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What Sports Fans Should Want In 2018

What Sports Fans Should Want In 2018
  • Scott Engel

By Chris Mitchell 

One Simple NFL Request

1. The Cleveland Browns To Win a Playoff Game

When asking ‘for a miracle you’re supposed to aim high, and sadly, this is high. Asking God or or Vladimir Putin to come through bigly” is one thing, but to ask for a Cleveland Super Bowl title would be obscene. Asking simply for a win would be settling for socks when you should expect at least a Gronk Jersey on your birthday, but to ask for a Browns playoff victory hits that sweet spot. It’s greedy without being gluttony.  

Lots of Changes in MLB

2. Get Rid of Baseball’s Non-Pitch Intentional Walk.

Baseball has a pace problem. I feel it. I get it. But, intentional walks without throwing pitches is just silly. I want to say stupid, but it doesn’t deserve to be called stupid. Does it matter if a pitcher throws four intentional balls or the umpire just points the guy to first? No, not really, and that’s the point. It’s a change without a benefit. Baseball imposed an ill-advised, deathly slow challenge process that has made pace of play significantly worse and they did it with the stated intent of inserting coaching strategy into correcting umpiring errors. At the same time, they tried to improve the pace of play issue by eliminating four quick pitches? In tandem with the replay process, the intentional walk policy is a symbol of foolishness.

3. Shorten the Baseball Season

Games are too long, but that’s another topic. The season is too long. Every team wins at least 60 games and every team loses at least 60. To qualify for the Wild Card a team has to win between 85-90 games with a winning percentage between .525 and .550. In an era of baseball where sabermetricians tell us to follow the numbers, that means that to qualify for the playoffs a team needs to win between 25-30 of the remaining 42 games on their schedule to earn a Wild Card berth. It’s another five to 10, in some seasons 15, to win their respective division. Of course some of those 60 win and 60 loss contests matter, but every team is going to win some and lose some of those. That means that in a rudimentary and extremely “bare-bones” look at the baseball season, there are maybe 50-60 games in a season that “matter,” based on the impact of a team’s chances of making the postseason. What non-extreme fan of baseball is going to spend between 2:58 minutes (the average length of a Major League Baseball game) and as many as 4 1/2 hours (Red Sox/Yankees games go on and on and on forever) 100 or so times a year watching games that don’t have a compelling impact on the standings? Too many games on the Major League schedule don’t appear to matter at the time they are being played.

I love baseball. I follow it every single day all year long, including right now while it snows outside my window, but 162 games at three hours per game is 486 hours. That is 12 full weeks. To watch every game of your favorite hometown team you have to commit the equivalent of three months of work at your job. And that’s if you watch a team that averages three hours per game. I know the Red Sox don’t. They almost never play in anything close to that. Make it four months of employment for Bostonians working the fishing boats of Gloucester or running numbers and examining spreadsheets in Cambridge as an accountant.  

To be fair, there are compelling reasons to watch games that don’t “matter” as I have defined it above. When Pedro Martinez was on the mound at Fenway Park or Chris Sale now, fans flock. But, when Rick Porcello takes the bump against R.A. Dickey and a 95loss Atlanta Braves roster, why? The NBA is a bad television product far too often with a lot of dead time or “lack of effort” moments, but they can market their stars because they dominate the play the majority of the time. Baseball’s best players don’t. Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts have four or five at bats per game. Billy Hamilton might be on the basepaths for 15-20 minutes per game and there are maybe 20-25 starting pitchers that are “must-see” TV. In order to coax fans to watch baseball MLB should shorten the season to increase the number of games that appear relevant to potential viewers. Create drama by making more games relevant. Less is more.

4. Shorten the Game… Baseball

Middle relievers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were the rock stars of the 2016 trade deadline and have created the most aggressive market in the 2017/18 offseason. The reason for that is that even bad starting pitchers demand lengthy contracts with high Average Annual Values (AAV) while relievers, even really good ones, demand shorter terms and typically lower AAV’s as well.

If baseball reduced the game from nine innings to seven they could eliminate five year, $55 million dollar contracts for pedestrian starting pitchers like Jason Vargas. Then, organizations could focus their assets on drafting and developing quality arms with the intention of using them in short stints or spend fewer dollars at shorter terms in the free agent market. Good is good, bad is bad. Wade Davis was a mediocre starting pitcher in Tampa Bay before he became an elite reliever in Kansas City. If the season was shorter, and especially if the games were, we would see more really good, short relief pitchers and fewer mediocre, five and six inning starters. Quality over quantity.

I am not 100% sold that pace of play is the issue with baseball as much as I think the overall commitment is too long. A slow game isn’t ideal in any way, but 2-2 ½ hours of a slow paced sport that fans enjoy is much more manageable than 3 ½ to 4 hours, even if the pace is quick. How popular is hockey? It’s the fastest paced of any professional sport outside of Indy car racing and yet it can’t attract the crowds. Shorten the commitment, improve the quality of the game with better pitchers and you will enhance the enjoyment of the game.

Want more wishes? Here is the Fantasy Baseball Wish List for this upcoming season.