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What can you do about restoring the World Series? You and your broadcast partners should put all options on the table. Here are some to discuss:
Move up start times
"The games start too late" is a popular complaint, but it's nothing new. Remember when Carlton Fisk hit that famous home run in 1975? He did it at 12:33 a.m. First pitch was at 8:32 p.m. Tug McGraw striking out Willie Wilson in 1980 to clinch Philadelphia's other world championship? It happened at 11:29 p.m. First pitch was 8:29 p.m. And what about the classic 1991 World Series between the Twins and the Braves? No game started earlier than 8:28 p.m. eastern time. (By the way, that Series, also with two low-profile teams, drew almost three times as many viewers as Phillies-Rays.)
Late start times have been a way of life in the World Series for decades. The last day game was in 1987. But the start times have become a bigger problem as the games have gotten longer. The average postseason game now ends near midnight. Asking viewers to stay up that late during the week for nearly a month brings attrition into play. Would more people watch if they knew the game would end at a decent hour? That was the case with the resumption of Game 5, which took 78 minutes and was the highest-rated night of the series (19.8 million viewers, 10 million more than saw the Game 3 late show). And is it more important to accommodate Philly and Tampa Bay fans, for instance, or the 14% of the population that lives in the western time zone and doesn't have a team in the Series?
I understand you plan to push for earlier start times—8:05, 7:35, maybe even sooner. Every little bit helps. Good luck with Fox, which has affiliates making tons of money on 7:30 p.m. reruns. The least that could be done is a 6 p.m. weekend start, which would mean less money and lower ratings for one night but would be a huge symbolic stand: that baseball does care about kids and the conditions in which its championship is determined.
Tweak the rules
You said you will present to the rules committee, and eventually the players' association, a proposal to formally establish that no postseason game can last fewer than nine innings. You enacted this change in playing rules during Game 5, probably the first such unilateral on-field change by a commissioner since Kennesaw Landis removed Ducky Medwick from Game 7 of the 1934 World Series for his own safety after Medwick was pelted with debris by Detroit fans. Even the Phillies, who stood to win 2--1 if the soggy game was called after the fifth inning, agreed that no postseason game should be abbreviated. It was the right call, but you admit you erred in not informing the media, especially Fox, before the game, inviting confusion and criticism.
Other rules can improve the pace of play. Catchers' trips to the mound, which got out of hand this postseason, need to be limited. Pitching changes should have a time restriction, such as three minutes, as monitored by an umpire. The new pitcher should be on the rubber and ready to face the hitter no more than three minutes after the coach or manager crosses the foul line, under penalty of a ball being added to the count. No more delay tactics.
More retractable roofs
No stadium should be constructed without one. The biggest change in sports over the past quarter century is that the games are no longer athletic competition that happens to be televised, but rather television programming that happens to be athletic competition. Why not guarantee your TV programming with technology that has been used successfully for at least 23 years, going back to the building of Toronto's SkyDome? Yet baseball has allowed construction of ballparks without roofs in New York (twice), Minnesota, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Colorado. When the Twins ditch their dome for an open-air ballpark in 2010, you will have more teams in cold-weather venues without a roof (16) than in warm-weather cities or stadiums with a roof (14).