Bud Selig is searching for ways to improve baseball. In a meeting last week, he called together a committee to help.
One topic on the agenda was scheduling. After having the 2009 World Series conclude in November, no one wants to see the national pastime run into Thanksgiving. That would give feasters more sports viewing options, but it wouldn?t make the NFL happy.
It also would make a baseball season that?s too long even longer.
When spring training starts in mid-February, a champion should be crowned no later than Halloween. Playoff games are the most important games of the year, and conditions should be suitable for playing nine innings, not having snowball fights. Snow should never enter the equation in the postseason (as it did this past year). Winter-like weather can wreak havoc on a series — those ski masks players wear to keep out the cold look almost as ridiculous as the shorts the 1976 White Sox wore as part of their uniform. Baseball is too dignified to have a shortstop dressing up like a bank robber.
Of course, no one can control Mother Nature, but the decision-makers can take steps to make sure the elements don?t become a factor.
First, start the season a week earlier.
Then, shorten the regular season. This would not require too much heavy lifting. Sure, there?s a better chance of Selig apologizing for the Steroid Era than slicing any games off the 162-game schedule, but adding regularly scheduled doubleheaders to all 30 team calendars could have the same condensing effect.
Major League Baseball has gotten away from playing doubleheaders, but Ernie Banks had the right idea:
It?s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let?s play two!
The only thing better than watching a baseball game at a major league park would be watching two games on the same day for the price of one. That?s how it used to be every Sunday and on holidays in the Show. Now the only time two games are played on the same day is when a prior game between the same teams is postponed due to inclement weather or some other unforeseen circumstances.
But the status quo doesn?t have to stay the status quo. Why not start scheduling a series of day-night doubleheaders on weekends during the season? Owners could still get gate receipts for two games, and if every team played four or five doubleheaders a season, that would cut a week off the season.
Then get rid of the unnecessary off days in the postseason. This problem has been well-documented, but it?s getting worse. The Angels played eight games in 20 days last October. Part of the wait was due to the schedule being spread out to accommodate TV networks. The other part was due to bad weather. No matter the reasons, extended layoffs kill momentum — for teams, players and fans.
Selig is open to change. One travel day for each road trip during a playoff series would be a good start. Sometimes, the postseason schedule seems like a leisure tour rather than glory race. If teams want to go sight-seeing, they can come back to towns on their own time. There?s no need to string out the season. Get in and get out. Maybe even schedule some weekend day playoff games (like in the old days) or schedule a few weeknight postseason games early enough so that the first inning doesn?t start past a kids? bedtime on the East Coast.
If first-round series get extended to seven games — as has been discussed — compromises will need to be made.
At least Selig is willing to listen to baseball experts. He also needs to open his ears to the fans and persuade owners to do the same. After getting the schedule straightened out, the commissioner can turn his attention to umpiring and instant replay.
The game is good, but it?s far from perfect.
Selig?s tenure as commissioner is in the late innings. He still has time to change the perception that he?s Montgomery Burns in a used car salesman suit and move past the notion that he was a PED enabler who rules with a double-standard for cheaters.
It?s the least he can do for $18 million a year.