Fans of the blog surely read Part I of this captivating series about baseball being the most boring American-born sport (NASCAR at least had that Tony Stewart scandal recently). After the release of Part I, I received 867 e-mails in a week. This is the part where I give my humble suggestions to the bigwigs at the MLB office. Some may seem outlandish, but so was the designated hitter rule, right, MLB? Let your hair down, Bud.
Bud Selig’s astrological sign is Leo, which means, according to online horoscopes of 100 percent veracity, that he loves being the center of attention. This plays right into what I’m about to say: in the world of sports, there are certain organizations and entities that do a better job managing the watchability and entertainment value of their game. Football cracked down on defensive penalties to encourage scoring, and basketball added a three-point line and had crooked refs assuring the success of the most popular teams at one point. One can easily argue, however, that the kings of managing product to assure amusing outcomes are a bit far off the beaten path, culturally speaking: professional wrestling promoters.
Of course, you may be saying to yourself: “But Jaime, pro wrestling is completely scripted, of course it’s designed to be more entertaining than conventional sports, baseball has nothing to learn from those glorified carnies, with their rampant steroid abuse, and questionable grooming decisions, and disconcerting propensity for wearing underwear in front of huge audiences.” To that, I would say: that’s a run-on sentence and our schools betrayed you. Have an open mind, it couldn’t make things more unbearable. Here’s a couple of cool things that could be instituted in baseball, on loan from the world of pro wrestling:
Manufactured Drama – Earlier this week, Clayton Kershaw beat out Giancarlo Stanton and multiple others as the National League’s MVP for the 2014 season. Good for him. He had a great year. Press conference tomorrow, probably, brief ESPN blurb, we forget what happened by next Tuesday. This wouldn’t be the case if Clayton Kershaw and Giancarlo Stanton had a BLOOD VENDETTA. Baseball has been on the right track on this matter before: in 2000 Roger Clemens of the Yankees and Mike Piazza of the Mets famously had a series of very public disagreements, culminating in Clemens throwing a splintered shard of a broken bat at Piazza as Mike went up the first base line. The press ATE IT UP. Giancarlo Stanton missed several games at the end of the season because he got hit in the face with a pitch. Now, imagine for a second that Kershaw had been the one who threw it, and then Stanton made a dramatic speech from his hospital bed vowing revenge on the man who robbed him of his chance to win MVP. I’d watch. Who wouldn’t?
Lowest Common Denominator Pandering – Professional wrestling has its roots in carny culture. There’s a whole dictionary of vocabulary unique to both carnies and professional-wrestling-industry people, and there’s significant overlap between the two. So, as you might expect, when wrestling grew to its height in popularity in the mid-to-late 90s, it did so on the back of a decidedly lowbrow and prepubescent audience, and satisfied this crowd by bringing increasingly crazy antics to national television. The following things all happened on national wrestling telecasts: THE UNDERTAKER performed a mock satanic crucifixion on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a woman in her 70s was “impregnated” by a wrestler and “gave birth” to an adult-sized human hand on live television, and a man with one leg was thrown down a flight of stairs, but it was okay because he was also somehow a wrestler.
Baseball has none of this fun built in, and that’s not how you hook an audience. People react excellently to Duck Dynasty and Fox News. If you can hook those people, you’re in the money. Baseball has no players who win the hearts of the fans by shirking all the rules and only playing with their caps backwards, or scantily clad female “managers” to accompany them to the plate. Nobody’s even ever been hit by a chair. As the erosion of baseball’s popularity marches on into the future, they may very well wish they’d thought to add more pyrotechnics and masked relief pitchers and crazy stipulations, like the commissioner showing up onto the field at Game 1 of the World Series to the strains of his own foreboding theme music and declaring that only fielders will be allowed to pitch, and only pitchers will be allowed to hit.