Fix The World Series? It Ain't Broke!

Today, various mass media types weighed in on the "World Series problem", suddenly the flavor of the month because of the bad weather in Philadelphia this week.

First, Rick Telander says that the teams are the problem:

Who outside of Philadelphia and west-central Florida really cared who won this thing? Yes, provincial support may be an issue with every World Series played since the tourney began in 1903. But not like this.

The Rays are such a new team -- they played their first game 10 years ago -- that most retired folks in the Tampa Bay area (and isn't everyone retired around there?) likely think they're a doo-wop group.

Oh, please. Part of the problem is that the World Series hasn't gone seven games since 2002, and you can't build much drama that way. The seven-game ALCS, which featured at least three dramatic and well-played games, did create some interest, and one of the participants was that same Rays team that Telander says no one cares about. Telander continues:

It was inspiring to see reformed Phillies pitcher Brett Myers lie down on his back and make a celebratory dirt angel after the final out and obligatory flesh-pile at the mound. But most people are still going to remember him as a suspected wife beater. That's unfortunate and certainly unfair...

Well, actually, I had pretty much put that aside until you mentioned it, Rick. Myers has indeed reformed himself. So why dredge up the past? Who's being unfair here?

Gee, the Phillies hadn't won the World Series since 1980? That's 62 years after the Cubs last won it.

New math: 1980-1908=62. Nice try, Rick. I'm not quite sure what point Telander was trying to make here. Should the World Series be mandated to be between teams from New York, Los Angeles and/or Boston every year? That'd please the TV networks, but not many others. It's my feeling that had the Rays managed to win Wednesday night, people would have started to gain some interest as the series went to a sixth game.

Oh, but wait! There's more, and from some of our favorite columnists! Rick Morrissey says the season should be shortened:

A wonderful solution would be for baseball to start the season April 15 rather than April 1 and end the regular season Sept. 15 instead of Sept. 30. That's correct: a 130-game schedule.

Come to think of it, cutting April and September entirely from the regular season wouldn't be such a bad idea. The season is wayyy toooooo lllllooooooonnnnnnng.

Well, no, it's not. The season is exactly eight games longer than it was in 1960, the year before the AL expanded to 10 teams. The 1960 season began on April 12 -- that is, admittedly, two weeks later than 2008, but only one week later than it will in 2009 -- and ended on October 2, exactly two days earlier than the 2009 season will end. People didn't complain about the April weather then, did they? As we well know here in Chicago (and Detroit and New York and Boston and, in 2010, in Minneapolis), spring weather can be iffy far into May. Shall we not play major league baseball until Memorial Day? That's not realistic, either. (And further, no owner is going to accept the loss of 15 home dates -- that's a likely revenue loss of $15-$20 million.)

Phil Rogers has one of his usual hare-brained solutions: start the season earlier instead of later. That's right, earlier:

Start the regular season 10 days earlier than has been customary.

It could just as easily open with weekend series as with the traditional early-week series.

Yes, the spring weather would be problematic, so do something really smart: Find a way to have warm-weather or dome teams (Atlanta, Arizona, Florida, Houston, Kansas City, Angels, Dodgers, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Texas and Toronto) be home for at least three of their first four series, if not all four, on an annual basis.

...

In 2010, the first year the Rogers Plan could be used, the regular season could begin March 26 and end on Sept. 19. That would mean the World Series begins Oct. 13 and ends Oct. 21, assuming it goes seven games.

Let me get this straight. Start on March 26? Play in domes or warm weather cities every single year? Players on cold-weather teams might think that's a fine idea, but that would wind up putting them at a disadvantage, having to play, say, nine of their first twelve games on the road every year. Then the warm-weather/dome teams would scream about having to be on the road during the summer, when attendance is always higher. And, as I pointed out above, there's no guarantee that the weather in Cleveland or Pittsburgh is going to be that much nicer in early May than it is in early April. The schedule is goofy enough as it is -- this would make it completely unworkable.

And finally, under that "Rogers Plan", the World Series would end on October 21. If they had played seven games this year, the seventh game would have been tonight -- October 31 -- even with the extra day because of the delayed game five. So you're going to go through all those histrionics to save ten days? What's the point?

Weather is something, obviously, that no one has any control of. But have a look at the Philadelphia-area forecast for the next few days:

Today: Sunny, with a high near 63. West wind between 6 and 10 mph.

Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 42. West wind between 6 and 8 mph.

Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 64. Northwest wind around 7 mph.

Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 39. North wind around 6 mph.

Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 54. North wind at 6 mph becoming east.

Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 41.

Monday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 61.

Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 46.

Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 65.

There are some cool nights in that forecast, but nothing like they played in while the Series was going on. That weather isn't much different than you might find in Chicago in early May -- and no one's suggesting not playing in northern cities in early May, I trust.

The bottom line is, this has only become an issue in the last two years, after TBS signed a contract to do the first round and half of the second round of the playoffs (and unfortunately, we are stuck with them for five more years, till 2013). MLB decided that since Saturday night is the lowest-rated TV night, they didn't want to start the World Series on that day -- and that's why we have all these miscellaneous days off during the postseason. Eliminate those and you would right away cut three or four days off the schedule; if MLB doesn't want to start on Saturday night, how about Sunday? Yes, that would mean playing on Monday night, and in the past they haven't wanted to compete with Monday night football, but MNF doesn't seem to have the huge ratings draw it once did. Perhaps they could start the Monday World Series game earlier in the evening -- maybe as early as 6 pm Eastern time -- so as to not compete directly with the football game (maybe they could work out a deal with the NFL to have that one MNF game start later), and also to get it to end before midnight, so perhaps more kids could watch. Shortening the commercial breaks wouldn't hurt, either -- not one of this year's WS games ran less than three hours, and that's at least partly the fault of the commercial breaks, which are longer than regular season breaks. I know there's a lot of money involved, but there has to be another way to make it.

That's one more thing MLB could do -- they claim they would lose money on a World Series day game, but maybe they could schedule ONE day game, perhaps a late-afternoon game (4 pm Eastern time), during the World Series. When I was a kid, the WS was all day games (the first WS night game wasn't until 1971). It was sort of a badge of honor to try to listen surreptitiously in school, or race home after to see the end. I am not suggesting a return to all day games -- that's unrealistic -- but ONE day game? That'd get kids talking about the World Series again.

So, those are my suggestions. The World Series, like the Cubs, needs tweaking, not a full-scale blowup.

And it wouldn't hurt to have it go seven games again.

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