Culture of Hoops

Six Ways To Improve Major League Baseball

No other sport has dealt with as many “well something needs to change,” stories as Major League Baseball has over the last decade. You’ve surely heard all of the proposed changes by now; a pitch clock, a shorter season, less replay, more replay, harsher PED testing and penalties, etc. There’s a reason why so many people are lobbying to alter the landscape of professional baseball … it’s really, really boring.

While the regional appeal of pro baseball is still substantial, no sport has lost its national appeal over the last two decades as much as Major League Baseball has. All five of the least watched World Series since 1984 have come since 2008. People are only interested in watching their favorite teams play, and they watch their favorite teams play because their fathers watched their favorite teams. No Yankees fan is ever stoked to watch the Cardinals and Cubs play a July series. There isn’t any Dodgers fan that is marking his calendar to watch the Royals and Blue Jays play this year. That’s just not how it works. And that’s because, as I said before, baseball is really, really boring.

Even though Pop Culture Spin’s Dalton Baggett and myself don’t have any sort of emotional connection to Major League Baseball, we don’t see any reason why baseball should continue to bore the people that feel obligated to watch. So collectively we came up with six ways that Major League Baseball could spice things up and improve its position in the sports landscape.

Idea #1: PED Humiliation

Sonny Giuliano: The use of Performance Enhancing Drugs, and Major League Baseball’s policing of this problem has been the biggest issue the league has faced for a solid decade now, so we might as well start right here. Right now, the penalties for a positive PED test are as such:

First positive test: 80 game suspension

Second positive test: 162 game suspension

Third positive test: Lifetime ban from baseball

I’m not squabbling over the length of these suspensions. Frankly, they look good to me. The penalty is what I have a problem with. The stakes just don’t seem quite high enough. Sure, being suspended without pay for a multiple-month timeframe is certainly problematic, but we’re talking about dudes who are already millionaires, plus there are millions of other jobs available for these guys. We’re always taking applications at JP Sports, right Dalton?

Well anyway, rather than removing these players from their teams for X amount of games, I think we re-create some kind of Scarlett Letter scenario in Major League Baseball. Imagine this: Let’s say Alex Rodriguez, who has one positive PED test on his illustrious resume, again tests positive for PED’s. Rather than facing a season-long ban, Major League Baseball’s Twitter account sends out the following tweet:

What outfit should Alex Rodriguez be forced to wear for the next 162 games?

A. Ballerina

B. Dominatrix

C. Cowboy

D. Lion

Three questions: What’s the record for most votes in a Twitter poll? How many more votes would this Twitter poll get than the previous record holder? On a scale of 1-10, how excited would you be to watch Alex Rodriguez play baseball in a Dominatrix costume?

If a player decides he doesn’t want to wear the outfit, then he never plays baseball again and there isn’t a punishment for cheating greater than that. If he does decide he wants to play baseball again, he has to spend six months wearing a leather harness and chain thong, and that would instantly become the greatest moment in the history of American sports.

Dalton Baggett: I support this new rule 100%. Although I’m fairly certain that if it was implemented, there would be about a million women in Chicago just praying that Kris Bryant tests positive for PED’s.

Idea #2: Paintball Base Runners

DB: I know that we’re ragging on baseball quite a bit here, but that isn’t to say those guys don’t do some impressive things from time to time. One example would be stealing bases. You have to be, like, really fast to do that. Not even just normal athlete fast either, the guys that can consistently steal bases should try out for roles as the Flash. DC films could actually use some help right now, so that’s a legitimate suggestion.

As impressive as stealing bases is, I still think it could be more exciting, and I have a suggestion for the MLB. What if anytime a player tries to steal a base he gets peppered with paintballs from the stands? Doesn’t that sound awesome? I know there would probably be some security risks here, so not EVERYONE would have a paintball gun. Let’s say that 10 or 20 lucky fans get randomly selected to sit in special seating along the field. Or maybe they are ridiculously expensive seats, so that way this idea makes the teams some extra money. Either way, they would be provided with all of the gear, and anytime an opposing team’s player tries to steal a base, they get to open fire. It would be like real life Duck Hunt, and who wouldn’t love that? If you don’t know what Duck Hunt is, you’re too young to be reading this anyway.

SG: The random selection of spectators makes so much sense from a fan involvement perspective, especially if a visiting fan gets control of one of the paintball guns. Can you imagine the hatred that will flow throughout the stadium if one away team fan gets a chance to shoot at the home players? It would be like the Steve Bartman situation again, only if Bartman had a chance to light up every fan who gave him shit with a paintball gun.

Idea #3: Personalized Outfields

SG: This one is my personal favorite, and it’s the most aesthetically pleasing, and it’s 100 percent logical (to a certain degree) for MLB teams to implement this. You know how every baseball stadium is unique? Different sizes, different looks, different stands, etc. Well why not continue this trend with the field. Why not add a little flavor to each stadium AND raise the level of difficulty for the fielders as well?

There isn’t anything more routine than a pop out to the outfield. Fuck, they call it a “routine pop fly,” and everything. Well, if we personalized the outfields, not every play out there would be so routine. If you’d be so kind, take a journey with me to five revolutionized ballparks with personalized outfields.

Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins – Latin dance music is blaring, left field is covered with strategically planted palm trees and right field resembles a beach; sand, water, cabanas … the works.

PNC Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates – The entire outfield is steel. Steel floor. Steel wall. All steel everything. And yes, we can paint it all black and yellow.

Globe Life Park in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers – Right in the middle of centerfield is a saloon. In left field twelve horses roam freely, and in right field two paid actors dressed like cowboys engage in a wild west shootout after the first out in every half of the inning.

Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays –  The entire outfield is an aviary. Just a ton of birds flying around being assholes shitting on everything.

Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers – In left, center, and right field there is a tiger chained to the outfield wall. Rob home runs at your own risk.

Go ahead, tell me this doesn’t make baseball more entertaining.

DB: I love everything about this. My personal favorite is the Rogers Centre. Remember when Randy Johnson hit that bird with a pitch? It would be like that ALL THE TIME. Also, it would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.

Idea #4: Outfield Interference

DB: I think one of my biggest issues with baseball are the guys that stand in the outfield. They realistically don’t have to do anything but stand there and catch fly balls. Sure, every once and a while they make a diving catch, but even those get boring when they take up EVERY spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. You know what would make playing in the outfield more interesting? If there was opposition out there that got to interfere with the play. Think about how much more exciting it would be to watch a pop fly play when the outfielder could potentially take a Goldberg-esque spear to the midsection while trying to make the catch.

To make this new rule even more entertaining I don’t suggest regular players from the other team get to play some defense. No, I suggest the opposing mascots are the ones who get to interfere. Everyone knows how popular the Washington Nationals’ Presidents race is, right?  Well imagine those same Presidents get a chance to actually have a positive effect on the game. Nothing would make me happier than seeing some random dude in a George Washington costume hit Jose Bautista so hard he forgets how to bat-flip. Or maybe Abe Lincoln goes ahead and emancipates Bryce Harper from the game of baseball all together.

Now, this wouldn’t just be some crazy free for all without rules. I’m not an animal, after all. There would be restrictions to what the mascots would be able to do. For instance, they would have to keep a hand on the outfield wall, and wouldn’t be able to start running until the ball has been hit by the batter. After that, well, it’s pretty much a free for all. NO RULES. None of this NFL-inspired concussion bull-shit. I want players getting hit so hard they don’t remember the names of their children.

SG: The best news about this idea is that the Tigers could make a real tiger their mascot and let that sumbitch loose in the outfield. Now there are four fucking tigers out there!

Idea #5: Home Run or Cash

SG: You want to see the head of one of ESPN’s personalities explode on live television? You want to see a fan base collectively turn on one of its own players and loathe them to a degree that no athlete has ever been loathed in the history of sports? You want to add a new element of drama to every single baseball game? You want to see who the most selfish pricks in Major League Baseball are? Well, with Home Run or Cash, you get all four of those desired outcomes!

If a player hits a home run, they get the opportunity to choose the runs for your team or cash for themselves; for every run driven in, the player can opt to chose $10,000 cash instead. So let’s assume Giancarlo Stanton hits a three-run home run … he has the choice of putting three runs on the board for the Marlins, or he could net himself $30,000 in one swing. You can’t pick and choose. You either take all three runs or all $30,000. A few other notes:

-If a player takes the cash, he still gets the home run added to his career totals. He shouldn’t be penalized for being a greedy bastard … only his team should.

-After the home run hitter runs the bases he will be handed a microphone at home plate and be forced to announce his decision out loud in front of the crowd.

-If a player hits a walk-off home run they get to choose between the win or $100,000.

-In the first two rounds of the postseason all dollar amounts are doubled. In the World Series all dollar amounts are tripled. If a player hits a walk-off home run in a World Series game and chooses the money instead of the win, his prize will be presented in a treasure chest and come in the form of gold coins.

DB: I would choose cash EVERY time. $300,000 or a World Series win? Sorry fans, but I’m taking the money and buying a really fast car to leave the city as soon as possible.

Idea #6: Kickball Inning

DB: I think we can all agree that baseball games are entirely too long. The average length of a game is about three hours… if I can watch the entirety of The Godfather before an MLB game ends, it’s too long. If you are one of the few who don’t agree with me, you are wrong. You can direct any angry comments at Sonny. He’s better with people.

Do you know what makes baseball even more unbearable? When it goes into extra innings, no one at the game is thinking, “oh good, free baseball!” like they do at basketball or hockey games. It’s more likely they’re thinking, “Well, we ate lunch here, I guess we have to eat dinner here too. Maybe we should just rent a room for the night.”

Luckily, I have a proposed solution to this problem. If the game does, unfortunately, go into extra innings, rather than continuing to play baseball, fans get to see their favorite players come out and play kickball until the game is decided. That’s right, we’re going all the way back to high school gym class with this one. Think about how much more exciting the tenth inning would be if you’re watching David Ortiz trying to kick a rubber ball deep into the outfield.

This also opens up the opportunity for MLB teams to sign professional soccer players to the team, just in case the game goes into extras and they need that edge over their opponent. I’m fairly certain Messi could put a kick ball over the Green Monster, and I’d pay good money to see it happen. Don’t try to tell there isn’t enough skill involved with kickball, either, I think anybody that’s played can attest to the fact that it is WAY harder to get a good pitch off in kickball than it is in baseball. I want a smooth roll, none of that bouncing shit.

SG: See, we’re partially in disagreement here. My suggestion for tie games after the 9th inning is to settle it like a hockey shoot-out and have a sudden death home run derby to decide who wins. That’s legitimate drama to end a game, especially if the Home Run or Cash Rule is in play. As far as the kickball idea goes, I’d turn the fifth inning into the kickball inning, just to remind everyone how silly this game where men swing a stick at a small ball is.

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