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Make Baseball Great Again: 5 Ways to Improve America’s Pastime

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Boston Red Sox

Ever since Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred was elected to his position prior to the 2015 regular season, he’s been very open to any and all ideas that can improve the sport. If you’re a fan of baseball, you have to admire a very open-minded person in his role exploring all the ways to make the business product as a whole better.

Manfred’s openness to change is indeed refreshing, but only so much change can occur while still preserving the overall integrity and nature of the sport. I have five things that can potentially change the game and only have a positive impact across the board.

ADDING A PITCH CLOCK

Here is something the sport injected into the minor leagues, sometimes known as the ‘guinea pigs’ for testing out new rules and whatnot.

In 2014, the Arizona Fall League became the testing grounds for a few different rule changes. One of those was implementing a 20-second pitch clock. Prior to the 2015 season, MLB announced they would enforce the pitch clock at both the Triple-A and Double-A level in the minors.

Photo Credit: Ash Marshall/Flickr

For those unfamiliar with how the clock works, a pitcher has 20 seconds from the time he receives the ball from his catcher after every pitch to deliver the next pitch. The clock is stopped when he begins his delivery (in the windup) or comes to a set (in the stretch). Any infraction by the pitcher (not beginning their motion within 20 seconds) results in an added ‘ball’ to the current count of that particular at-bat.

Results were compiled for that first season (2015) of the implemented pitch clock and compared to the season prior, to determine how much effect it truly had on games, if at all. The results showed that the average game length at some leagues/levels was cut down by as many as 15 minutes than the season before. This also had a positive effect during the 2014 AFL, where games were on average roughly 10 minutes shorter.

Being a tradition baseball fan, I’m not buying into all the potential rules changes. However, this is one I can maybe see finding its way to the majors. There’s a number of positives to take away from it: a) it mutually affects both the pitcher and batter and does not favor one over the other, b) there is prior statistical evidence showing it has success, c) there’s a reasonable enough penalty should any player commit an infraction, and perhaps most important, d) it’s a tool that helps groom the minor leaguers and get adapted to the rule before they get that all-important call to the show.

The pace of play in baseball is a fine line to walk, there’s no denying it. It makes hay on being a “timeless” sport. But of the ideas they need to consider, a pitch clock is one.

MORE SCHEDULED DOUBLEHEADERS

Up until the early 1960s, both the American and National League rolled with a 154-game schedule. Ever since then, the regular season is comprised of 162 games in a 183-day stretch. Those 21 days off are precisely why both the league and the players have had preliminary talks on reducing the schedule. Baseball upped it to a 187-day schedule in 2018 to give players a handful more days off, hence for the earliest Opening Day in history.

A report in the Newsday in 2016 talked about how players struggle with the everyday grind during the season, compounded with the borderline brutal traveling teams are prone to during a season. The report also stated that the long schedule with little to no breathing room has also tempted more players around baseball to resort to using performance-enhancing drugs, just so they can keep performing at a high level.

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So here’s the answer: more scheduled doubleheaders. This will resonate with fans who grew up in the era where this was common, mostly on Sundays. Twin bills these days are almost always due to postponed games earlier in the season. MLB and its teams have often opted to replay those rained-out games as part of day-night DH’s (look at this year with the Tigers) as opposed to using up a scheduled off day.

Why doubleheaders? Well, we know with confidence that team owners will almost surely be against shortening the schedule and losing revenue in home games. We can still play 162 games, sprinkle in more series-ending doubleheaders (provided teams have no game the next day), and fans get a two-for-one deal with buying a ticket (or at least they should). Oh, and we don’t have to start the season in late March and end it two weeks before Thanksgiving.

[Side note: The Athletics and Rays played a scheduled doubleheader in 2017 in Tampa, the first since 2011 and only the second instance in 20 years.]

It’s a longer-than-normal at the yard for everyone involved, I get that. But in this day and age with major economic ramifications, going this route seems more logical than reducing games on the schedule entirely.

RID OF DIVISIONS, MODIFY SCHEDULE

While divisions are sports’ way to group teams together, predominantly based on geography, and the title of ‘division champion’ is fancy and all, it only means clinching a spot in the postseason. And it’s fair, if a team reigns supreme in their division, they deserve a seat at the big kids’ table.

However, the problem I have with divisions is unbalanced scheduling. It’s most evident in baseball. For example, our Detroit Tigers play the other four teams in the American League Central 19 times each, which 43.2 percent of their entire 162-game schedule. Personally, if you ask me, I get a little bored of seeing the Indians and White Sox over and over again. Also, like in college athletics with some conferences, there can be a real lack of balance in power and knowing the true “best” teams in the league.

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What I DO like about baseball since the minor realignment move made prior to 2013 (HOU moving from NL to AL) is that there is always an interleague series going on with two 15-team leagues. Because of this, baseball has a golden opportunity to create more competitive balance in their schedule by simply ridding of divisions once and for all.

So I bet some of you are asking, “Well if we do away with divisions, how will the schedule look?” I’m glad you asked. Here is how I personally would do it in a 162-game slate, using the Tigers as an example.

  • Play the other 14 teams in your league 8 times a season (one home series, one away), adding up to 112 games in the American League for the Tigers.
  • Play the 15 teams in the other league 3-4 times, which would be one series against each National League team for Detroit (five of those 15 series would be four-game sets).

Everybody plays everybody, just like in the NBA and NHL where they have the scheduling ability to do so.

IMPROVE ALL-STAR WEEK EXPERIENCE

This is something that yours truly has done a list on before so you want, click here to just cheat and read it.

But to get the overall point across, there need to be more highlightable events at the MLB All-Star week of festivities, in addition to the Home Run Derby. Contrary to the trend that the sport is going, if it is not there already, but baseball is more than just hitting dingers left and right. There are so many other skill sets that players have used to help get them to the show, hence the term “five-tool player.”

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Let’s see the best hitters be able to spray the ball all over the field. Let’s see the fastest runners show off their wheels around the bases. Let’s see which players have the best arm and accuracy when throwing.

The other three major pro sports leagues all have similar events that arguably have more awe and intrigue than their respective All-Star games (baseball is the only one where players don’t half-ass their way through the game, even though there’s zero incentive… just saying).

MORE SHOWCASE GAMES

Baseball hit a huge home run last season during July 4 weekend, becoming the first major professional sport to play a regular-season game on an active military base. The Braves and Marlins played just your average mid-season game in front of more than 12,000 active service men and women and their families on the base of Fort Bragg, the largest active military base in the world.

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Baseball has been synonymous with the military for as long as the sport has been around. For it to be the first of its kind to pull something like this off is both fitting and truly remarkable. Quite frankly, I’m not too sure how it took this long to make it happen. If you were lucky enough to watch the game, it was an absolute treat. So much so, baseball should consider making it a regular thing.

And it’s not just military sites as well. Baseball managed to implement a 2017 regular season game into Williamsport during the Little League World Series and plan to do so again in 2018. They also had the Twins and Indians play down in Puerto Rico for two games early in the 2018 campaign, another great idea to highlight the sport’s rich diversity.

Selfishly, I would love for them to somehow play a regular season game at the Field of Dreams site in Iowa… get on it, baseball. Make it happen.

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MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).

Featured Article

Secretary of State gives you a way to show team Pride

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The Michigan Secretary of State unveiled Detroit professional sports license plates today.

Now you can show your support with more than just a bumper sticker, and a window decal, and a flag pendant.

The biggest decision facing Detroit-area sports fans is which one to order. No matter which one you choose the proceeds will go to the team charities.

Each plate costs $35 with $25 going to the charity foundation of whichever plate you order.

You can order your plates here. Which one will you choose?

For more great content visit Michigan Sports and Entertainment: News, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Podcasts, Store

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Which wrestlers moved to Raw in WWE’s Superstar Shakeup?

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WWE’s annual Superstar Shakeup is among us, and some significant changes have already been made to the wrestling landscape. After three hours of Raw, several SmackDown members moved over to the red brand. But they weren’t the only ones affected. Some NXT call-ups were made, and 205 Live was in the mix too. We’ll break down all the big moves and what it could mean for the future of WWE.

Superstars headed to Raw

The Miz

Once again, the Miz has switched brands during the shakeup coming to Raw from SmackDown Live! He’s now changed brands during all three Superstar Shakeups. Over the years, the Miz has strived for success regardless of the role he’s given. Expect the Miz to be a featured weekly on Raw and for MizTV to move to the red brand too. Miz will be the continuing his first major babyface run in the company, so the constant brand switching isn’t overdone. Everyone he was unable to feud with as a heel is fair game now that he’s a face. Don’t be surprised if the Miz wins the Universal Championship over the next year.

Viking Experience

The Viking Experience was known as the NXT champion War Raiders. Despite leaping the main roster, it appears the Viking Experience still have their belts. Along with the new tag team name, they received new character names. Instead of being Hanson and Rowe, they are now known as Ivar and Erik. The internet almost exploded with this news, and not in a good way. Even with a goofy name, the Viking Experience has a high upside in a relatively weak tag team division. Hopefully, they don’t wallow and become the next Authors of Pain on the main roster.

Cedric Alexander

Cedric Alexander is the first wrestler to move from 205 Live via the superstar shakeup. Based on the number of four-star matches we’ve rated involving him, Alexander has a high upside. It will be nice to see him have the opportunity to face Raw superstars, like Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn. 205 Live has been jokingly referred to as wrestling purgatory. If Alexander does well, it’s possible Vince McMahon will be more open to smaller guys joining the main roster.

Andrade and Zelina Vega

Andrade is one of the best wrestlers in all of WWE. His move from SmackDown to Raw creates so many new matchups, including Finn Balor who he faced tonight. The WWE was smart to keep the dynamic duo of Andrade and Zelina Vega together. His English isn’t the best, but Vega is a fiery mouthpiece that can supplement and translate his passionate promos. If he’s allowed to move to the upper tiers of Raw, Andrade can be the biggest Hispanic superstars in all of professional wrestling.

Rey Mysterio

Speaking of Hispanic superstars, Rey Mysterio also moved to Raw from SmackDown during the shakeup. Many fans feel like Mysterio’s real home is SmackDown live. Unfortunately for them, he will have to make do with Raw for the next year. At least fans will likely get to see more great matches between Mysterio and Andrade. At this point in Mysterio’s career, he’s here to get younger talent over with the fans. Fans should appreciate everything Mysterio still does in the ring. It’s unbelievable that he can still keep up after decades of work.

The Usos

The Usos joining Raw was perhaps the most obvious move made during the shakeup. After losing the SmackDown tag titles last week, many assumed the brand switch was imminent. Raw has lacked tag team depth for over a year, and the Usos are in the discussion for the best tag team in the world. So, the Usos should really help that depth issue Raw has been having. Hopefully, the Revival stay on Raw, and an Usos-Revival feud can play out.

Naomi

Naomi will be joining her husband, Jimmy Uso. This seems like a nice move on the WWE’s part. Naomi has been on SmackDown live for the past two years. So this should be a good change-up for Naomi, who has faced everyone SmackDown Live has to offer.

The interesting thing about Naomi was her placement on the show. Amid reports that Sasha Banks is unhappy with WWE and threatening to leave the company, Naomi filled in as Bayley’s tag partner. The replacement isn’t final by any means, but it’s still unclear if and when Banks will be back.

Lacey Evans

After months of going back and forth on Raw and SmackDown Live, Lacey Evans is officially on Raw. Her gimmick of walking down the ramp at random moments and then walking backstage was paid off after WrestleMania when she attacked Becky Lynch. WWE sees a high upside in Evans, but many fans are already sour on her. If she can keep improving in the ring, maybe she can live up to their expectations. But then again, isn’t that what NXT is for?

Eric Young

Eric Young was the leader of Sanity. The group got called up last year and got minimal time on SmackDown Live. With them doing nothing, it was probably time to remove one member from the group. Young is the most likely to succeed on his own at this point. So, the WWE likely made the right choice to move Young from the group, instead of splitting up Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe.

“The house that AJ Styles built” is going to have a new owner because Styles is now on Monday Night Raw. Over the past couple years, Styles has done everything imaginable on SmackDown, including a year-long championship reign. Raw will hold a lot of new challenges for Styles, especially when it comes to fresh opponents. Some possible new dream programs are with Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Braun Strowman. Fans have been wanting a feud between Styles and Rollins for a long time. A potential WrestleMania 36 match between the two in-ring generals would get fans excited.

For more great content visit Michigan Sports and EntertainmentNews, YouTubeFacebookTwitter, Instagram, Podcasts, Store

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Sports Carnage Episode 21: Final Four Recap, NBA & NHL Playoff Previews, Paul George’s Greatness (Or Not), and Our Worst Takes Relived

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Matt, Dylan, Paul and Ryan recap the Final Four while Paul bathes in righteous glory, finally get to the NBA talk Ryan and Matt have been thirsting after, talk potential upsets early in the NBA and NHL Playoffs, and cop to their worst takes in the past year(ish).

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Download this episode: PodBean OR Itunes

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