There was a recent story that came out that Minor League Baseball games have shaved off 20 minutes of game time after implementing a pitch clock- the pitcher has to throw the ball within 14 seconds with no one on base, and has 18 seconds with a runner on. They’re testing out the success rate of it in the minors before possibly bringing it to the majors in order to pick up the pace of play in hopes of attracting the eyes of more viewers. There’s a constant argument that baseball is a dying sport and is failing to attract the eyes of new viewers.
And by all means, if adding a pitch clock creates more action, live balls are put in play, and generates more excitement in order to improve the game, let’s go for it if it’s successful! However, MLB is failing to promote the sport as exciting and full of life, but it isn’t due to the length of the games. No one complains about a 3.5 hour shootout between Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in the NFL. They watch all of it. Just the other night, the Timberwolves and Grizzlies in the NBA Playoffs had a first quarter alone that almost took an hour. Playoff NHL hockey is considered to be one of the most exciting atmospheres in sports when it gets to overtime, and there’s no time limit on those games at all- it continues to go into overtime after overtime until a sudden death goal is made, and no one cares because it’s that tense.
It’s a promotional problem, not a length problem. There are so many players and techniques that could be used to promote the league, and there have never been as many young stars in it as there are now. They need more fans to have a reason to go to the ballpark and have that incredible experience that creates memories that last for a lifetime, and that starts with creating an attachment to the stars and having someone to look up to. That starts with a young kid asking his dad for a Jazz Chisholm jersey because he saw his highlights online. That starts with going to the ballpark and seeing Juan Soto take batting practice in-person.
So how do we get there?
Here’s a proposal of something that Major League Baseball can adopt from another league.
The NHL has the tradition of awarding the three stars of the night every game, and there’s so much pageantry behind it that it could easily transition into baseball. A neutral party of home team radio guys vote on the 3 most valuable players of the night during the game, and they have a moment afterwards where the fans acknowledge the stars. There’s lots of unique tradition behind it; for example, the newly-founded Seattle Kraken has their stars throw a plush sockeye into the crowd like the iconic fish market. It’s a classy move, win or lose, the fans get to experience moments like that on the home ice, and they get to see the most-pivotal players of the game receive their flowers in that moment.
You give one most-valuable star to the standout of the game, one star to the offensive standout of the game, and one star to the defensive standout of the game. It would bring all of the talented faces of baseball to the light.
There are so many reasons why baseball should adopt this tradition after the games.
For one, the Baseball Writers Association of America, those who vote on the Hall of Fame, and those in the media in general, LOVE getting to have their say of things when it comes to weighing in on the game. Giving them an opportunity to give their opinions on the performance of players is something they would be licking their chops to do, however, this would also force them to watch the games on a nightly basis to give the stars out at the end of the game.
Secondly, baseball fans LOVE statistics. This would be yet another way of adding another statistical element to the sport in a game defined by numbers. Baseball has the Silver Slugger Awards, the Gold Glove Awards, and just now created the All-MLB Team in just 2019- the amount of offensive, defensive, and overall stars awarded to players throughout the year would be another fun wrinkle in quantifying who the best players are, debating the MVP awards for the most-consistent greatness in a 162-game season sport, and create more debate.
The All-NBA teams in the NBA is one of the most contentious sports arguments around because of the conversations it drives. Many of the player salaries, contracts, and bonuses can be determined by whether or not they make an All-NBA team. There needs to be that sort of head-to-head, barbershop style debate on individual players in baseball rather than just throwing around OBP or WHIP to carry an argument. “Game on the line, who would you rather have at the plate: Francisco Lindor or Carlos Correa?” “Jose Ramirez or Nolan Arenado?” No one gets into these kinds of debates that can create a conversation and draw more eyes to the sport. Having this sort of individual promotion at the end of games could propel that into the limelight. You can bring up how many offensive, overall, or defensive stars that they’ve had in their career or averaged in a season, and it’s just another stat for the fans to nerd out on or use in legacy arguments.
Finally, it will create moments that promote the individual talent and attract more fans to the faces of the game. People will wait around at the ballparks after the result of the game and see who was honored and why. They might go home and look up more of their highlights. They’ll be able to put a face to the talented individuals that play that don’t get enough recognition in the national media because of how team-oriented a sport they play. It’s not like basketball where there’s only 5 players in one jersey on the court and there’s no hat or helmet.
The reality is that this would be an honorable tradition that hockey does well that wouldn’t change any rules of the game that could promote the stars, get more eyes on the faces of the game, and get more people to the ballpark. Baseball needs to find more ways to celebrate the people and the personalities that play their game.