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Improving the Fan Experience for 2020

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15 easy steps to keep outraged fans engaged in 2020 and beyond

2019 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

“Oh, baseball. What’s wrong with you?”

This seems to be the question on everybody’s lips. Or, in the digital age, on their fingers.

Nobody wants to talk about what’s great about baseball anymore. Discussions on the sport have essentially become an extension of the nightly news, where controversy and bad feelings have overtaken any of the good things that could be focused upon instead.

By no means am I saying that baseball is not without its warts, because there are certainly some things about it that could use some cleaning up, but there are so many more beautiful things about the game than some people are willing to give it credit for. Part of the problem comes from baseball writers who are tasked with churning out content for a living, and they constantly seek a way to initiate discussion - and what better way to engage fans than by challenging the integrity of the game itself? If the point is to get people talking, it’s actually brilliant to try and convince people that their favorite pastime might actually be lame and worse than it used to be. These writers can remove themselves from the conversation after they throw the grenade, and allow the masses to fight it out among themselves.

But what gets lost in the shuffle is that the game is always changing, and it always recovers.

Some of the issues people are up in arms about comes with the ebb and flow of the game. When the pitcher’s mound was lowered after the 1968 season, people were furious, but they adapted. Same with the institution of the designated hitter in 1973. The same holds true for multiple examples of realignment. People also tend to lose their minds when the topic of expansion comes up, but we all survived when the Toronto Blue Jays became a thing.

With the recent initiative to protect fans by the installation of netting which will run the length of foul territory, some fans seem to feel as though the overall in-game experience is being compromised as well, not just on paper. It’s bad enough for them to watch games with advanced analytics being referenced on the broadcast, or to log into their Twitter accounts or their Facebook groups and see other fans discussing a strange acronymic soup that they cannot understand, but to not even be able to harass grown men for their autographs without having netting in the way? Blasphemy!

So with the help of the esteemed Talking Chop crew, here are 15 simple steps to get the game back on track and give the fans what they really want.

  1. Each team will be required to plant two trees in the field of play. One in the infield, one in the outfield. The home team can decide which type of trees, as well as their exact location, but regardless of which kind they choose the trees cannot be trimmed during the season. For as many fans seem to lament that changes in baseball - ones which take the game further and further from what they fell in love with as a kid - this should restore some of that nostalgia. Who among us didn’t lose a ball in a tree at some point?
  2. Bases will be replaced by whoopee cushions. Umpires seem to struggle with safe vs. out calls, so this will provide a greater sound component than the current bases offer. Added bonus: the whoopee cushions are softer than the bases which are currently in use (as you might expect from a cushion), so this might cut down on injuries. Great marketing opportunity for Whoopi Goldberg here.
  3. The warning track becomes a trampoline. We all love home-run stealing catches, so what better way to inspire more of them than to install a bouncy surface for the final few feet in the field of play? While this will certainly cause an uptick in thrilling plays at the wall, routine fly balls should also become quite the adventure for less-than-surefooted outfielders. Matt Kemp has already appealed this decision.
  4. Player’s Weekend will be replaced by Kriss Kross Weekend. Players can still customize their gear, but all jerseys will be worn backwards, and either “Jump” or “I Missed The Bus” will be the only acceptable walk-up music.
  5. In each ballpark, foul territory will be replaced by water. Starting in the sixth inning, and for every half inning thereafter, a shark will be added into foul territory. It will be at the discretion of the home team what kind of shark is added; if the Kansas City Royals want to use a hammerhead, who are we to tell them no? One thing is for certain, however - for whichever team Gerardo Parra is playing for at the time, they will be baby sharks. Teams will be able to sell tickets to their Shark Aquarium as a revenue-generating venture on off-days, the proceeds of which can either be funneled back into team payroll, or donated to charity if you’re into that kind of thing.
  6. The Goose Rule. A small electric shock is administered to Goose Gossage every time the phrase “launch angle” is spoke on a national baseball broadcast. He will essentially become a lightning bolt by the third game of the season, with enough electricity occupying his body to sustain a sizable village for 16 days.
  7. The Play for a Day Contest. A common refrain of fans who are mad online is that they could have made a play that was botched by a player on their favorite team, or that they could hit off a certain pitcher. Great news - for 79 games out of the season (excluding Opening Day and the final day of the season), one lucky fan will get the chance! This is essentially Braves Fantasy Camp on PEDs, as the player not only gets to dress the part, go through warm-ups, and take batting practice, they will then get the opportunity to play a position of his/her choice for a full-nine innings, and be shown first hand that they are comically under-qualified to play in the big leagues. They will then give a humbling post-game press conference regarding their own misguided inadequacies.
  8. The defense loses one defender for every walk allowed in an inning. Want your pitchers to throw strikes? Take it out on his team. If a pitcher’s control is eluding him, his defense will gradually dwindle until some level of BABIP miracle happens, or until he learns to throw the ball over the plate. This will be a dagger for Rob Manfred’s pace-of-play rules, but the prospect of seeing one team put up 31 runs on a division rival would be enough to put butts in the seats. This will tentatively be known as the Jesse Biddle Rule.
  9. Rain delays become a thing of the past. Football doesn’t stop for most forms of inclement weather, and neither should baseball. Players will be provided with sponsored ponchos and galoshes, and the game will go on. This will be a tremendous marketing opportunity for any company who wants in, but they’ll need to ensure their logo is legible during a monsoon.
  10. Switch ‘em up Sundays. Every Sunday during the regular season, players will have to hit opposite their natural stance (this includes winners of the “Play for a Day” contest in #7). Who wouldn’t want to see if Freddie Freeman could mash as a righty? Switch hitters not be allowed to enter the stadium, and ambidextrous fans will be forced to perform all tasks opposite-handed, including eating and drinking.
  11. The Ejector Seat. Each stadium will have a random seat that gets fitted with an ejector that be detonated each game during the seventh inning stretch, thus hurling one unlucky fan through the air. Parachutes will be provided, but fans are at liberty to bring their own protective gear under the notion that they will be airborne by the tail end of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”
  12. The 0-0 Rule. Either team can reset the score to 0-0 one time before the seventh inning, but they have to use position players to pitch for the rest of the game. This would be a dicey gamble, but it could help to usher in a new generation of two-way players.
  13. Guest PA announcers in the World Series. Braves public address announcer Casey Motter has an iconic voice, and the sport needs more just like him. Once baseball reaches the Fall Classic, all eyes turn to our beloved sport and it should be buoyed by voices that are just as iconic as Motter’s. Therefore, consider this the first initiative for Bobcat Goldthwait, Gilbert Gottfried, Pauly Shore, and Fran Drescher to guest announce the starting lineups come October. I can see the scene unfolding now - a tense moment in the ninth inning in Game 7 of the World Series, and Dick Vitale lightens the mood when he comes over the PA and calls Ronald Acuña, Jr. a diaper dandy, baby!!!!!!
  14. The majority owner and manager of each team take up a 25-man roster spot. Critics have a bigger voice now than ever before, and these malcontents can often be found directing their vitriol at their team’s front office. Consider this new rule a gift to the critics, as they can now divert their criticism away from the decision-making, and instead focus on the athletic ability of each team’s owner and manager. Brian Snitker dropping a sacrifice bunt in a critical situation is the stuff dreams (or nightmares) are made of. This is one area where Gabe Kapler might benefit his team.
  15. Kazoos for everybody. Home field advantage is only as strong as the home team’s fans, and there would be nothing more unnerving than 40,000+ Braves fans self-initiating the Tomahawk Chop with kazoos during a playoff game. It’s deafening when it’s played over the PA system, but the widespread buzzing of kazoos would sound like a swarm of bees. Opposing fans who thought the chop was annoying before will be slowly driven crazy, and they will refrain from ever attending games at SunTrust again, thus securing eternal home field advantage. Screw foam tomahawks. Kazoos forever.

Big thanks to Garrett Spain, Ivan the Great, Dillon Cloud, Shawn Coleman, and of course JDunnah for helping pour some ridiculousness into this obviously farcical set of quick fixes. What preposterous solutions would you like to see instituted this beautifully broken game of ours?