On ESPN.com, Jayson Stark takes a look at MLB's greatest innovations in the past 25 years [since 1981 to you and me]. I'm gonna take that list and rearrange it to my liking...
1-WILD CARD. I agree that the Wild Card is the greatest thing that's happened in MLB over the past 25 years. It has created a new "pennant race" that includes more teams and more opportunities. Since the wild card era has taken place, we've seen the Marlins win the World Series twice [which is two more than their amount of division titles], the Angels and the Giants play in an All Wild Card Series and the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. To me, it seems the wild card team is a strong playoff contender since they've been in a 'playoff' over the final month just to get into the postseason.
At the same time, the fact more teams are in it means there is less chances for teams to dump guys to the elite clubs. Which is good for the balance of the entire league.
2-REALIGNMENT. Six division winner makes two more teams happening! Not just that, but it regionalized the sport much better [well, except for Texas in the AL West]. With the unbalanced schedule now, the division champs usually IS the best team in the bunch....even if the bunch isn't that good [see 2005 Padres].
3-FANTASY BASEBALL. This falls under the "stats" and such in the column, but it shouldn't be underscored how fantasy sports have helped the real leagues. You may never watch a Royals game if you didn't need Mike Sweeney's output. While football is still fantasy king, baseball is more of a daily feel and has intergrated tons of new stats and numbers that baseball purists love.
4-INTERLEAGUE PLAY. It was lightning out of the gate to see the Dodgers in Yankee Stadium or those interstate or city matchups. The side effects are that the All Star Game has really taken a hit. And no one enjoys those Tigers-Diamondbacks series. I said it many times that they should scale back the interleague games to include the Rival Series and than maybe 1 or 2 more teams in a home-and-home deal.
5-MEDICINE: The amazing advances in surgeries and preventive maintenence has been vital in this day and age. Down time is lessened and long term injuries can be avoided in ways that was dreamed of in the early 80s.
6-BASEBALL IS ALWAYS ON: The article talks about ESPN's role in having baseball on a lot. Well, with the advent of DirecTV and the Extra Innings package, baseball fans everywhere can watch the entire league unfold no matter whom they root for.
7-RETRO PARKS: The question I have to ask now is.....will the Cookie Cutter Stadiums be the new retro??? But baseball stadiums actually look and feel like baseball stadiums instead of those multi-purpose eyesores that littered the nation a decade or so ago. Now, only the Marlins and Athletics share stadiums with an NFL team.
8-BASEBALL TONIGHT: I will admit, of all of ESPN's league shows....this one is the best. Why? Well, it is on constantly and while games are on. Nothing beats when the show is moving on...then the "dahhhh-da-da-da-da-dahhhhh" comes up with an update. Again, unlike the other sports....there is usually a full slate on every night so there is a ton to talk about and show. And they are so knowledgable about every facet of the game.
9-MORE OFFENSE: Say what you want...but the only thing good about a 2-1 baseball game is that it goes by quickly. The good thing about the 10-6 games is that, well, there is more action to watch. And isn't that why we hate soccer????
10-SPECIALISTS: Baseball is much more micromanaged then ever because of specialists. You used to just have a closer. Then, you had to get a set-up manto get to your closer. Now, you have a set-up man for your set-up man. Every team has that left hander in their bullpen whose sole job is to strike out that lefty hitter ina tight pickle in the game. It shortens the game so that innings 1-6 are more vital to win because the team with the lead calls the shots in innings 7-9. On the flip side, inserting new pitchers into the game adds a bit of intrigue in case he's cold.
THE ONES I THINK ARE BAD....
EXPANSION. In the past 25 years, baseball has added teams in Colorado, Arizona, Tampa and Florida. Well, there is THREE World Series titles in there....but a ton of doubt, too. Tampa is a floormat of a team in a city that might as well be the Yankee's summer home. Florida is ready to relocated. Colorado is more of a gimmick team with their launching pad of a park. Arizona blew it's load out of the gate and is wiped out. Sure, the league made a ton of money off of these owners....but at what cost? Talent is diluted and three of those teams don't leave the state for spring training [and they are more known for retirees than anything]. It is good there was no contraction....but there wouldn't have needed to if they hadn't added these teams in.
REVENUE SHARING: Sure, it is better....but not as big as Stark makes it to be. Yeah, those smaller teams get a better allowance, but they must spend wisely and have better scouting than the big wigs who can take chances and overpay the market [which is the entire point of the salary cap]. While fans of the Yanks, Sox and Angels can have high hopes every year, smaller teams have to find their spots and pray everything works out. Granted, more money doesn't equate to a good team [see: Orioles]. Which brings me to.....
THE EXPOS: Sure, baseball in DC is great.....but the way the Expos were essentially dragged around for three years was cruel. I mean, it was the worst example of killing a franchise I've seen. Baseball's experiment in Puerto Rico worked for about, oh, 20 games. Which should just go to show baseball that NO ONE will go see a bad baseball team.....no matter how rabid of a fan base they have.
THE DRAFT: Sure, the difference between the MLB draft and the NFL, NBA and NHL drafts is that it is held in season. Also, like the NHL, most [well, all] of the drafted players won't see big league ball right off the bat. But, that's not my gripe. My gripe is that the Asian and Latin players don't have to use the draft. That's wrong! In the NBA and NHL, foreign players have to apply for the draft just as the homeland players do. MLB uses the "secret highest bidder" to begin negotiations with a foreign player. Which means that go to the Yankees, Dodgers or Mariners. Imagine if Ichiro or any of the Cuban defectors had to enter the big leagues via the draft!!!
LATE NIGHTS: I am not saying that baseball needs day World Series games....but hold 'em a bit earlier. People living in the East Coast must stay up well past midnight to see the outcome of a World Series game. That's absurd!! Start the game at 7:00 at the latest!!! Maybe have the Saturday and/or Sunday games start around 5:00?? And they wonder why kids are flocking to other sports! When I was 16, I missed most of that thrilling Braves-Twins series due to the fact that I had school the next day and couldn't stay up to see the last 3 innings or so of the games. I missed the Puckett catch and HR. I missed most of those great plays in that series....and I am sure many of our young-uns have missed some thrilling post season baseball moments because of this too. In an era of cable and satellite with 300 channels....people aren't gonna "bump into" the game and watch. People who want to watch it will be there whenever you hold the games.
DOUBLEHEADERS: There are none. At least scheduled. Most kids don't realize that DH on the sked back in the day wasn't "Designated Hitter" but "Double Header". And if a rain-out sets one up on the schedule....the home team holds a "day-night doubleheader" that means fans can leave after Game 1 and new fans come in for Game 2. C'mon!! With 81 home games....make it 80 home dates and force every team to host at least ONE doubleheader. To get your money,charge a bit more for the tix. I mean, there is nothing wrong with having a lazy Sunday doubleheader where everyone gets a ton of baseball action. I mean, 6-10 hours of baseball ain't a bad thing.