As I sit here watching a meaningless preseason NFL football game, it has suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea when the World Series will be held. Oh yeah, I don’t care. Here’s the thing. Football season has started which means I’m busy thinking about things like my fantasy football team name (‘Orton Hears a Suh’ was my favorite name I saw on Twitter) and how the Huskers will fare in the Big Ten Conference this year.
It’s not that I don’t like baseball. I do. The first professional sporting event I attended was a baseball game in Kansas City when the Royals were playing my favorite team, the Detroit Tigers. Growing up, I didn’t play football or soccer during the summer….I played baseball. Granted, I enjoyed the fact my baseball games were at Riverside Park which meant we had to drive past the A&W Drive-In on the way home and would occasionally stop for a root beer float (love that frosty mug taste). I have some very fond memories of baseball.
I clicked on mlb.com to check the schedule. The regular season started on March 31st. The World Series this year will be October 19-27th. Does it really take seven months to determine which team is the best? Just to give a little perspective, the World Series will take place during week 8 of the college football season. College football (FBS) will have completed over half of their season by the time Major League Baseball finally gets around to the World Series. The National Football League (NFL) will already be in Week 7. The National Hockey League (NHL) will have started their regular season (October 6th) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) will have started their preseason games (assuming they get their contract disputes resolved). That’s four other major sporting leagues (NFL, FBS, NHL, NBA) pulling potential viewers away from baseball’s signature event.
Looking at the MLB standings right now, there isn’t much drama that will be unfolding. Teams have already played 130 games this year. After 130 games I think you have a good idea of who deserves to be in the playoffs. In the American League, it’s Boston and New York in the East; Detroit (yay!) in the Central and Texas or the Angels (I prefer Anaheim to LA) in the Western Division. There’s even less drama in the National League. The New York Mets are in third place in the Eastern Division only 21.5 games behind leader Philadelphia! Milwaukee looks to have the Central division wrapped up and it’s either Arizona or San Francisco in the West.
What should they do?
My suggestion would be to hold the World Series a month earlier. The simple fact is that the World Series hasn’t had more than 25 million viewers since 2004. Last year’s highest viewed game was on only 15.5 million televisions (for comparison last year’s Super Bowl had 110 million viewers). I don’t believe sports fans choose either baseball or football. Both events are worthwhile but baseball needs to take advantage of the fact they have a championship event while football is just getting started.
Build a Youth Movement
Have the Little League World Series (LLWS) open the MLB World Series. It would be a decent opening act as it highlights kids who are playing for the love the game (yes, I realize that was also the name of a Costner baseball movie). You have to admit, one of the knocks on professional athletes is they are overpaid (not to mentioned baseballs image problem with steroids). The pro teams competing in the World Series should attend the Little League final game in South Williamsport and invite the winning LLWS team to the first game of the World Series. The LLWS is also taking place right now which makes the timing perfect for a shortened professional season. However, the LLWS may overshadow the “world” series since it actually includes teams from other countries.
Don’t prolong the agony
Of the 30 major league teams, 15 have double-digit deficits they would have to overcome. Poor Houston is sitting at 35 games back. Their season is over. The fans know it and the players know it. The only people who don’t know it are the schedule makers. Stop making fans pay for it (both financially and in ridicule) and end the regular season earlier. Again, teams have played 130 games. They’ve had their chance to prove it on the field, another month of games shouldn’t make a difference.
It’s time for baseball to realize that the competitive landscape has changed. They may still be “the greatest show on dirt,” but if nobody is watching does it really matter? Baseball’s monopoly on the sports landscape is over. The casual fan has lost interest in a season that’s just too long. If something doesn’t change soon, it will continue to slide into obscurity.