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Five Questions for Major League Baseball

Why do your most important games have to be played in the worst conditions?

Baseball is The Summer Game. Yet the games that decide its championship are played at night in late October, when temperatures in the 40s or worse are the norm, not an exception. Baseball should not be played while wearing earflaps. The Fall Classic was originally held at the start of October, in daytime. I don’t expect the networks to give up prime-time games, but wouldn’t it make sense to shorten the season and end the Series a week or two earlier? It would lessen the chance of a weather-related debacle like game three of this year, which ended at 1:47 a.m. local time. Or is the timing of FOX’s promotion for November sweeps really more important than determining a proper champion?

Isn’t it time to get the rules unified once and for all?

Imagine that the Western Conference of the NBA plays 4-on-4, while the Eastern Conference plays 5-on-5. Would everything be hunky-dory so long as the Finals were played under the home team’s rules? No, it would be absurd. So are the contortions involving the DH in interleague play and the World Series. Playing without the DH is a disadvantage to the AL team, which has to sit one of its key bats for a portion of the series. Playing with the DH is a disadvantage to the NL team, because it must fill a position for which it has no need in most of the season. Making teams play for the championship under altered rules is downright wacky. Ban the DH, make it universal – one or the other. It’s been 36 years. Enough already.

Is there nothing you can do about the length of games?

It’s bad enough that you’re starting games at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time (when you’re not waiting out rain and starting at 10). But the time it takes to play those games guarantees that few will end before midnight in the east. (Forgive the eastern concentration, but more than seventy-seven percent of the U.S. population lives in the Eastern or Central time zones.) In the year that night games were introduced into the World Series, 1971, the average nine-inning Series game lasted 2:25. Over the last ten years, the average time for a nine-inning World Series game has been 3:20. Your fans of the future are in bed well before the games are over. So are a lot of your fans of the present. We shouldn’t need Tivo to get through nine innings.

Are you trying to bring about a clamor for more Instant Replay?

Even the casual fan can see that the umpiring has been brutal in this Series. Forget the questionable ball/strike calls; the strike zone will always be somewhat subjective from umpire to umpire. But this Series has featured so many clearly missed calls – blown tag plays, phantom swinging strikes, a weird infield fly non-call – it’s as though you want us to call for some kind of Instant Replay challenge system like that in football. It would help, too, if you were putting the best umpires into the World Series, but collectively bargained rotation rules won’t let that happen. You might want to change those rules when the umpires’ contract comes up after next season.

Why isn’t fan security your responsibility?

It’s not news that Philadelphia fans can be rough. So it’s not surprising that, according John Romano in the St. Petersburg Times, family and employees of the Rays (including a 9-year-old child) were cursed at and had beer poured on them, women were called whores and worse, fans were jostled and shoved in the concourses, and one unfortunate fellow stayed locked in a bathroom stall because of the threats from Phillies fans who were banging on the walls. Phillies senior vice president Michael Stiles said, “I’m not going to be critical of the efforts we took (Saturday) night. If somebody else chooses to be, then so be it.” Twelve people were ejected from game three, hardly a sufficient reaction. A certain amount of good-natured antagonism is to be expected when you’re a fan in enemy territory. Fear for your safety is not. Baseball needs to do more to make its venues at worst PG-13, tolerable for young and old and even visitors.

Jeff Neuman's columns for RealClearSports appear on Monday and Thursday. Follow him on Twitter @NeumanJeff. His collected golf writing and blogging can be found at www.neumanprose.com.

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