Nearly 20 million people play fantasy baseball, but there’s something about it that I don’t get. It’s probably the word “fantasy.”
In fantasy baseball, people compete as team owners by drafting a roster of current players from different Major League Baseball teams. Each week during the regular season, owners decide which players to activate for each game because only those players’ game-day statistics determine the team’s score.
To win, many rely on a complex support infrastructure that includes up-to-the-minute fantasy baseball player rankings and real articles about fantasy baseball (breaking news about players sitting out a game due to an injury), and statistics. Lots of statistics. One for-pay site claims to track about 140 metrics.
That’s where it stops being a fantasy: despite all that effort, you’re still just a spectator in a long and often tedious season! In my version, fantasy baseball would be better, more exciting because we’d make the following improvements:
SHORTEN THE GAME
Fans have to get some sleep – not during the game – something not possible with games longer than “Lord of the Rings.” (Average length of an MLB game in 2017 was 3 hours 8 minutes; “Lord of the Rings III” runs 3 hours 20 minutes). Games will now stop after 2:45 hours regardless of the inning.
ELIMINATE EXTRA INNINGS
In 2013, a Mets-Marlins game lasted 6 hours 25 minutes, including more than 15 consecutive scoreless innings, before the Marlins finally eked a 2-1 victory. Game 3 in last year’s World Series went 18 innings over seven-plus hours. No one wants that. Instead, a Home Run Derby, with one hitter from each team getting five minutes at the plate, determines the winner. If the hitters tie, the game ends in a tie, and it’s only taken about 10 minutes.
REDUCE THE NUMBER OF VISITS TO THE MOUND
The MLB just reduced the number of visits to five each (down from last season’s six) – but a potential total of 10 visits at two minutes each is still too much. There are faster ways to get a message to the pitcher: how about texting or having the stadium announcer say something?
CUT THE NUMBER OF GAMES IN A SEASON
Baseball’s current 162-game schedule is twice as many as the NBA and NHL combined and those feel like long seasons. How many games do we need to determine post-seasons contenders? Plus, a much-shorter season purges meaningless September games between already-eliminated teams.
REQUIRE TEAMS TO HAVE COOLER NAMES AND LOGOS
Are fans of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox really rooting for an article of clothing? (How about something more relevant, like baseball caps? If not, how about spelling socks correctly?) Meanwhile the White Sox logo doesn’t even depict something that looks like a sock, so what’s the point?
TEAMS CAN’T THREATEN TO RELOCATE AS A NEGOTIATING TACTIC
That’s just rude to loyal, long-suffering fans!
REQUIRE STADIUM NAMING RIGHTS TO HAVE A LOCAL CONNECTION
Stadium names used to be evocative, part of the city’s fabric. Now naming rights are sold to highest bidders who may not have a local connection (the namesake of Philadelphia’s Citizen Bank Park is based in Providence). This must stop, although keeping it local would not prevent PNC Park (Pittsburgh) or Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago).
LOWER PLAYER SALARIES AND STADIUM TICKET PRICES
It’s hard to root for players making half a billion dollars when fans pay escalating tickets, food, beverage and official team merchandise to support absurd salaries. (Provides a different sense to “ballpark figure.”) Stadiums should offer affordable ticket prices and a wide selection of good food and team merchandise at reasonable prices – and rebates if the team is terrible. Owners would be required to donate money otherwise earmarked for inflated salaries and fund community programs and city improvements. (It’s my fantasy, after all!)
FINE TEAMS FOR SPITTING
There’s no crying in baseball and there shouldn’t be any spitting, either. That means no chewing tobacco or sunflower seeds. There’s a good reason no other workplace allows spitting. It’s horrible to see on TV and hideous if you’ve ever walked past a dugout after a game.
UPDATE “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME”
Baseball loves its history but to appeal to younger fans, update the song to reflect what fans in the stands are really buying (it’s not peanuts and Cracker Jack). Might as well update the second to last line because no true fan feels that if the home team doesn’t win, “it’s a shame.”
The final improvement of fantasy baseball is:
I’d get to play and a 10-year contract. Or, that as a fan, I get a World Series ring when my team wins. (Talking to you, Red Sox!)