JABO’s free advice for new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
This week, Rob Manfred takes over as commissioner from Bud Selig, and Manfred has publicly made attracting young fans a top priority. To bring in the youth, baseball needs to move faster and Manfred has come with a few ideas, such as instituting a pitch clock and requiring batters to keep one foot in the batters box at all times. Well, I don’t want to be rude right off the bat (appropriate baseball metaphor!) … but the young people don’t care about pitch clocks or similar gimmicks.
Young people don’t care about shorter games. Game length is an issue for people who are already baseball fans. You don’t hear young people say, “You know, I’d watch one of them baseball games if they averaged three hours nine minutes, but three hours twenty minutes? That’s fail!”
So let’s not pretend “New and Improved Baseball: Now there’s less of the sport you didn’t care about in the first place!” is the juice to get young people going. If Baseball wants to attract the young, Baseball needs to shake things up. Fortunately, I’m here to help. You’re welcome, Baseball!
The only reason "Star Wars," a stupid movie with bad acting, has remained relevant with the youth for decades is lasers. In "Star Wars" the soldiers have laser guns and the knights have laser swords. Laser swords! Incredibly stupid. Yet, as great as the stupid is (and it’s great), it’s outweighed by the awesome. Laser swords outweigh a lot of stupid.
How can this be applied to baseball? Laser bats. But! You can’t use laser bats all the time. The novelty would wear off (and the injuries would, I’m guessing, be extreme). So each team gets to use a laser bat once per game, a Designated Laser Bat. Like the replay challenge, managers can send one player to the plate each game with a laser bat.
Just imagine… “Bottom of the eighth and the Red Sox are down 4-2. Two on, two out for David Ortiz, and wait a minute, folks, here comes manager John Farrell… He’s signaling for it, yes, he’s giving Ortiz the laser bat! [crowd roars] [catcher puts on Kevlar suit/falls over]”
We’re going to ignore the possibility of the laser bat slipping out of the hitter’s hands and flying into the stands so we can move on to…
2. More stylish uniforms: bell bottoms, ripped jeans, foppish hats, etc. …
If young people appreciate anything (Non-Laser Division!) it’s fashion. Walk into any high school or college dormitory and (before the cops escort you out) you’ll see young people dressed in a myriad of super weird fashionable ways. The young people appreciate fashion, but that appreciation isn’t reciprocated by Baseball. What passes for Baseball fashion has evolved very little in the last 150 years. Uniforms are now polyester (or polyester/cotton blend?) instead of wool. Oh! And they’re slightly tighter. Ahh! Stop the revolution!
Have you ever seen a ball player wearing skinny jeans on the field? How about a jean jacket with Def Leopard and Motley Crue patches? A t-shirt with a swear word artfully hidden by kittens? No, you haven’t. Because when the players take the field they’re wearing the same boring jerseys and baseball pants they always wear. Young people can’t relate, dude! The solution is to tear off that dress shirt, slip on some leather pants, walk into any high school, and ask the closest kid with purple hair what sort of outfit would get him into the ballpark for three hours and 20 minutes.
3. Free stuff
Obtaining free things matters to the young maybe more than to an older person because the young spend all their money on drugs and smut says my grandfather. And he would know because he was young once and liked to pee on things says my grandmother. Point: free stuff is important, especially to the youth. Think about when a batted ball enters the stands. People have to get that baseball. HAVE TO. They’ll sacrifice personal security, health, and dignity to do it. Not because they need the ball, but because someone isn’t charging them for it. People don’t just love free stuff. They crave it with their loins. Hey Baseball: more free stuff! Free hats, free cats, free socks, free rocks, free shirts, free yurts, free mugs, free … something that rhymes with mugs!
4. Shoot the free stuff from cannons
You could hand stuff to people at the gate like a civilized human being, but do you use a spoon to eat soup? Heck no! What fun is that? Delivery systems aren’t about being intelligent or rational, they’re about BANG!! DUCK! OWW MY FACE!! So the best way to deliver free things to people in any environment is clear: a cannon! There are t-shirt cannons for firing t-shirts into the stands at basketball games, so hat cannons and towel cannons and sock cannons and food cannons and drink cannons can’t be, with a little bit of the old ‘R ‘n R’, beyond the reach of a multi-billion dollar corporation. OK, maybe drink cannons are silly, but then if someone wants to step in front of a cannon that shoots hot cocoa or just for fun, say, olive oil, who am I to say no? So drink cannons! As long as it’s free people will not only happily get shot in the face with a hot beverage, they’ll buy (baseball) tickets for the privilege.
I’m not a “youth expert.” I’ve been there, but it was a little bit ago. And as any teenager will tell you, adult brains atrophy ridiculously fast. But if there is one thing I know about America’s youth, it’s that they love vampires and zombies. Take something lame, put pointy teeth on it, kill it, and it becomes awesome. So, in that spirit, I suggest one roster spot per team be reserved for the undead. Having one zombie or vampire amble aimlessly out of the bullpen every third game won’t make much of a difference in the on-field product. Good teams will still be good and bad teams will still be bad. But I’m telling you, Mr. Commissioner, feasting on the flesh of the living, well, youth eat that stuff up.
6. Add an X
There’s something about the letter X that the kids love. Kids don’t want to eat their vegetables, but offer them some X-veggies and watch that stuff get devoured! Will kids go to church? Heck no! Will they go to XurX? Probably! Maybe! More likely than Church, I can say that much. So drop this old, stale “baseball,” because it’s time for BaXeball*! You might ask, “Will ‘BaXeball’ be any different than ‘baseball?’ ” To which I might reply, “Clown question, bro.”
*Not legal in some states (sorry Illinois)
7. Vape (reference how players used to smoke cigarettes in the dugout)
Vaping is the new cool way to smoke cigarettes. Vaping, like cigarettes, is not good for you, which is perfect because young people love stuff that isn’t good for you. Anything with a low upside (“This tastes OK and looks kinda weird.”) and a huuuge downside (“face cancer!”) is OK by them, and nothing has a lower upside (“Hey, that guy looks like an idiot”) and a higher downside (“Hey, that guy looks like an idiot so I’m going to kick his ass with this tire iron.”) as vaping. So, Baseball, add some vaping! Pitchers can vape on the mound and if they run out, the manager can bring them more (“Relief Vaping”). Base runners can vape and if they run out the coach can bring them more (“pinch vaping”). Heck, get umpires in on it:
“He was clearly out! What’s wrong with you? Can’t you see anything?”
“Oh, sorry, didn’t see the play. I was too busy vaping.”
“Oh, hey, that’s cool. Sorry I yelled at you.” /vapes
8. Fix baseball by making it not baseball
Pitch clocks are an idea taken from basketball’s shot clocks and football’s play clocks. The wild card, the exciting new way that every team will eventually make the playoffs, is taken from football’s wild card. Baseball didn’t even bother to change the name. Wild! So the path is clear: Incorporate aspects of other sports popular with the kids. For example, take out two outfielders and put the remaining outfielder in a race car. Grease up the infield like a bowling alley. Add ice to the basepaths and let hitters skate their way around the bases. Make the baseball a football or a golf ball or a horseshoe. Get creative! Make baseball not baseball and everyone who doesn’t like baseball will love it!
9. Legalize marijuana
I mean, duh.
Matthew Kory is a writer for Baseball Prospectus, Sports On Earth, Forbes, and is the author of the unpublished books “How Dare I: An Unauthorized Autobiography” and “The Best Things in Life Are Stolen Which is Why You Just Paid for This Book.” He unironically lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter because you need another voice shouting at you from the void.