Welcome to Snyder’s Soapbox! Here I will pontificate about a matter related to Major League Baseball. Some of the topics I hit in the coming weeks will be pressing matters, some might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things and most will be somewhere in between. The good thing about this website is it’s free and you are allowed to click away. If you stay, you’ll get smarter, though, that’s a money-back guarantee. Let’s get to it.
This isn’t a topic I planned on tackling when the offseason started, but thanks to MLB’s most famous agent, Scott Boras, it’s worth a quick discussion: A neutral-site World Series is an utterly absurd idea and one of the absolute worst playoff ideas I’ve ever heard.
While holding court during the General Manager Meetings earlier this month, Boras stated his desire for a neutral-site World Series (via Bob Nightengale). I actually agree with Boras quite often and think there’s far too much disdain in his direction from fans at large, but this was a giant miss.
The reason I hadn’t planned on covering this topic is I didn’t think any serious person actually believed this could work in Major League Baseball (or the NBA, or NHL or basically any sport that uses series in the playoffs).
I’m frankly surprised Boras has been infected with football brain, as that’s one of the leading causes of bad ideas in non-football sports here in America. One would think the most high-powered baseball agent would be able to avoid such a malady. Alas, he apparently caught it.
On this subject, the “hey, let’s put the World Series at a neutral site” idea, we can trace it all back to one event: The Super Bowl.
Hey, I get it. I love the NFL and, obviously, the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday isn’t too far off a national holiday at this point. Super Bowl parties are an American tradition at this point and all kinds of fun. I understand the natural inclination to feel some “hey, if only our sport had that” vibes.
The other possible pro for Boras’ idea would be attempting to control the weather by choosing a warm-weather site and/or a place with a retractable roof. I’ve certainly sat through some miserable World Series weather before (looking at you, Detroit in 2012).
For the most part, though, the weather really hasn’t been an issue for years in the World Series. Even the 2016 World Series, which took place on two different Great Lakes in late Oct./early Nov. wasn’t bad. A rainout delayed everything by one day in 2022, but that wasn’t a big deal.
Where I think Boras really misses the mark here is filling the ballpark, especially filling it with the types of fans that make it a fun event. The World Series can go seven games over the course of nine days. Whereas the Super Bowl is just one game on a single day, filling something like 45,000 seats seven times over nine days in one city — that might be quite far away from the two teams’ regions — is far too tall an order compared to just letting the teams play at home.
As things stand, there is currently no problem with the home teams filling their ballparks for the World Series. There hasn’t been an issue with it for a long, long time.
Not only that, but one of the biggest complaints I’d have with the Super Bowl is the inability for average fans to attend to watch their favorite team. The World Series still has enough demand that the prices are very high, but at least hometown fans don’t have to tack on flight and lodging costs when thinking about outlaying so much cash for a ticket. Personally, one of my favorite things about being around the World Series fans each year is seeing how excited the locals are to host the Fall Classic. Why would we take that away in favor of sterilizing the event into a neutral-site bout? Speaking of, a ballpark full of home fans for the World Series is a thing of beauty. To witness the excitement in person is breathtaking and taking that away from the home fans is a nonstarter for me.
Fortunately, I don’t think this idea will become realistic at any point in the near future. It’s hard to see owners giving up the chance to have four World Series gates at home while the players surely would rather get the chance to play World Series home games. I remember hearing a certain big-time pitcher discussing in the clubhouse the most raucous crowds he’s ever seen in the playoffs and I just can’t imagine wanting to change that in favor of a neutral site with competing fan bases — and the stuffy corporate crowd that comes with neutral sites in championship games.
The biggest point remains the seven games in nine days thing, though. It’s easy to envision selling out a neutral site with a zealous crowd for Game 1 on a Friday night and even Game 2 on Saturday. What about Game 3 on Monday, though? What if the series is three games to none heading to a Tuesday for Game 4? Is that crowd going to be amazing? Let’s picture Game 5 this season. Let’s say the Rangers took a 3-1 lead into a Wednesday night in Miami. Are we sure that thing would’ve been filled with Rangers fans?
I’m just not seeing this one, Scott. Keep the World Series as it is. A neutral-site World Series would be terrible by comparison.