. Give pitchers the option once per inning to dunk them with a single pitch. It counts as a strikeout.

Players should use steroids to increase offensive producti... oh wait, we might have tried that one already.

Allow Norris Hopper to hit with an aluminum bat.

blumj
04-29-2008, 01:59 PM
We had a discussion here a year or two ago about unconventional use of pitchers in games. I think the strict policy of saving the "closer" until the 8th or 9th inning is not a good one. If the bases are loaded with none out in the sixth inning of a tie game, bring him in. If you don't, there may not be anything to save three innings later.
The reason you don't see this is practical, teams don't want their best relievers warming up and sitting down and warming up again later on a regular basis, because the additional warmups add wear and tear, even if they don't actually pitch in the game. By the time the bases are loaded in the 6th or 7th inning, it's too late to warm him up in time to resolve the situation, and, if you warm him up every time a few guys get on base in the 6th or 7th inning, he'll get worn out. That's why you see some teams have the Joe Borowskis and Todd Joneses as closers, so they can use their best relievers earlier in the game.

dougdirt
04-29-2008, 02:01 PM
Want WS ratings to go up? Don't start the games at 9pm. Start all games at 8pm est or earlier.

RedsManRick
04-29-2008, 02:05 PM
If you read the comments, I'm in there... That's one of the blogs I frequent. Great stuff.

cumberlandreds
04-29-2008, 02:26 PM
Want WS ratings to go up? Don't start the games at 9pm. Start all games at 8pm est or earlier.

You got that right. They really should start no later than 7:30. I know I haven't watched a complete World Series game live that wasn't on a Saturday night in a long time. People do have to get up and go to work the next day. I can't stay up to nearly midnight and expect to get up at 4:45 and be anywhere close to being productive.

Chip R
04-29-2008, 02:28 PM
You got that right. They really should start no later than 7:30. I know I haven't watched a complete World Series game live that wasn't on a Saturday night in a long time. People do have to get up and go to work the next day. I can't stay up to nearly midnight and expect to get up at 4:45 and be anywhere close to being productive.


But they don't start at 9:00. They start around 8:30 and they always have ever since they started playing night games in the '70s. There is a whole other section of the country to consider, you know.

jmcclain19
04-29-2008, 02:31 PM
That's right. Screw half the country. Start all the WS games at 7pm ET.

Big Klu
04-29-2008, 02:48 PM
Day baseball on weekends during the World Series.

Chip R
04-29-2008, 02:49 PM
Day baseball on weekends during the World Series.


I could dig that but I don't think MLB wants to butt heads with the NFL and NCAA ratings wise.

nate
04-29-2008, 02:53 PM
Replace Tim McCarver with a randomly picked fan under the age of 10.

KronoRed
04-29-2008, 03:12 PM
That's right. Screw half the country. Start all the WS games at 7pm ET.

Half the country is getting screwed now, lets make it even :D

OldRightHander
04-29-2008, 03:17 PM
Baseball needs nothing to make the game more interesting. Last night's game didn't need any help for that matter.

As for the pitcher playing in the field and then coming back in to pitch, didn't Cox try that once in Atlanta? I may be wrong, but I seem to remember a manager doing that and I'm thinking it might have been him.

Caveat Emperor
04-29-2008, 03:21 PM
pitch, didn't Cox try that once in Atlanta? I may be wrong, but I seem to remember a manager doing that and I'm thinking it might have been him.

Just a few weeks ago, in fact.

Though, they failed to hold the lead through the inning.

dfs
04-29-2008, 03:32 PM
Want WS ratings to go up? Don't start the games at 9pm. Start all games at 8pm est or earlier.
yup.yup.yup.

Generations have kids have been alienated from watching the games greatest celebrations.

I would like to see limits set on the number of times ....
A batter can step out of the box during an at bat. (twice)
The number of relief substitutions in an inning.(twice)
The number of pick-off attempts per at bat. (twice)

Rojo
04-29-2008, 03:47 PM
yup.yup.yup.

Generations have kids have been alienated from watching the games greatest celebrations.

I would like to see limits set on the number of times ....
A batter can step out of the box during an at bat. (twice)
The number of relief substitutions in an inning.(twice)
The number of pick-off attempts per at bat. (twice)

Bill James had came up with something similar to this:

With exceptions don't allow batters to step out of the box.

Allow one in-inning substitution per game unless the pitcher is getting shelled.

Allow two "free" pick-off throws. After that the throw counts as a ball on the hitter.

Gradually increase the size of the bat handles and the distance of the box from the plate.

klw
04-29-2008, 04:05 PM
Bring back Morganna the kissing bandit.

George Anderson
04-29-2008, 04:09 PM
Bring back Morganna the kissing bandit.

Morganna is 54 years old. That would be like kissing Grandma.

redsmetz
04-29-2008, 05:11 PM
Morganna is 54 years old. That would be like kissing Grandma.

I was all set to say there's no way she's that young, but most accounts indicate she was 17 when she first went on the field at Riverfront Stadium. Accounts seem to peg her year of birth as 1954, which is the same year I was born. She would actually be 53 until this summer, but when she first arrived on the scene, I never had any understanding that she was the same age as me. I sure didn't know any 17 year old girls like that! Here's an SI story from 2003 that goes with the standard 1954 date, but mentions that it could be off by five to six years - which is about what I would expect. I really don't think is this young.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/pr/subs/siexclusive/07/09/flashback.morganna/

Unassisted
04-29-2008, 05:13 PM
Morganna is 54 years old. That would be like kissing Grandma.Maybe MLB teams could hire Jessica Simpson to impersonate Morganna?

klw
04-29-2008, 05:15 PM
Morganna is 54 years old. That would be like kissing Grandma.

Wow I thought she was older than that but hey 1. I wouldn't be the one getting kissed and 2. the players usually looked as uncomfortable as if they were kissing Grandma back when she roamed the stadia.

klw
04-29-2008, 05:16 PM
Maybe MLB teams could hire Jessica Simpson to impersonate Morganna?

would she bring along the jinx? would the player care?

Cooper
04-29-2008, 05:24 PM
Make sure there's at least 1 astro-turf stadium left. Come on--ya gotta admit that even though that stuff was ugly to look at -it did produce a different and sometimes funner game to watch.

That's 1 thing baseball has going for it --the difference of each park and how they are construed. I like that OF in houston that has a hill out there and is 440 to CF. I like the Green Monster and Pesky's pole. The short porch in Yankee stadium and in GABP. The altitude in Colorado. I loved it when the Reds went there for games (pre-humidor) and you knew all the hitters where going to feast on that thin air.

With the way things are going--i wouldn't be surprised if the CEO would attempt to homogenize playing fields and surfaces.

redsmetz
04-29-2008, 05:34 PM
Make sure there's at least 1 astro-turf stadium left. Come on--ya gotta admit that even though that stuff was ugly to look at -it did produce a different and sometimes funner game to watch.

That's 1 thing baseball has going for it --the difference of each park and how they are construed. I like that OF in houston that has a hill out there and is 440 to CF. I like the Green Monster and Pesky's pole. The short porch in Yankee stadium and in GABP. The altitude in Colorado. I loved it when the Reds went there for games (pre-humidor) and you knew all the hitters where going to feast on that thin air.

With the way things are going--i wouldn't be surprised if the CEO would attempt to homogenize playing fields and surfaces.

Certainly Astroturf did not wear well, I have to say that when I walked into Riverfront Stadium for the 1st time for the All Star game in 1970, it was breathtaking. It was so bright green and modern looking, it was incredible. I know that's hard to believe now, but it was.

Rojo
04-29-2008, 05:35 PM
it did produce a different and sometimes funner game to watch.


Sometimes?