As the calendar moves towards the end of February, the baseball calendar is usually heating up. However, we remain as frigid as a snowstorm in the coldest parts of Alaska. The MLB lockout has left baseball fans and pundits wondering if the worst is still yet to come. Lockout aficionados feel that no progress will be made towards a new CBA until real money is lost. And sadly, that only happens with the loss of regular-season games. Baseball can not survive another stoppage of the regular season. We don’t have Cal Ripken Jr chasing Lou Gehrig’s historic games played streak. And home runs don’t mean what they did back in the late ’90s and 2000s. So the game would be at a severe disadvantage in coming back if we lose games. So what can be done? Let’s discuss it, shall we?
More teams are competing to be the worst team than the World Series winner. Tanking is one of the biggest deterrents in today’s game. This practice known as tanking must be abolished if the game will be saved for the future. When teams tank, their franchise undergoes a purging. A purging of the major league team in an effort to recoup higher draft picks. However, when more than half the league is tanking, the on-field product can look atrocious. For example, take a look at the last couple of seasons for the Baltimore Orioles. It has been a tremendous disservice to a great baseball fan base in Baltimore. When the Orioles are playing great baseball, they have a packed stadium. And as one of the most beautiful ballparks in the game, that stadium deserves to have fans filling it every night.
Another Cause of Tanking
Another aspect of tanking that hurts the game of baseball is that it diminishes the legacy of this historic game. Teams across the history of this game had players and, more specifically, teams striving to become the World Series champion. It was a hallowed and prestigious recognition to be the World Series champion. To have the players who helped contribute to the ultimate victory was seen as a badge of honor. Yet, while the players on-field are still playing and pushing, the front offices are seemingly not following in kind.
Having Ivy-league educated front office staffers is excellent because it can help advance how we study and see the game. But the drawback is that with every front office being run the same way, the “copycat” style of team management leaves every team stuck in neutral. And the game no longer progresses towards winning the World Series but towards winning the profit/loss spreadsheet championship.
UNIVERSAL DESIGNATED HITTER
If you’ve followed the Baseball Banter Broadcast YouTube channel, this blog, or the previous YouTube channel named after this blog, you will know that I’ve long been a believer in the Universal DH rule. While many fans of the National League style of play will argue against the addition of the DH, I believe it can help the game push closer to solving its offensive woes. The pandemic shortened 2020 season included the Universal DH, and I believe that the small sample size did a lot in showing the world that the Universal DH would be better for the game. Mainly because having two separate rules for the same game is highly ridiculous. But more importantly, it provides all teams with the same fair starting point for all games.
With David Ortiz finding himself as the only entrant for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2022, image back to when Ortiz’s Boston Red Sox would be in a National League city for the World Series. The Red Sox were at a complete disadvantage; either you play arguably one of the poorest defenders in first base history during the most important games of the season, or you surrender your best hitter and most significant threat, limiting him to maybe one at-bat a night. This is no way to play the most important games. And with the faltering offenses already in the game, the Universal DH would be a small step in the right direction.
The idea of expanding the postseason could be an excellent thing if done correctly. However, most of the recent leaked proposals are not the greatest. Adding teams to the postseason for the sake of adding teams doesn’t help the playoffs. If teams under .500 make the postseason simply because “X” number of teams make the postseason, that diminishes the sanctity of the postseason.
A system must be devised in which teams that are legitimately trying to compete and win the World Series are given that opportunity. But also, by adding more postseason games, there is more overall interest and revenue in the sport. The idea of having seven teams from each league with the best overall record receiving a “bye” doesn’t necessarily aid the team with the best record. Usually, in the postseason, the “hottest” team is the one that wins. Days off in April help teams but days off in October can end a teams season.
The MLB lockout has forced baseball fans and pundits to wonder what the owners and players association could be thinking. Thinking through the potential ramifications of lost games could be detrimental to the already shaky foundation that the MLB has found itself operating on the last several years. A strike or lockout that forces regular-season games to be delayed or altogether canceled would do seemingly irreparable damage to this beautiful sport. And so both the players, and even more (in my opinion) the owners must come to the table with genuine proposals to end this lockout immediately. For if real games are lost we may not get the lost fans back to the game.