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OC Register: Alexander: Fans respond on how to fix baseball

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There seem to be some common threads in the responses to last week’s “Fixing Baseball, Part II” column:

I received 20 emailed responses and a couple via Twitter. The majority were from, shall we say, veteran fans. There seemed to be common agreement that games take too long, and that analytics and their spawn (such as shifts, launch angles, homers and strikeouts at the expense of putting the ball in play, and the nightly parade of relief pitchers in the late innings) have made the game less appealing.

Oh, and ticket prices are too high and the TV coverage leaves something to be desired. That about cover it?

By the way, the idea that older fans seem most willing to care, and to comment, should be a loud wakeup call to MLB executives. It says either (a) the younger generation is perfectly fine with the game as it is played today, or (b) younger fans don’t care enough to weigh in. My suspicion is (b), and if that’s the case nicknames on the backs of uniforms aren’t nearly enough. (Especially when you can’t see them, as will be the case this weekend, but enough of that rant.)

Along those lines, the most intriguing suggestion came from reader Mark Heil: “Hire WWE writers. WWE understands that story lines drive interest. Baseball has become too much of a hometown sport. People don’t care the way we used to about other teams … What’s missing? The stories to make us care about the different cities. Matchups. Who is pitching against who? Add drama. Hire people to call up talk radio stations and ask the brainless homers if they saw what happened in Los Angeles last night? Root, Root, Root for the hometown – yes, but be realistic about how your team compares.”

My only hesitancy would be that 162 games worth of “Monday Night Raw” would wear everyone out, players and fans alike. That said, this goes back to the sport’s inability to tap into personalities and promote its best players to a wider audience.

And maybe the issue isn’t so much how they advertise, but where – specifically, maybe promoting the game to people who aren’t already watching it. Heil suggested slipping players or teams into video games or hosting “a contest on Minecraft about designing the best stadiums or replicating a stadium.”

I’d hire him.

Anyway, some other ideas:

• Heil also suggested a seven-second pitch clock; hitters entitled to one timeout (i.e., stepping out of the box) per at-bat; relievers getting from the bullpen to the mound in no more than 30 seconds to make the next pitch, with no warmups; one baseball per half-inning (rather than a new ball every time one hits the dirt); and an All-Star Week that would also encompass the trade deadline and maybe the draft, too.

Time, it seems, is of the essence.

• Tom Cryer, maybe with Shohei Ohtani in mind, suggested allowing a player to be listed as both a pitcher and DH, similar to the NCAA rule, or alternatively allowing a DH for any player, not just the pitcher. Further, he favors limiting extra innings to a three-inning limit and then going to a home run derby to break ties. He didn’t specify whether the losing team would get a pity point, as do overtime losers in hockey shootouts.

• Tim Mellin of Highland Park suggested an “open” DH rule: Five or six DH slots available, to be used wherever the manager deemed appropriate, similar to the softball rule where the player who is pinch-hit for can return in the game.

• Russ Allison is awaiting expansion to 32 teams and a universal DH, and is in favor of radical realignment based on geography: Imagine a West Division with the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Padres, A’s, D-Backs, Mariners and a Portland expansion team, for example. “Yes, maybe one step backwards (won’t feel ‘special’ to have LAA-LAD 4 times a year) but several steps forward,” he wrote. “And an attendance rocket straight up … total upside. LONG overdue.”

• Vince Scipioni would bypass both the Commissioner’s office and Players Association: No more corporate ownership of teams; players’ base salary limited to $1 million a year (with advertisers making up the rest), maximum ticket prices at $25 and parking at $12, elimination of all cable/internet broadcast deals in favor of over-the-air telecasts, elimination of replay review, uniform changes only at 25-year intervals … well, you get the point. And so much for baseball’s version of capitalism.

• Fred Singer of Huntington Beach wrote: “Have each team bat for three innings at a time. After three outs in the first inning, clear the bases and keep going, rinse and repeat. So much time is wasted getting players on and off the field 18 times a game.” Trust me, with all of the advertising dollars involved, there’s as much chance of that happening as of me becoming President.

• Edward Lamoureaux, an Angel fan who is also a professor in the Department of Interactive Media and Department of Communication at Bradley University, has the same gripe I do with MLB.TV’s home market blackout policy, but a particular beef: “I do mind being blacked out of Angel games when they play in Chicago or St. Louis … when the Angels go to Chicago, I don’t want to be forced to go to a TV in my home with cable so I can watch the Sox or Cubs broadcast. Sometimes I’m not at home by a TV, often I’m not in a room with a TV, and I never want to listen to their calls.”

Sounds fair.

He also suggests altering the umpire rotation so umpires who are weak on balls and strikes don’t work the plate; making arguing balls and strikes no longer an automatic ejection, and not legislating shifts, writing: “Anyone who can’t bunt or hit the other way, and who isn’t hitting over .275, should be punished.”

• Lamoureaux and Dirk Wilder of Trabuco Canyon take aim at hitters’ habit of messing with their batting gloves between pitches. “Velcro is responsible for slowing the game down,” Wilder wrote.

Actually, it’s all Nomar Garciaparra’s fault, but I get the point.

• Lastly, Greg Johnstone of Ladera Ranch suggested that games could simply end in ties after four or five extra innings, and no gimmicks such as starting each extra inning with a runner at second. “Neither team wins when a game extends to 18 innings, and how many fans are left in the stadium at this point.”

Those of us who witnessed Game 3 of last year’s World Series – with Dodger Stadium still nearly full in the 18th – might feel differently. Then again, the Angels exhausted their pitching staff in a 16-inning loss to Baltimore last month and went on to lose 12 of 14 and pretty much spiral out of the wild card race.

At this point, they probably wouldn’t argue.


@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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