Rob Manfred and MLB are unnecessarily rocking its tried and tested foundation. Why go so far down the path that it becomes unrecognizable?
“New age baseball is rocking the foundation of the game. Where is the game headed? Remember, it’s all about winning.”
Just read the above statement again. A longtime baseball insider directed this to my attention and Major League Baseball needs to take a long, hard look. The concept of changing the postseason from 10 to 14 teams and adding a reality TV system to determine who opposes each other is rocking the foundation of America’s Pastime.
It’s all about the money. So, as spring training commenced this week, and with Opening Day seven weeks off, this is the latest in a line of a drastically-changing baseball landscape.
Another proposed change to the game and how they can get away with this is beyond explanation. Though the specifics of how three division winners and four wild card teams would fit into this is preliminary.
Pertaining to commissioner Rob Manfred, who thrives on change, this is possible and could be implemented in the 2002 season.
The best team in the league gets a bye into the division series. The two other division-winning teams and the wild card team with the best record will play host to a best-of-three wild card series in the opening round.
That last concept, wild card going to a best of three, always seemed to be the best concept. Then again, there was always the obstacle of the postseason extending into November or curtailing the season schedule from 162 games.
Either way, baseball is headed in a new, foreign direction. The old school is gone and this new era is always looking for change, as attendance figures in 2019 saw a decline.
Of course, baseball does not want to see a decline of fans in the seats, nor do the television networks that provide a significant amount of revenue.
So here we go. It is inevitable that another change is on the way and will rock the foundation.
“It seems like our millennials want to reinvent the game,” said another longtime insider. “They are relentless in their efforts, but the game transcends numbers.”
Technology, of course, with analytics is at the forefront. We have seen that ability to cheat, and a scandal that rocked the game will continue to be the story as the 2020 season moves along.
Younger minds are in control of the game. And with baseball trying to gear to that young and tech-minded demographic, there are more changes to come. But they are rocking the foundation and this new playoff format, if implemented, travels along those lines.
Reality TV? Division winning team with the second-best record will select the wild card opponent from three wild-card winners and they would be the home team?. Division winner with the worst record will choose an opponent from the remaining two wild card teams?
The culmination? A finale with the wild-card winning team and best record against a wild-card team that was not picked in the group. All of this would unfold live and in living color on TV, on Sunday night of the final regular-season day.
OK, so be it… welcome to reality TV. Would baseball pennant races have more meaning? Then again, that last game of the season, and with the implication of the second wild-card, always made the final day interesting.
“The wild-card game has the same energy as a World Series game or a World Series Game 7,” said a younger fan on social media who bought into that concept.
The wild-card, a great concept, kept teams in the mix.
Consider, though, how this foundation has rocked over the past few years.
Baseball has seen more strikeouts than hits, which can be attributed to the analytic revolution. The strikeout has become more frequent and incredibly boring. It is as animate as watching grass grow.
Strikeouts are not a manifestation of pitching, including relief pitching, but rather by a new hitting philosophy advocated by Sabermetricians.
The emphasis on home runs has contaminated the essence of the game. Exactly, a record number of home runs hit out of ballparks and not attributed to steroids but a theory that MLB has altered with the baseball. Regardless, it brings fans to the ballpark and that means more revenue.
The emphasis on the fly ball and home run has helped increase the efficiency of the shift. Hitters trying to pull and hit the ball for power are perfect cannon fodder for the shift.
Going back to the New York Yankees-Houston Astros 2019 ALCS, and not bringing cheating into the equation, the latter was not able to shift on DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshelia. Both players are line-drive hitters with the ability to use the whole field.
Relief pitching, specifically bullpenning and openers, are also products of our analytics revolution. This year, another change to speed up the game is the implementation of the three-batter rule for a pitcher coming out of the pen.
The 26-man roster and not the expansion to 40 in September is a solid, more logical change. And a designated hitter would make more sense if used in both leagues instead of alternating the 10th man in interleague and postseason play.
A robot umpire? That is bound to come to fruition. The game of baseball, indeed, is in need of improvement. But a revamp of the postseason format is difficult to take from this standpoint.
But it comes down to this and said well by that insider:
“MLB The present commissioner is more concerned with the bottom line than the quality of the game. His changes along with the impact of analytics have adulterated the game into a mundane, boring experience.”
He compares this to watching the first three-quarters of an NBA game or watching a soccer game.”
And in a matter of time, MLB will have a reality TV selection show to determine their postseason brackets.
It’s all about the revenue. And it’s a new age of baseball rocking the tried and trusted foundation that developed over nearly a century and a half.