MLB: State of the Union

Saturday, July 16, 2011

We're at the halfway point of a long Major League Baseball season. Despite it being the only game in town, due to the NBA and NFL lockouts, MLB continues to flounder in terms of captivating an audience.

The league isn't evolving, it's taking steps backwards. It's a sad state of affairs because baseball was once regarded as "America's Pastime." The game itself is still great, always will be. It's the league and the people in charge of the league that are doing it damage.

MLB Enemy No. 1: Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig's tenure has done more damage than good. I'll highlight the positives first: Wildcard teams in playoffs and inter-league play. Now the problems: The steroid scandal that won't end. "The Steroid Era" started and ballooned out of control on Selig's watch. He allowed Congress to try and clean it up, which resulted in the the era's biggest stars on trial for perjury. Now there's an uproar if these legends should be in the Hall of Fame. Sad.

Did you watch the All-Star Game on Tuesday? According to the TV ratings you didn't. A record-low audience tuned into the game on Fox. Here, again, lies Selig and his questionable decisions. First he allows the 2002 All-Star Game to end in a tie, then he tries to force meaning into the game by having it determine home-field advantage for the World Series.

You can't force players to care about what should be an exhibition game. Now you have a bunch of one-time All-Stars playing for home-field in the World Series, which they most likely won't even be a part of. The season is 162 games long. Whoever wins the most games during that grinder should get rewarded if they make the World Series. The result of the All-Star Game should not send the team with the best record on the road for the first two games because a relief pitcher on the last-place team, in a meaningless game in the middle of the season, gave up a three-run homer to lose.

The biggest stars in the sport won't even attend the All-Star game now. They would rather rest. Selig has no problem with them choosing rest over playing in the All-Star game, and neither do I. The problem is simply that the stars, like Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols, CHOOSE not to go. The game is supposed to be a celebration of stars playing an exhibition game for the fans. Now, the stars don't want to attend because the season has become such a grind, and the payoff isn't worth it for many of the players. Whether that's a right or wrong mindset isn't the point. It's simply a matter of fact.

Selig has another year as commissioner before he is set to retire. Maybe things can pick up when a replacement is named.

MLB Public Enemy No. 2: The length of games. Incredibly too long. This has been building and developing over years now. The time commitment is why fans aren't watching on TV or actively following as close. People don't have four hours to watch a few runs get scored on TV. There's not a good action-to-downtime ratio in Major League Baseball.

One of the best parts of baseball is that it's "timeless." But that doesn't mean games should take as long as they possibly can. According to The Sporting News, the length of an average game in 1950 took 1:58. Over the past decade, the shortest average length was 2:46 in 2003. Last year's playoff average length was 3:25.

The game must be sped up. The league's tried to enforce certain rules, like monitoring time between innings and batters stepping in and out of the box, but it hasn't really made much of an impact. This one is on the players. They don't need 20-30 seconds between each pitch. They don't need to adjust their batting gloves after not even swinging.

These are just a few things that need to be looked at when discussing Major League Baseball today. As someone who grew up watching a lot of baseball, and studied the history and legends of the game, it pains me to see to state MLB is currently in. But in some ways, it's the league's own fault.

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