It’s official, the World Series of Major League Baseball is upon us. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Mets on the back of a Yadier Molina home run to face the Detroit Tigers to decide the World Champions of baseball. Sounds a bit funny doesn’t that? “World Champions” of a sports league that involves all of two nations, one of which features just one team. We’ll get back to that in a moment.
Has anyone noticed that this has perhaps been one of the least exciting baseball post seasons in a long time? What story lines have there been to follow? A-Rod and the Yankees flamed out early. The National league was downright boring, not to mention mediocre. The only halfway interesting element on the senior circuit has been saying just how far the Mets can get with a one-man rotation. The answer is game seven of the NLCS, but of course that is contingent upon facing such lifeless teams as the 88-win Dodgers and before mentioned 83-win Cardinals.
The story line from the junior circuit has featured a surprise team from the central division that dominated early in the season only to fade out at the end and be left for dead at the playoffs. This team would then ride their starting rotation through the postseason dominating along the way. Oh yeah, this team has not reached the World Series in quite some time previously. Now that story is new and original.
Well, that is if this was still 2005 and the team was the Chicago White Sox. But instead it is 2006 and it is the Detroit Tigers and I cannot feel any more that we have “been there, done that.” Besides the White Sox had not appeared in The Series since 1959 and tasted victory since before the Black Sox Scandal in 1917. Detroit on the other hand has appeared in and won a World Series just 22 years ago in 1984. Real interesting...
So what does the lack of excitement in the current post season have to do with the World Series not exactly being global? Well, there is a way to ensure an exciting an exciting postseason, expand the World Series around the globe and fix a few other current problems with baseball. What is this amazing plan?
A Real World Series featuring the Major League Baseball Champion and the Nippon Professional Baseball Champion.
Think about it. First this would be amazing to the owners as they would have a great conduit to spread the game, and their teams, even further around the globe. The television rights would be amazing, and which owner would not like the chance of another round of playoffs to put more fans in their seats? Economically this makes great sense.
This is great for the players. The World Baseball Classic was a failure and will always be a failure. The number one reason will be that professional athletes will never try their hardest. Their goal is not to win the World Baseball Classic, but to win the World Series. Crappy rules like a five inning limit on pitchers is the perfect example. There is nothing at stake in the World Baseball Classic. However, the Real World Series would be a series worth playing for. It will occur at the end of the season, when injury is less of a concern since there is not an entire season to worry about ahead. Besides, this will be the goal of every team. Players will play hard.
This is even better for the fans. The World Baseball Classic was not the highest rated event. Most fans just don’t care about, often for the same reasons the players don’t. Fans like following real teams, not all-star teams, there is an exception for Yankee fans of course.
The old time baseball fans will have renewed excitement as well. Back before free agency and inter-league play, players in different leagues rarely played each other, except for special occasions such as the All-Star Game and the World Series. It was rare for a players to change leagues. This is no longer the case. Players change leagues all the time. They face each other in inter-league play. There is no longer any excitement when teams face in the World Series or during the All-Star Game. We’ve seen these match-ups before. The Subway Series in 2000 was no where near as exciting as it could have been had the Yankees and Mets not faced each other regularly since 1997 in inter-league play.
With a World Series involving Japanese teams, we could go back to these rare moments and special match-ups. There would be no international league play to water down the match-ups in the new Real World Series. Teams will face each other that never have before. It could be fifty years from now and we could still have new match-ups.
As exciting as this will be for American fans, this would be even better for Japanese fans. Right now they are seeing all of their best players jump the Pacific and defect to the major leagues. While this has been exciting at first, watching players such as Hideo Nomo, Ichiro and Hideki Matsui succeed over in America. It will soon get depressing as they watch a long line of their favorite players leave for more money and greater challenge in the United States.
The Real World Series will put Japanese teams on an equal footing as American when it comes to respect. One from each league play for the championship. At first American teams may dominate, though of course you never know, but soon Japanese teams should improve due to increased competition and should win their fair share of games and series. No longer will players defect to the majors for greater competition. Instead they will stay in Japan and work to kick the ass of American teams.
You may ask why the Real World Series is still being limited to just two leagues in basically two nations. At this point and time it makes no sense either economically nor competitively to include other leagues. First, you would need to expand to more than just one series. That adds a ton more games. Second, other leagues around the world just don’t have the economics to support including them in the series. Now do the have the competition. Yes, an all-star team from Cuba or the Dominican Republic can beet an all-star team from the U.S. However, do they have enough talent to fill out an entire league where one team would need to compete against a Major League team when it counted? Not when their best talent is already in the major leagues and in no way do they have the money to keep their own players, unlike the Japanese league. Besides, a World Series featuring Japan and the United States is still better than just the U.S.
The logistics would not be too hard to work out. We already have a best-of-five “All-Star Series” feature major league stars against their Japanese counterparts. Just switch this for a Real World Series. Use a best-of-seven series, split the the location by 2-3-2 with two days of rest between location changes. Devise some way to figure out who gets home field advantage. There is nothing wrong with alternating it. Teams get to keep the stadium revenue, while the leagues get the broadcast revenue.
Now here is the real kicker. We keep the playoffs as is. Keep the division series, keep the league championships and keep what will now be either the American Series or the Major League Series, or pick a better name. The change comes in the regular season. Go back to the 154 game schedule of old. Players get tired over the course of a season, especially pitchers. We don’t need to add another seven games and watch pitching arms literally fall off. Instead we take those games from the regular season that is already a marathon. No one will miss those eight games if replaced by an amazing seven games of International intrigue.
There is a wonderful side effect to the 154 game schedule. Remember all those debates about whether we should asterisk the single season records of potential steroid users? Well, now there is no need. All records revert back to the 154 games records of pre-1961 seasons. Babe Ruth gets back his single season home run record. Ford Frick would be happy. Yes, legitimate records have been set in that time period, and they would still exist for the 162 game schedule. It is just that from now on we basically get to work with a clean slate. It is just up to Major League Baseball to keep that record clean and free of steroids.
The Real World Series between the Champion from Major League Baseball and the Champion from the Nippon Professional Baseball Champion would be a win-win situation for all parties involved. It is great for the owners, the players, the fans and most importantly the sport. If you have not been convinced yet, there is one more argument to be made for the Real World Series. Imagine the Yomiuri Giants facing off against the New York Yankees in a best-of-seven spanning the International Date Line.