So it's come to this, has it? Concerned it's not getting a big enough piece of the television ratings pie, or the attendance pie, or the social media pie, Major League Baseball is considering its biggest gimmick grab since the advent of the designated hitter.
According to an ESPN story this week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is considering reworking the playoffs to include more teams, and thus more games, and an idea straight out of "The Bachelor" reality TV show regarding the pairings in those first-round games.
According to the story, after the top team in each league earns a bye, the three opening-round series would be determined by the top three seeds, in order, picking which team they'd like to play from the bottom three seeds.
In other words, the second seed would have its pick of seeds five, six or seven, then the third seed the remaining two.
Of course, unlike "The Bachelor" — in which a male contestant picks whom he'd like to get to know better from a pool of women, whittling the group down one by one — the baseball version has you picking the team you think will be easiest to dispose of in a three-game series.
Sure, it will make for 30 or so minutes of riveting TV on the final night of a 162-game regular season. The audience will immediately know which team the higher seed disrespects the most. The teams chosen also will have an immediate emotional urge to prove the higher seed wrong.
Ah, the testosterone that could produce. You could almost have pro wrestlers conduct the first pregame show of each series. If the Atlanta Braves, say, were selected to be the whipping boy of the Milwaukee Brewers, Ric Flair could emerge from his Lawrenceville, Georgia, estate long enough to visit the Braves' locker room, flex his muscles and scream: "We're every woman's dream and every baseball team's nightmare _ Woooooo!"
Maybe, just to cheapen it all a little more, muckraking giant TMZ could conduct the pairings show. Maybe Snoop Dogg could serve as emcee.
To be fair, it's been said that Manfred has been trying to find a format that would draw in the twenty-something crowd. And, yes, at some point in the future, all those older folks out there in middle America who rock away their summer nights watching the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs and Reds are going to die off.
Here's an idea: Put a tracking app on an iPhone. Every millennial that the app can verify watched every playoff game start to finish or bought a playoff ticket for his or her team's postseason games gets the iPhone 19 — or whatever it will be by the time this idea reportedly could take hold in 2022 — for $50.
Oh, and if they're at the park, no staring at the phones. Phones are off, all the better support for the concession stands.
Or here's a different idea. Shorten the schedule to 154, which is what it was for four decades before the 162-game season arrived in the 1960s. Break both the American and National leagues into two divisions. The division winners get first-round byes. The four remaining teams in each league — the two second-place finishers and two wild-card teams based on best records — play best-of-three series to reach the divisional round.
Also, make the designated hitter a rule for both leagues or neither. Choose the World Series home field either by alternating from year to year between the two leagues or by which team is determined to be the overall top seed, regardless of league.
Finally, if no West Coast team is in the Series, start the games at 7:30 Eastern time. That will encourage parents to allow their children to watch rather than sending them to bed in the sixth inning. Just for fun, because there was nothing better in my youth than being allowed to watch a World Series game at school, schedule one Fall Classic game each year for early afternoon on a weekday.
But assuming all of this is going to happen as Manfred has theoretically envisioned it, let's carry the team-picking-its-opponent-idea to the extreme. Let's let the fans pick the foe. Each team selects through a contest or season-ticket list 50,000 of its own fans to vote on the team they'd most want to play. The fans are selected weeks in advance. On the day the regular season ends, they have two hours to vote online.
That way, no one can fire the manager for picking the wrong opponent. It's all on the fans. Can you get more reality TV than that? Woooooooo!
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.