The plague of horrible baseball teams has me thinking that the sport formerly known as the national pastime should try relegation.
That's the British soccer custom of banishing teams that finish last to the minor leagues.
Baseball is on pace to break the record for the number of 100-loss teams. The Cubs and Astros won championships after blowing up their teams and rebuilding with young talent, suffering 100-loss seasons along the way. Now that's become the model. (Also in the NBA, alas.)
With strikeouts outpacing hits, the level of play has declined throughout the majors. Almost every night, some pitcher records more than 10 strikeouts.
There's still wonderful players like Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and so on, and teams that play at a high level. The game has an encouraging infusion of young talent, as the NFL seems aging and desperate for fresh stars.
But baseball's race to the bottom has grown crowded. Too many teams are building for an illusive future that might never arrive.
The woeful White Sox, Marlins, Reds, Orioles and Rays don't deserve big league status.
Forget relegation. I'd like to see the number of teams reduced forever, and for the game to return to the former system of separate leagues that never play each other in the regular season. I'd also like to see the number of playoffs rounds reduced, if not eliminated altogether.
The game's ills are apparent. The games are too long. Too many relief pitchers. Not enough balls put in play. The shift.
I was watching the ESPN game of the week Sunday night. The Nats used a relief pitcher to get two hitters out, and then another reliever came in. Five minutes of commercials ensued. Including the break for the first reliever, that made for about 2 minutes of action and 20 minutes of commercials.
Admittedly, the commercials were more interesting than Jessica Mendoza and Alex Rodriquez's commentary. But I digress.
Even the game's traditionalists are ready for change. The other day, former Twins ace Jim Kaat came out for seven-inning games.
Guess that would bring about the fifth-inning stretch.
There are other suggestions. Placing a player on second base in extra innings. Limiting the number of relievers. Different ideas involving a clock. Eliminating the shift.
Last year's exciting World Series between the Astros and the Dodgers, preceded by the excitement of the Cubs winning the championship for the first time since 1908, gave baseball a national boost.
But the sport is not building on those gains. The meager reforms of letting the batter go immediately to first base on intentional walks and limiting mound visits have had little effect on speeding up games, which are now multi-hour marathons.
Would anyone miss the Rays, the Marlins, or even the Twins, Royals, Pirates and Rockies, except for the fans in their cities?
If getting rid of some of those teams is too drastic, a relegation system could be set up, with two major leagues of 8 or 10 teams, with those finishing at the bottom relegated to a new super minor league. The best minor league teams would rotate back into the majors for the next season.