Every year, actually throughout the year, we are bombarded with stories about how much more popular the NFL is over MLB and TV ratings are used as the justification. The Superbowl dwarfs everything else when it comes to television viewership (and friendly get-togethers), but we baseball fans can always argue that there are ten times more baseball games than football games year in and year out.
But what if baseball at some point in the future needs the ratings and devises with TV to make the World Series one game, winner take all. Sure it is like that when there is a Game Seven in the World Series, but that doesn’t happen every year and, frankly, as a ratings grabber, Game Seven is a dud with less than 24 hours to even hype itself.
What if after the ALCS and the NLCS were completed, each team had five or more days to rest up and play the SUPER WORLD SERIES BOWL on the first Sunday in November. Would it be a ratings winner or a bust? If the playoffs in MLB were expanded and each series shortened to best of three games and then the Championship series were best of five, there would be build up toward the moment.
The first issue with one game on complete rest is the issue of dominant starting pitching. A team with a Cy Young Award caliber pitcher has an advantage similar to a soccer or hockey team with a great goalie – it is the ultimate equalizer. It also leads to a lot of boring 1-0 games.
The league and the TV network would want the Super World Series Bowl to have a lot of action. And so pitchers, all on plenty of rest would be limited to one inning on the mound (maybe even a crazy caveat that they must finish the inning no matter how bad it gets). This would make for inevitable action. A long October of three or maybe even four short series after a 162 game season that saw many more teams jockeying for position in the playoff race would have everybody’s staff stretched out, perhaps taking the edge off a great bullpen as often as this rule change helps to make the number 4 and 5 starters a little sharper.
If a pitcher, though, is like a quarterback and must be counted on to start the biggest game of the season well then, perhaps a rule that the starting pitcher must COMPLETE the game? If a pitcher is removed the bases are immediately loaded. If there are people on base, well that is just RBIs for the new baserunners. And since it is the biggest game of the year, why not let the batters use corked bats? Juice the ball, come on we gotta make the overs for the bettors in Vegas. Will all of America be watching?
Football climaxes after playing about eleven percent the number of games in a baseball season. Superbowl Sunday can probably never be replaced as an event, but with ten times more games in its regular season and more games in one week of playoffs than football has in its whole postseason, baseball is too built around a pitching staff in its current form to challenge the uniqueness of the winner-take-all, two-weeks-to-hype Superbowl.
If Baseball were a weekly game with a 26-week season, what would pitchers and hitters be like? I don’t know a single baseball fan who would trade what it the daily grind and stimulation of the regular season is like now just to have one Sunday like the NFL does. Baseball weaves through a season like an elborate novel. If football teams played 162 games not one player would live to start a fourth season. Mike Scioscia managed over 1,000 wins as Angels manager. The Green Bay Packers have won 756 regular season games in their hundred years as a team.
Maybe there is just no comparison and this is why both sports maintain so many crossover fans. Enjoy the guacamole today, pitchers and catchers are soon on their way…
Photo cred: A.J. Lipp