It might be time to update the major league

First published in the Lethbridge College Endeavour, Oct. 1, 2008

Baseball is a game clearly built on tradition.

We know this because Major League Baseball won’t let us forget it.

The biggest names of the game are always the ones that played before anyone watching the sport was alive, or old enough to know what they were seeing. The league looks at these legends with such admiration that it borders worship.

I wasn’t there or anything, but I don’t think any of them walked on water, and if they did it was probably just winter.

I’m all for recognizing greatness of the past, but I feel baseball honours that greatness by trying to keep the game from changing with the times.

Every major North American league has made rule changes to adapt with changing times, but baseball has kept its rulebook virtually the same for more than a 100 years.

Keeping the old fashioned game play is one thing, but MLB doesn’t seem too eager to update any part of the game and could use a crash course in the 21st century.

Until two months ago, an utter refusal to allow video replay assistance for botched calls caused controversy multiple times every season. Yet even the CFL — and its two super-duper camera angles — instituted this before baseball. Thankfully though, commissioner Bud Selig finally received a wakeup call — whether it was a smack in the forehead or a bucket of ice water poured on him in his sleep is irrelevant — and last week saw instant replay used in a ball game for the first time.

As it turns out, the universe didn’t implode on itself.

Now that they are rolling, it’s time to try their luck with something even more dramatic than utilizing 50-year-old technology to get calls right.

It’s time to change the playoff format.

The introduction of the wildcard teams in the mid-nineties was a start, but it’s not enough to see the league truly prosper. I love the races for playoff spots as much as any ball fan, but eight spots for 30 teams is not a healthy number when you consider what some clubs are up against financially. If the league attempted equality of franchises in any way whatsoever, then eight might work, but equal opportunity is not in the MLB dictionary.

Simply put: the rich get richer, and the poor, well the poor wear Kansas City Royals logos on their jerseys.

The league could help this by bringing in a salary cap, but that’s not likely when the top payroll, and most powerful franchise, aka the New York Yankees, pays out $184 million more than the bottom one, so why couldn’t they increase the number of playoff teams to give less fortunate organizations more hope?

My proposal is simple: cut 10 games off the 162-game schedule and put six teams from each league into the post season. The top two clubs would have first-round byes, and the 152-game schedule would account for the extra playoff series played between the other four, as weather already hinders the start and finish of ball season.

In the current system, at least half the teams’ fans have no real reason to watch any games after July, unless they’re diehards, but if two more spots were opened (four overall), all 30 teams would remain hopeful for much longer.

Yes, teams would have five fewer home games to build revenue, but considering only playoff-bound teams get decent attendance in September anyway, overall league attendance would increase.

The Yankees organization, for one, would hate this idea (though it might have been right up their pinstripes this season), but I have a feeling they would still muster up a profit somehow. Maybe their next payroll would have to squeeze under $200 million, but they’d find a way to keep the bank from foreclosing on their fancy new ballpark I’m sure.


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