Suggestions abound, from all sides, on how to improve Major League Baseball. The list of baseball’s problems is a familiar one: the games are too long, the game’s competitive balance is out-of-whack (and dangerously close to tipping over completely in favor of the large-market teams), interleague play cheapens the game, multiple-round playoffs cheapen the game, the talent pool is too diluted right now, et cetera. Here is the latest article I’ve seen on how to fix things. It’s not the best thing I’ve read on the subject — that would be a tie between Joe Morgan’s Long Balls, No Strikes (which I reviewed Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball — but Wojciechowski has a couple of interesting points. I, too, have to admit that I favor keeping the Designated Hitter. The New York Yankees have, in recent years, proven that the DH need not be an impediment to “National League”-style of play, using hit-and-run tactics, basestealing, and manufacturing runs vs. waiting for what Earl Campbell called “the manager’s best friend” (the three-run homer). Yes, if the NL had the DH, mini-dramas like the Shawn Estes-Roger Clemens matchup from this past weekend would not have transpired, but such dramas are really quite rare. More common by far is the pitcher who walks up to the plate looking like he barely knows which end of the bat to hold.
I also agree that if baseball is going to shut down two teams, they should be the Expos and the Devil Rays. When Major League Baseball expanded into Florida, Miami made sense, what with the heavy Latino population in that part of the state coupled with baseball’s popularity with Latinos. (I also wonder if part of it had to do with the desire to have a MLB franchise within 100 miles of Cuba.) But Tampa Bay made absolutely no sense, and it still makes no sense. If they had to have two baseball franchises in Florida, surely the Orlando area would have been a wiser location, where a team could have capitalized on that city’s staggering tourism base.
I do disagree with this author’s notion of instant-replay as an aid to umpiring. I simply do not want to watch a baseball game and hear something like, “Upon further review, the runner’s right foot slid in under the fielder’s glove and made contact with the bag just prior to the tag being applied. The runner is awarded second base. Will the official scorekeeper please reset the scoreboard to reflect one out? Play ball!” And besides, what would happen to the team that challenges for the replay if they lose the challenge? Do you automatically start their next series of at-bats with one out?