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COLUMN

World Series great, but game needs tweaking

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For more sports commentary, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1.

Instant replay, earlier starts would boost baseball's appeal

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 6:40 am

The World Series starts tonight, I'm pumped that my Detroit Tigers are playing and I know exactly what this makes me: an old guy.

I'm OK with that. You're not required to like watching Justin Verlander befuddle batters and gain velocity on his darting fastball as the game goes on. You don't have to savor the middle of the Tigers' lineup of power in Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young. You whippersnappers can just go back to your Xboxes and fantasy football trades. And get off my lawn!

A love for baseball is an old guy's love.

It doesn't have to be that way. The Tigers vs. the San Francisco Giants has a classic feel to it with two relatively storied franchises and passionate in-stadium fan bases. The Giants' playoff run, full of comebacks, is the kind of story unaffiliated fans love.

Yet the World Series might still get beaten in the ratings Thursday night by Buccaneers vs. Vikings, which is not a playoff preview of any sort.

So how could baseball fix it so that that the World Series, at least, would have a broader appeal than just us old guys? I don't know that it can be fixed. Today's climate is cluttered with choices and faster-moving games than baseball. The attention span of today's sports fans is vastly different than it was even 10 years ago. Back then, they watched games without Twitter commentary. I know. Unbelievable, right?

So there's no going back to the good ol' days.

But baseball and the World Series could be improved with a few tweaks.

Here are the ones I'd like to see:

* Earlier starting times. Advertising revenues are the reason broadcasting networks demand the late starting times. But I'm not smart enough to understand how it's helpful, and who's still paying attention to the Geico ads, when games end on weeknights between 11:30 and midnight.

The Tigers vs. Yankees' opening ALCS game, which Jose Valverde nearly blew before being placed in the witness protection program, ended about 1:30 a.m. Eastern time. The potential next generation of fans – 8- to 12-year-olds with Cheetos-stained hands – had fallen asleep on the couch three hours earlier.

Give us a 7 p.m. start and some weekday games. The NFL seems to do OK with its 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. starts. Even the Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m. Give us a World Series game with the sun shining. That's how baseball should be played. Every game in this year's World Series starts at 8 p.m.

* Instant replay. Use it. You're not going to drag the game out any longer by using instant replay on plays that can be reviewed, such as the missed call at second base that actually benefited my Tigers.

If you put instant replay into play, as it is with the NFL, baseball could replace the manager yelling at an umpire with the manager signaling for a video review. Limit it to a couple per game, and not balls or strikes of course. Why would baseball waste technology that could improve the game, other than stubbornness?

* Finish the season sooner. Why compete with the NFL in October? Why have home games in late October featuring 40-degree weather and the possibility of snow?

There are two ways to accomplish this: Start the season earlier, dealing with some of the cold days on the front end, or change the regular season back to 154 games. The shorter season would hurt teams from milking fans of four home games, so this won't happen. We're really talking about giving up four home games. One possible savings to make up for it: Stop agreeing to player salaries that make Donald Trump envious.

If 154 games were good enough for Babe Ruth, they could be good enough for Fielder, the modern-day Sultan of Swat. Doubt players would complain about more rest.

We're closing in on halfway through the NFL season. Baseball should be over by now.

* Fix the designated hitter rule. I realize this one isn't bothering the youngsters too much when deciding whether to watch baseball or Snooki, but it's just plain dumb to have two rules for one sport. I'm fine with changing it either way, but a sport that has different games with its own league is more than behind the times.

As a fan of an American League team, I'm not fond of giving up a hitting spot for pitchers who have swung only a few times all summer. (Unless Verlander hits a homer.)

* Limit players to one, um, adjustment per at-bat. And tell pitchers to get on the mound and throw it. There's no clock in baseball, but slow pace puts everyone to sleep. If it's already 11:30 p.m. in the seventh inning, they don't need the extra help.

Baseball may not be the national pastime anymore. But the fun part of the sport (great pitching, great hitting, chess-match strategy, an inability to run out the clock or play prevent defense) hasn't changed.

Tigers vs. Giants has the potential to be a fun series. I can't wait to watch it. Baseball could be better at selling its sport. But for those of us who care, the World Series never gets old.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.