Baseball in the '90s: Reviving the National Pastime
In a July 12 editorial entitled "Better Baseball," we asked readers to send us their views on the state of baseball today. The editorial listed four possible changes: Call more strikes by using a bigger strike zone; eliminate the designated hitter; acquire a full-time commissioner; and shorten the schedule. Following are some of the comments from those who responded.
Your recipe for better baseball has four ingredients that would make the game more enjoyable for serious fans of the sport. Unfortunately, baseball hasn't evolved according to the whims of purists. It revolves around the egos of team owners and an increasingly powerful players' association. While each side has taken steps to be fan-friendly, that friendship ends if the financial bottom line is threatened. I'd like to add to your purist wish list:
1. Doubleheaders every weekend;
2. $1 hot dogs and bleacher seats;
3. No artificial turf;
4. To cause less aggravation for fans, games are called off when rain delays last longer than one hour;
5. Get rid of the new "wild card" playoff system.
Years ago, Charlie Finley, the former owner of the Oakland A's, suggested a worthwhile idea: Have the teams - especially the teams in northern cities - "barnstorm" their way home from Spring training. (I once attended an opening day in Chicago with 1,200 other brave souls.)
Even though attendance at the barnstorm games in smaller cities in the South won't match Major League mid-summer figures, it would be bigger than the hometown crowds in April up North. Exposing these cities to Major League play could possibly build an interest in following and supporting the teams later in the season. Plus, it would give the pitching staff longer to loosen up their arms in warmer climates.
With free agency, there is almost no chance for the fans to get any player loyalty. Why should I get excited about a player when I know that he will be gone in a year or two? And why should I feel any loyalty to a team when the players come and go?
I couldn't agree more with your suggestions. The schedule should have been shortened years ago. Cutting back to 154 games - the standard before the 1960 expansion - would reduce each team's home games by only four dates, and would probably not reduce attendance at all. Moreover, it would cut at least a week and maybe 10 days from the schedule, allowing a more reasonable time for the playoffs. In fact, cutting back to 144 or 148 games would be even better: The season is way too long and the excitement comes from the playoffs. And if you have interleague play, regional rivalries might attract more fans: Cleveland/Cincinnati, Yankees/Mets, White Sox/Cubs, Cardinals/Royals, and so on.
Thanks for "Better Baseball." My two cents:
1. Install electronic ball/strike callers: The technology is here to have balls and strikes called by electronics. The home plate umpire should remain for other functions.
2. Use standardized baseballs: Set standards for a baseball and produce all balls by that standard. Juicing up balls, such as this year, is disgraceful.
3. Eliminate obvious wide slides at second base on double plays: The pivot man is often wide and well to the rear of the base. The present rule that the runner must be able to touch the base with an outstretched arm and hand is never called. The offender should be thrown out of the game.
Hear! Hear! Your remarks hit a "homer," and Major League baseball is long overdue for a "major league" overhaul.
In disputed umpire "calls" at the plate and/or bases, field judges should be established to view instant replay. We should use modern technology where possible. Umpires are supposed to be neutral. Nothing is as neutral as a machine that sees all equally.
Francis T. Keeley
Dunn Loring, Va.