I am convinced that no one is neutral about baseball. You either identify as a baseball fan, or you are proud to say that you do not watch it. The nature and pace of the game tend to make it polarizing.
Our business in this post, though, is not about the untimed games themselves. It's about how the sport is set up. As much as baseball loves its tradition, if Major League Baseball (MLB) would make a slight adjustment to how its sport is set up, it would restore the sport's place as the American pastime.
After all, it is the sport that is closest to the ideal setup for all sports leagues.
How MLB Works
The MLB regular season is 162 games long. Right off the bat, there is a problem. Remember our "How to Fix NBA and NHL" series? One of the rules we gave you is that the more regular season games there are in a sports league, the less value each game has.
1/162nd is a small value by itself. In decimal value, that is 0.6%. No one game means much.
But baseball is a leisure sport. A lifestyle sport. It fills our summers with constant action. Slow, inconstant action. But action nonetheless.
At the end of the long regular season, there is a playoff. That sentence is a travesty. After a long, grueling regular season, there should be no playoff. Why reduce a season in which each regular season game already has just a 0.6% value to even less by adding a playoff? However, baseball's playoff has two benefits.
First, MLB only allows 10 teams of the 30 to participate in the playoffs. This is much less than the 16 that participate in the NBA and NHL. Remember another rule of ours: The fewer playoff teams, the more value there is in the regular season. 10 teams is good -- if you must have a playoff.
Of course, the one-game playoff between teams 7-10 is the worst idea in all of sports.
See why baseball is so polarizing? Everything is either the best or the worst.
The playoffs start with two-one game playoffs. Once the one-game playoffs end, there are 8 teams remaining. What follows is rounds of 5- and 7-game series until the final playoff series, known as the World Series. The winner of the World Series is MLB's champion for the season.
Using MLB's Tradition to Restore Value
As I mentioned above, baseball fans love tradition. It's why so much about the sport has never changed. And when MLB tries to make changes to the sport, the sport's purists cry foul. Some of the major changes to the sport in recent time -- for example, instant replay and the one-game playoff -- have required years of effort from those in charge of it.
There was another change several years ago that should be undone to improve the sport.
MLB is split into 2 "leagues": American League and National League. There are 15 teams in each league. Historically, teams from both leagues did not play each other. The only time players or teams from both leagues met on the baseball diamond was in the All-Star Game and in the World Series.
Now, something called interleague play exists. And it is part of the problem in baseball.
I promise I'm not speaking as a purist. Interleague play breaks another rule that sports league should follow. Regular season schedules should be identical for all teams.
Unless you plan to get rid of the 2 leagues (which purists would really hate), you need to make the schedules identical by only having teams play the other teams in their own leagues an equal number of times.
By eliminating interleague play, the 162-game records mean something because every team in the same league has played the same schedule as all the others. The World Series matchup between the pennant winners of each league would mean more, too. After all, those teams could never play each other except in the World Series.
Baseball is so close and yet so far away from matching the ideal setup of the Premier League. With just a few changes, Major League Baseball would meet that ideal picture.
Exactly what would that look like? That's the subject of Part 2 in this series, coming later this summer.