MLB: The Struggle with Identity and Injury

It’s Spring Training and, once again, my beloved Texas Rangers are at risk of of starting off the season damaged and in a weakened state with the possibility of our expensive ace pitcher, Yu Darvish, in need of the dreaded Tommy John surgery. A surgery that can lay a pitcher out for anywhere from six months to a year. A trend that is seemingly unavoidable with pitchers nowadays with an average 18.6 pitchers per year going under the knife since 2000, has led to questions wide and far regarding player safety and health from pitch counts to inning limits even talk of lowering the mound to reduce strain on the elbow.

Simultaneously, Major League Baseball (MLB) has been struggling to retain a young audience with an average fan age of 55 (the only sport with an older fan base is golf) according to an April 2014 Bloomberg report. The MLB has been attempting to speed up the game to address the complaint that games are too long and too slow. In talking with some of my non-baseball-watching-friends, they have continually expressed how there are flat out too many games.

Which brings me to my thesis. Baseball needs to shorten the season to 81 games. Cut it in half. Play every other day. There is no need for back to back games and people get tired of watching baseball games by the All-Star break. Here is why a shortened and spread out season will help MLB’s players and draw in a younger crowd:

  1. Playing less games means less strain on the players who play during the hottest months of the year. Rest will keep your pitching arms fresh, batting back’s strong, catcher’s knees limber. With a healthy roster, each team will be able to field a better team which makes it more interesting to watch.
  2. With a spread out season, pitchers will get more rest than ever. This means we won’t need more than 4 or 5 starting pitchers. Each of the best pitchers throws once a week. It will always be a show down between good teams and their best pitchers. This also means a better bullpen, better closers, and all around better games.
  3. The emphasis will be on the week long series and making sure to win each one to insure a place in the playoffs. each series becomes a bigger event and a loss is much more devastating. The reasons football is so popular is because it only has one game a week. It’s easy keep up with when most of us are off on Sundays and have the overwhelming feeling that each game matters. If the MLB put emphasis on how important each series is and how few there are, it would make for a more intriguing event where young people will not get worn out like they do on 162 games.

With this basic layout of a plan, we can solve the identity crisis which would drive ratings, attendance, and player health all at once. It’s highly unlikely that this will ever be the case. So in the meantime, enjoy the injury talks and seeing AAA ballplayers taking ace roles when they aren’t ready. Enjoy seeing teams take years to rebuild, as the Rangers seem to be stuck doing. Enjoy the lack of urgent competition that keeps the young people from thinking that each game is important. I try to stay a romantic tradtionalist when it comes to baseball, but the times have come to show that baseball has to evolve of watch its fan base die off of old age.