I should say up front that I love baseball. It's a beautiful, boring game, and if you don't believe me you're wrong. Hopelessly, foolishly wrong.
But the truth is people don't watch baseball like they used to. Football is America's favorite sport now, its violence and machismo and Bud Light ads aligning neatly with the contemporary zeitgeist.
Yet there's still hope for the game. One anonymous league executive this week proposed shortening games to seven innings. Would it save the sport? Probably not, but points for effort to whomever suggested it.
So with that in mind, here are some other surefire ways to modernize the game and recapture America's bite-sized attention span.
Move in the fences. A lot.
Off the top of my head, I'd say outfield walls should go about 200 feet from home plate, straight across the field. No more of this graceful arcing wall business — though the Astros can keep their sloped center field booby trap. Watching players stumble up it like newborn puppies is endlessly entertaining.
This would accomplish two things. First, it would bring fans closer to the action. No one can really see from bleacher Section ZZ, Row !? anyway.
Second, it would dramatically increase the number of home runs, which have dwindled in recent years. Everybody loves dingers, so why not give people more of what they want?
Make steroids mandatory
See above, re: dingers. As a bonus, this would also eliminate all the pearl-clutching and moralizing about whose records count and whose are a mirage of syringes and pixie dust. If everyone's juicing, then it's a level playing field. Dingers for everyone!
Give players aluminum bats
Again, dingers. If it's good enough for college, it's good enough for the pros.
Walks are boring. Even the Reds think their former MVP Joey Votto walks too much. Swing the bat, Joey! You can't hit one out while walking to first.
This would also negate much of the debate between traditionalists and nerds about the relative importance of batting average versus on-base percentage. It's a no-sum slapfight that turns off casual fans. Who wants to hear adults fight about acronyms?
Numbers are hard. Numbers can lie. Simplifying the game to "Batter swing boom" will make it more palatable and understandable to a wider audience.
Reinstate Pete Rose
This one isn't so much about gameplay as it is about getting people talking about the sport. Viral marketing is huge right now, and nothing would generate more buzz than reinstating the game's biggest pariah not named "Barry Bonds." It's a guaranteed trending topic, a perfect opportunity to promote the #brand, MLB.
Make LeBron play baseball
LeBron James is a superhuman who can do anything he wants. Who wouldn't pay money to see him swing a bat? The guy looks like he could hit 80 home runs a year with those arms, those mammoth, bulging arms.
Plus, making James play baseball would add another layer to every barfly's favorite argument about whether James or Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever. "Yeah, Jordan won more NBA titles — but LeBron won two World Series."
People love to complain that the baseball season is too dang long. They just can't be bothered to stay enthused with five or so games every week all the way from April through October. So fine, shorten the season from 162 games to one. Then every game will be equally exciting and we can get right on to the postseason, the only part of the season with statistical significance.
Allow full contact, all over the field
Americans love watching people get obliterated. It's why the UFC is insanely profitable and why America's Funniest Home Videos lasted so long despite having Bob Saget at the helm. So from now on, if a shortstop settles under your infield fly, you can lay him out. But be warned: He can take a swing at your groin, too.
It should go without saying, but beaning batters would no longer be scorned, but celebrated. Hit a batter? From now on, he's out.
Make baseball football
People always derisively compare baseball to its musclebound big brother, football. So why not make them the same sport? Burns those bats, give everyone some pads and, voila, ratings bonanza. Problem solved.
You're welcome in advance, MLB.