I'm a big fan of the show. I wrote the attached letter to MLB Commissioner-Elect Robert Manfred, and I'd like to get your opinion on it. It includes 9 recommendations to improve MLB for the future, and I think you'll enjoy the read.
Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work on the show.
September 21, 2014
Mr. Robert D. Manfred, Jr.
Chief Operating Officer
Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10167
Dear Mr. Manfred:
I am 24 years old, analyze business financial statements for a living, and, most importantly, am a dedicated
MLB fan and member of the younger generation that represents the future of your business.
During his tenure as Commissioner, Mr. Selig implemented dramatic changes that grew revenue from
approximately $1 billion to over $8 billion. You have the opportunity and capability to exceed that growth;
however, this is a pivotal time in MLB history when the median age of fans and viewers is getting older, and
younger viewers are losing patience and interest in the slow games and the drawn-out season.
I don’t have access to the necessary data and resources to provide you specific analysis. What I can provide
you, however, are recommendations for you to implement based on the mind of someone who played the
game for 14 years and understands the necessary changes to grow interest from a younger generation while
maintaining the tradition of our national pastime.
Please consider all or any of the changes I propose implementing on the attached three pages. As Mr. Ruth
said himself, “baseball is the greatest game in the world and deserves the best you can give it.” The game is in
your hands, and now is the time to take action.
Adam McTish, CPA
Attached: Summary of 9 MLB Recommendations
Summary of 9 MLB Recommendations:
1. Shorten spring training, start the regular season in mid-March and shorten the season to 138 games
A prime opportunity is sitting right in front of you- the “dead month” of sports during August. Aside from the MLB regular season, the NBA and NHL playoffs end in mid-late June, and most sports fans apathetically tolerate the NFL preseason while counting down the days to the kickoff of college and pro football. Of the 50 most watched sporting events in 2013, how many showcased MLB games? Zero, while 46 NFL games made that list. I’m not saying don’t compete with the NFL- I just want to emphasize the benefit of having more of your postseason during a time when there is significantly less viewer competition.
Why 138? First, the number of games preferably needs to be divisible by the typical series of 3 games. Second, 24 fewer games, in combination with the extra two weeks of games in March (as well as potentially fewer off-days), ends the regular season in early-mid August. Thus, you have essentially a full month when sports fans’ attention focuses primarily on your postseason.
Obviously fewer games means fewer ticket sales, less sponsorship and overall less revenue for MLB and the franchises. However, and this is when data I’m not privileged to would be helpful to prove, beginning the MLB postseason in early-mid August would significantly increase interest and ratings during the playoffs (and therefore ticket and sponsorship sales), which would offset most, if not all and in excess, of the lost revenue from a shorter season. I will also argue that a shortened season will increase sales to regular season games- not only will ticket prices and attendance numbers be higher, but a shorter season allows more teams to be in the race. Most importantly, however, this is about building a younger audience to sustain growth for the future. Leave the playoffs in October, and baseball will continue to hide more and more behind other sports. Move the playoffs to August, and build a following that looks forward to August and becomes devoted during the regular season as well.
2. Expand the second round of the playoffs to a 7-game series
You have the longest season of any major sport, yet you shorten the first non-wildcard round (with the most total playoff games) to 2 fewer games per series. The NBA and NHL, both of which have almost half the number of regular season games as the MLB, take full advantage of a 7-game series. I like the one-game wildcard playoff for the first round since it emphasizes the importance of winning the division. But only 5 games in the second round is too short. More money, more excitement…this is a no-brainer to me.
3. Allow only 3 warm-up pitches for pitchers
To clarify, all pitchers, whether starting the game, continuing the next inning or coming into the game for relief, are only allowed 3 warm-up pitches per inning after taking the mound. This is the first recommendation directed at speeding up the action in games. Pitchers have the bullpen to warm up as much as they want, and pitchers continuing the next inning can manage with 3 pitches.
Now, you have to consider the costs…fewer commercials between innings would seem to decrease revenue and mess with television contracts. However, you can play a video of me tying my shoes with as long of commercial breaks as you want and still not make money. The point is, television contracts and
advertising revenue will grow so long as you make the entertainment surrounding the advertisement enticing. Look at the English Premier League or World Cup- the only primary in-game commercials occur at halftime, and they seem to be doing just fine with sponsors. With viewers leaving the MLB for more fast-paced entertainment, you need to speed up the game. Get on the field, 3 pitches, throw down to second and play ball.
4. Expand the strike zone
I understand this will be controversial, but it needs to happen. The MLB defines the strike zone as “that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball” (Rule 2.00). I propose expanding this zone by approximately an inch vertically and horizontally on both sides. This will require specific umpire training and adjustments by all players, but a larger zone will force players to swing more often, thus speeding up the game and expanding (pun intended) viewer interest.
5. Enforce the 12 second rule between pitches MLB Rule 8.04: “When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball. The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball. The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.” Why have a rule if you don’t enforce it? Either give the second base umpire a stopwatch to stop play or radio in to the home plate umpire’s ear piece when the 12 seconds are up. You’ve heard my argument about speeding up the game, so please enforce it. 6. Change All-Star Game back to not determining home field advantage in the World Series Look at this scenario (I could’ve chosen from many): in 2003, the first year this silly rule went into the books, Hank Blalock of the Texas Rangers hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth inning of the All-Star Game to give the AL home field advantage in the World Series that year. It was a dramatic, phenomenal game. Only problem- did the Rangers or Dodgers make the playoffs that year? Nope. Yet the Yankees got home-field advantage over the Marlins in the World Series from a rare mistake from Gagne (although it proved not to matter). This makes no sense- the team that has the better record in the regular season deserves home-field advantage in the World Series. Although you may lose a small percentage of All-Star Game viewers by changing the rule back, it’s the right thing to do. Plus, consider adding a new event before the Homerun Derby, such as an accuracy throw competition to hit a target at home plate from center field. As for the players actually playing hard, All-Stars are professionals and should have enough motivation to win regardless of the prize.
7. Add the designated hitter to the National League
Mr. Selig made the logical, right choice by pushing the Astros to the American League. Other than ease of intraleague play, it made zero sense to have a 6-team NL Central and 4-team AL West (sign me up for the AL West, please). Similarly, but a little less obvious, you need to create uniformity with the designated hitter rule. Sure, it spices things up during interleague play, but once again, it’s not logical: it’s an unnecessary advantage for home teams during interleague play, stats across the leagues are not comparable and all teams in the MLB should play by the same rules.
Whether you add the DH to the NL or remove the DH from the AL, either way is an improvement. However, as you can tell based on the recommendation, there are many more pros to adding the DH to the NL. First, considering the decline in offense and interest over the years, adding an extra .200 to one of the 9 hitters’ batting averages will surely add more excitement and action (not to mention preventing teams from walking the 8th batter to get to the pitcher in the NL). Second, as many veterans nestle into the DH role, removing the DH from the AL would remove several veteran hitters from the game earlier, and the MLB Players Association will never go for that. Finally, watching pitchers hit is about as exciting as watching an extra point in football…get rid of it, and enjoy the benefit on your top line.
8. Add targets to stands behind the outfield wall (think advertising)
This recommendation would probably be better-directed at individual franchises; however, encouraging this will only bring more fans to the parks and thus increase interest in your business. When I was a kid, my brother and I used to select advertisements on the outfield wall to bet on which advertisement a player would hit a homerun over. The prize for us was pride, but imagine the potential for a real prize for those in attendance. My proposal: add 3-5 circular “targets” behind the outfield wall, not interfering fans’ views and within achievable homerun distance. If a player hits a homerun that hits a target in the air, the advertiser owes a generous deal or prize to every ticketholder in the park. Think of the potential for advertising revenue with these targets, and, more importantly, think of fans’ extra excitement with the potential of a great prize from one swing of the bat. I’m guessing Target would be interested.
9. Make a Wish Day
I’m saving my best idea for last (hopefully you read this far). Not everything is about money, and I respect the MLB’s contributions to communities across the world. As a business with endless opportunities for publicity, you have a responsibility to use that publicity to change people’s lives for the better. My plea is a Make a Wish Day- a day when every player and coach in the MLB hosts a child from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. In doing so, instead of wearing their own last names on their backs, the players and coaches wear the last name of the child they are hosting and sponsoring for the day. The children spend the game in the dugouts, and they get the jersey worn by their sponsor after the game. There are plenty of opportunities for donations for this day- from the players, coaches, organizations, fans and media. Most importantly, it will give those hundreds of children an unforgettable day and yet another reason to fight against their hardships.