NEW YORK (AP) – Scott Boras loves the World Series so much, he wants to make it best-of-nine – and open with two games at a neutral site.
Arguing that the shift would create a marketing bonanza that would rival the Super Bowl, Boras outlined his ideas in a two-page letter he sent to baseball commissioner Bud Selig on April 15.
“I know from an owner’s perspective, this is a gold mine,” Boras said. “To have a World Series Weekend, WSW, I think it will create a stage that the game has not seen.”
Boras, the high-profile agent with high-profile clients who earn high-octane paychecks, said in an interview Thursday that he will meet with the commissioner after the All-Star break to discuss his proposal. He would open the weekend on a Friday night with a televised gala announcing the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year awards, and have the five top candidates for each in attendance.
Hall of Fame voting would be announced Saturday, with the opener that night and Game 2 on Sunday night. After that, the Series would pick up the 2-3-2 format that’s been used since 1925 (except for 1943 and 1945, when there were wartime travel restrictions). If the scheduled host club for the opener won the pennant, the Series could become a 3-4-2.
Cities would bid far in advance for the right to host the first two games, and baseball would solicit corporate money, trying to create an event similar to the Super Bowl, Final Four and BCS Championship. Figure on hotels with flowing hospitality suites, ballparks surrounded by champagne-and-caviar-filled tents and tarmacs cluttered with private jets.
“Create this buzz around it the same way they do the Super Bowl,” Arizona outfielder Eric Byrnes said. “I think is a very innovative idea.”
At the same time, it would add more tense games to a postseason in which World Series champions already have to pile up 11 wins.
“Nine games? It’s too long,” said New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, the owner of four World Series rings.
Selig, who successfully pushed for the introduction of interleague play, wild-card teams and an extra round of playoffs, declined comment on Boras’ letter.
There already has been one far less radical change to the World Series this year. While it was scheduled for a Saturday start from 1985 through last year, it is slated to begin on a Wednesday in an effort to decrease Saturday night telecasts, which get low television ratings.
The World Series originally was a best-of-nine affair, with the Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 in 1903. The Series switched to best-of-seven for the second edition in 1905 and has remained that way with the exception of 1919, 1920 and 1921, when it again was best-of-nine.
That, of course, was before television. Extra postseason games these days translate to more broadcast revenue.
“I could see how that would possibly be a big draw, a big money maker, something cool and new,” San Francisco Giants player representative Randy Winn said. “But I think a seven-game Series is more than enough to decide who the world champion is.”
Boras is convinced winning the right to stage the first two games would be a windfall for the host club, which would tie access to Series seats to season-ticket plans. Teams currently do that with the All-Star game.
Chicago’s Wrigley Field hasn’t hosted a World Series since 1945. The Series hasn’t been to Washington, D.C., since 1933, and it’s never been hosted by Colorado, Seattle, Tampa Bay or Texas.
“The World Series is something that rarely gets to a number of venues in professional baseball. And that’s one problem because we want the fan base of particular cities to participate in the World Series even though there may be a lull in the particular performance of the regional team,” Boras said.
Imagine World Series Weekend in Las Vegas? Or Hawaii? Maybe even Tokyo?
“Obviously generating revenue is what this is all about anymore, which is sad, but again, you have to find ways to make it work,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “But, yeah, that’s certainly intriguing.”
Given baseball’s traditional conservatism and resistance to change, Boras’ idea likely won’t be adopted anytime soon. But it has gotten some people thinking.
“I’m not a guy that would just want to hold onto the past for the sake of combating change,” said Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten, who had one conversation with Boras about the proposal. “But in this case, I think we have such brand equity in the marketplace established with a seven-game Fall Classic, played in the two home cities. I really like that. For a lot of reasons, I think that neutral sites wouldn’t work the way they do in other sports.”
But if baseball ever does include neutral-site games, businesses would salivate to be involved.
“I think the opportunity to celebrate the ultimate of our national pastime in a neutral location opens up a whole host of opportunities for corporate sponsors,” said Eric Kraus, a sports marketing executive formerly with Gillette and now with Covidien. “Like an All-Star game or like the Super Bowl, you’re bringing in a whole host of fans and corporate partners that you wouldn’t be able to reach.”