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Stuck in Its Ways: An Exploration of Baseball in 2015

I’ve been a huge baseball fan all my life. It was the first sport I started to play seriously, after the Yankees of the late 90s and early 00s inspired me. Watching those Yankee teams was so much fun for me as a child, and I now wonder why I’ve lost touch with the sport I used to love so much.

And no, it’s not because the Yankees haven't been making the playoffs, or that the “Core Four” have all retired. It has to do with the game itself. There’s something just lackluster about it to me now. My primary sport today is basketball because it is so high paced, flashy and dazzling. Those are three things that certainly do not describe baseball.

While I’m glad to see the MLB address the timing issue of games, trying to limit the amount of time players can waste kicking dirt or glove checking, I feel there are more changes they can make to help the game become more exciting.

Fundamentally, I think baseball has to come to grips with some of its unwritten rules and habits, and confront the fact that they are holding the game back in the modern era. From the DH and inter-league play to pitching rotations and roster sizes, the MLB has a lot to consider.

Two things I want to look at here were roster and pitching rotation of a team’s size. The Mets announced this year that they were moving to a six-man rotation (as opposed to the usual five-man rotation) because they had a plethora of young starters and they wanted to keep them all healthy.

It's from there that I started to wonder: Why don’t more teams move to a larger rotation?

Okay, yes, the simple answer is that they can’t afford to because they only have twenty-five roster spots. And after filling out the line-up, starting five, and the bullpen, there’s only three or four spots leftover. Usually those are reserved for an extra arm in the bullpen and several back up position players.

So why is the roster capped at twenty-five? Where does that number come from? Why is it only at the very end of the season that teams get to expand to forty man rosters? Why not have a thirty-man roster and call it a done deal?

One major part of keeping baseball’s excitement up is having their stars on the field. It’s no secret that superstar pitchers have been dropping like flies over the past five years, many requiring Tommy John surgery. Obviously pitchers can actually come back from this injury to their elbow because of the surgery, but for the game, missing a star for a minimum of a year is terrible. Not to mention extremely troubling for a franchise, such as the Mets, who cannot afford to lose all their young arms for extended periods of time.

Believe it or not, I’m pulling for the Mets. I want them to succeed and succeed with the six-man rotation. And while some research has shown that increasing the size of the rotation doesn’t lead to more wins, it certainly helps keep players healthy. Remember when the Nationals tried putting an innings limit on Steven Strasburg to keep him healthy? (...and when he still got hurt?) Healthy pitchers are a key part of baseball’s success and the six man rotation could ensure that. If this really is the "Era of the Pitcher", then why would we not try and keep it going as long as possible?

In my opinion, the rest will follow. As soon as pitchers adjust to having more time off between starts, they won’t be so “rusty” the next time out. And while there could be concerns about diluting talent and skill levels simply to fill out all six spots, I have two counterpoints.

One, aren’t rotations already spread thin? I mean it’s almost impossible to find a team that has really good pitchers, one through five. Usually it’s one or two aces, with a few guys that are just playing well. So will it really be that bad adding one more guy? Maybe the others will have more efficient outings if the workload is spread out just that much more. That could be the difference for a team in the playoffs.

Two, are we thinking about this all wrong? Who says that you need a starter to pitch seven innings? Should we have multiple "closers" or even a bullpen full of them? Who says 100 pitches is a bad number? Are we just accepting these habits because they used to make sense back in the past? The day someone approaches this problem free of all the unwritten rules and archaic baseball traditions and culture, will be the day that the game takes the leap into 21st Century.

So what are my aspirations for baseball? I would like to see what a bigger roster does for the MLB. That, along with the changes they have been making concerning game length. These adjustments would help action become more consistent through the game, not just in the bottom of the ninth. Then baseball can thrive in the era of flat-screen TVs and short-attention span Millennials.

There is definitely excitement to be found in better pitching, and from more strike-outs (the “flashy” part of pitching) to aces who truly dominate games. Enlarging the roster size and keeping start pitchers healthy can open up the floodgates for the MLB and usher in a new style of play that competes with basketball and football for exciting plays and social media shares.

Baseball needs to capitalize on its excitement and its stars. Maintaining a healthy league, and hopefully putting the steroid era behind them, baseball can simply focus on making the game more appealing to younger generations. Not the mention diversify the players that actually have access to baseball at a young age.

So I know I didn’t leave you with concrete answers, and probably more questions than you started with, but I wanted to push you to do some thinking as well. I want to see larger rosters for the MLB and therefore larger starting rotations. What changes would you make to the MLB and its unwritten rules? How does your own perspective help you to revolutionize the game?

If you have ideas, either concerning the six-man rotation or concerning baseball and it’s culture, I ask that you send them to me using our comments section! Please, anything you got, I’ll deeply appreciate! And who knows, maybe they’ll make it on the site if they’re thought provoking enough!

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