7th Inning: Interleague play
Editor's Note: Doug believes baseball is broken and would like to fix it. He plans to discuss an issue a week for the coming weeks. Read here for the topics he plans to help baseball fix.
If you've been reading the first six innings of my Baseball Project, you'll be shocked at this next statement: the 7th inning is the most controversial and has the least chance of being accepted than the previous six.
I declared MLB broken and Bud Selig can't fix it. I wield a machete to the established system. I've put teams in Brooklyn and Portland. I've made the divisions symmetrical and completely realigned the teams. The Wild Card and DH are gone. I've even revamped the playoff system taking home games away from lower seeds. Yet none of these changes would cause a revolt as much as this one: the 150 game season.
Losing six home games would make the owners go insane. The players wouldn't be happy either when they find out the double-header comes back in force. The money of lost home games is made up in massive television revenue as viewers finally come back to watch the playoffs. Furthermore, radical realignment has already saved the owners millions due to the reduced travel costs so their whining falls on deaf ears.
I have always hated interleague play. I think it's wrong to have a 162 game season and yet different teams play different schedules. It's a joke that some National League teams have to play more games with a DH—a disadvantage for them—than other NL teams while some AL teams have to play more games without the use of their DH—a major disadvantage—than other AL teams their competing against.
Since I've eliminated the Wild Card and DH in the previous innings, the only thing that's important now is to give every team in each division the same schedule. However, even though I don't like interleague play, I'd be a fool to get rid of it. The fans have spoken. They love interleague play. Attendance is always up at interleague games. Obviously, there's going to be more fans at a Mets/Yankees game but even Rockies/Royals draws better than the average Royals game. Fans like interleague play and I need to give it to them.
If every team in the division is playing the same schedule, even interleague play is fair. The new schedule is made up of all three-game series. Every team would have three home series against each team in their division, one home series against teams in their league outside the division and one home series against each team in one designated division in the other league.
I want a vast majority of the games in the division since winning the division is the only way to make the playoffs. At the same time, fans get tired of seeing the same teams over and over again. Although 27 home games within the division seems like a lot, I think since every series will only be three games at a time, fans won't feel division games are redundant because the road team is only in town for three games. 72 of the remaining 96 games are played within your league but outside the division. Each National League team will travel to the cities outside of their division once per season. Again, since every series is three games and there are 12 other teams in your league besides those in your division, it works out to 36 non-divisional league home games and 36 road games against non-divisional league opponents.
You may have noticed a theme in the "Baseball Project" blogs. Some of the ideas are innovative and some of the ideas are simply stolen from other leagues because they work. In the NFL, the scheduling is so easy to understand. One aspect of the NFL schedule is the four games every year against one designated division from outside the conference.
Giving the fans interleague is exactly what they want but I have to have perfectly equal schedules. Stealing from the inter-conference scheduling format in the NFL makes that easy. Each division will be assigned an opposing division in the other league. The divisions will rotate from year to year just like the NFL so fans experience different teams. To make sure the schedules are similar, each team will host three games against each team in the other division.
150 games does not make the season any less credible than 162. The season is now five months long ending on Labor Day before football. Now the MLB playoffs are already underway before the NFL has started their season. MLB starts on the first Monday of every April. The season will last 22 weeks with teams playing six days a week. The big change is after April.
Every Sunday from May-August will have a double-header. Most of the Sunday's would be day-night double-headers so the owners get two gates. I wait until May for the DH's to start to allow teams to get into a little bit of a rhythm starting the season. Labor Day weekend will not include the Sunday DH so playoff bound teams can get their rotations and bullpens in order for the post-season.
MLB doesn't think outside the box enough to realize what a marketing opportunity this could be. As part of your suite plan or box seat plan, you get to stay between the games instead of having the stadium cleared (since you've already paid for two games why get up if you don't want to?). Any fan with tickets for both games gets to stay between games as well.
Now steal an idea from Arena Football. Have each player go to their position 15 minutes after the first game and sit at a table. Between games fans can line-up for autographs. The starting pitcher for game 2 is exempt and any player who is excused by MLB due to injury. How amazing is the value in a double-header ticket? If you want to buy a ticket for just one game, fine. Buy the "DH" ticket and you get an autograph of your favorite player.
Have players do this for 20 minutes before they go back to their clubhouse. This isn't just reserved for the home team but it's required for the road team as well. This would revolutionize the marketing of the game. You could stay in your suite if you wanted to between games. The teams would make thousands on concessions and on their in-house restaurants.
These are the ideas that aren't being floated in the MLB offices. Baseball must have two goals going forward: making fans feel value and taking from football. I've done more for baseball in seven weeks than they have in the last 15 years. Name a Larry Scott as commissioner. Hold nothing sacred. Save the game. The game of baseball is great but the MLB is broken. Please Bud, let us have our game back.