With the recent implementation of pace of play rules changes designed to make the game of baseball a little more swift and a little more exciting, I started thinking again about one of the other long-term “issues” facing baseball (if you want to call it an issue): the increasing regionalization of the game.
Unlike, for example, the NFL, where interest and fandoms largely traverse the country, baseball interest and fandom tends to be strongly local. The Cubs and a handful of other teams are a little unique in that regard (I am writing this sentence from Ohio, after all), but, for the most part, Team A is popular is Area X, and that’s about it. Maybe that never presents itself as a long-term issue for the sport, but I’ve got to believe that having big, well-covered, well-enjoyed national events is a significant part of engaging newer, younger fans over the period of several years necessary to hook them on the sport.
Anyway, thinking about these things got me remembering something that superagent Scott Boras suggested earlier in the offseason, as discussed here by Patrick Mooney. In recognition of this potential issue, Boras proposed that the World Series be held at a neutral site each year, planned way in advance, so that there could be more hype, more national focus, better media coverage, etc. (the idea would be to make it more like the Super Bowl, which is one day, but holds the national conversation for much longer than that). Reading Boras’s explanation – which you should, too – I’m actually fairly well convinced that he’s correct that this would “work”, in terms of improving the national interest in the World Series and in baseball as a whole.
The problem, of course, is that baseball fans want to see their team competing in the World Series in their own ballpark. Maybe we should all be selfless and think about the health of the sport as a whole, but, man, if and when the Cubs are in the World Series, you better damn well believe I want it to be at Wrigley Field. I simply can’t entertain Boras’s suggestion.
So, then, I started thinking about ways to improve the national events in baseball without mucking up the emotionally-charged World Series scenario laid out above. In turn, that got me thinking about not improving existing events … but what about going nuts and creating an entirely new national event?
Spitballing a completely random idea: what if there was a “First Half Championship Series” that pits the AL team with the best record through 81 games against the NL team with the best record through 81 games in a three-game series in early July? It could help build hype for the All-Star Game, for the second half of the season, and also generate national interest on its own merits.
I know what you’re thinking: what’s the point if there are no stakes? How about the winner gets three games added to their win total for the year (thus dramatically improving their playoff odds)? That way, not only is the First Half Championship Series fairly high stakes, it also raises the stakes dramatically for the first half of the season, because there’s actually something tangible to play for right out of the gate.
I’m sure there are angles to this that make it too crazy to work, but, superficially, I really like it. Your thoughts?