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Some simple proposals to fix baseball

Dec 17, 2009, 12:15 PM EDT

Baseball rule book.jpgWashington Post columnist Thomas Boswell
is a big fan of the new committee tasked with looking at rules changes,
pace of game issues and the like.  In fact, he’s so enthusiastic he
offers a dozen or so of his own suggestions, most of which are aimed at
speeding up the game.  On the whole I like his proposals, but let’s
take them one at a time because lunch isn’t ready just yet:

Changing the rules so a pitcher would have to face at least two batters:
Worst idea first. I’m all for reducing La Russa-style hyper-specialized
bullpen use because it sucks, but I don’t think changing a fairly
fundamental part of the game — the manager’s ability to change
pitchers — is the way to do it. Sometimes it does make sense
to bring in a lefty killer to get that one killer lefty out. It just
doesn’t make sense to do this twice a game, every game.  I think
education and a p.r. initiative is a better bet than a rule change here.

Ban mound visits: Boswell suggests “miking up” the pitcher and
the coaches. That’s kind of silly if you ask me, but there are a lot of
meetings out there. I’d say (a) count a visit from the pitching coach
in the manager-must-change-the-pitcher-if-he-visits-twice rule; and (b)

(note: coach visits are already counted; my bad) find a way to crack down on catcher-pitcher mound meetings.  A football
team doesn’t get extra time outs if the quarterback and the receivers
can’t get on the same page, and pitchers and catchers who can’t get
their stuff together shouldn’t get to stop the game either.

Putting a clock on mid-inning pitching changes: Fine with me.

Canning “God Bless America”: Ditto. I’ll take my daily does of nationalism at the beginning of the ballgame, thank you very much.

Waving the hitter to first on an intentional walk: I’m good with
this too. Other than tradition, I don’t see the utility in making the
pitcher throw four pitches. If we need something ceremonial to signal
an IBB, how about some sort of cap-off bow by the pitcher to the
batter? In addition to it having something of a reverent, Asian-flair,
it might also lead to fewer IBBs on account of pride and ego and

No home field advantage to the All-Star Game winner: Amen, amen
a thousand times amen. I like Boswell’s specific reasoning here too:
the current rule, in addition to being dumb, has the effect of
exacerbating the imbalance between the leagues.

No November games: He’s right about this, but on an abstract
level I do kind of like there being one less baseball-free month on the
calendar. Boswell’s suggestions: no WBC-induced delay, schedule some
more doubleheaders, fewer days off in the postseason all make perfect
sense, and if the La Russa committee doesn’t spit those suggestions out
after their first meeting they’re not worth the conference room in
which they caucus.

Replay: Boswell assumes that there won’t be expanded replay in
the regular season, though we may see it in the postseason. I’d be fine
with this. I’d be much finer with the idea I floated a couple of months
ago: simply station an extra ump in the booth with replay equipment.
Make sure he watches the game closely. Rather than dealing with
challenges and official reviews and everything, simply give him the
booth guy the power to call down to the crew chief when they mess up
something really bad, keeping the discretion in-house with the umpires,
but just giving them another set of eyes.

I’m sure I could go on and on about this stuff. I’m sure you could too. Thoughts, in the comments, are appreciated.

  1. Mark Armour - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    Umm, don’t visits from the pitching coach already count?
    Back in the 1950s, there was an attempt to limit the manager visits to one per inning, regardless of pitching changes. Other than that, you have to wave them in from the dugout.
    One visit per inning from anyone–including the catcher–would help.

  2. JPlum - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    I’m with Mark. I’m 99% sure that visits from the pitching count go towards the total number allowed.
    I think each new pitcher should get one freebie visit from the catcher at any point. After that, count all visits from anyone (coaches or players) the same way.

  3. Funzo - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:34 PM

    All the thousands of pointless IBB pitchouts were worth it for that time Miguel Cabrera swung at one for an RBI single. That was awesome.

  4. InnocentBystander - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:38 PM

    Well that didn’t take long…in less than a month, our old Shyster is officially dead. I never thought we’d see the day where you’d look towards football for a way to “improve” baseball. Sad, sad day. (Sigh.)

  5. Craig Calcaterra - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:39 PM

    Hey, a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.

  6. YankeesfanLen - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:39 PM

    Maybe you can get rid of God Bless America everywhere BUT Yankee Stadium, it signals that it’s time to start hitting.

  7. Randy - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    How about hitters must keep one foot in the box on anything other than a foul ball? That keeps them from taking their 1/4 mile jaunts between every pitch. The penalty is a called strike.
    And I like that the catcher visit counts as a trip to the mound.

  8. Matt - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:59 PM

    What about completely eliminating the batter’s boxes? Nothing to step out of for the batter, pitcher can throw whenever, keep the game moving…is there a hold-up to this that I’d be missing?

  9. jonny5 - Dec 17, 2009 at 12:59 PM

    Waving the hitter to first is a crappy idea Craig. There’s always the chance of a catchers Balk, a wild pitch,or a pitchers balk. This would result in “all runners advancing”, where as only the hitter advances in an intentional walk. There’s also the chance of the hitting the ball as well. Please remove that idea to save yourself that embarassment. Lol!!!

  10. Craig Calcaterra - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    Point taken, jonny5, but I’m not going to remove that, nor do I think it’s an “embarrassment.” How often do those things happen in an IBB? Once a decade? Is they such a big part of the game that eliminating them would be ruinous? Baseball alters rules that change things that are far more fundamental to actual game play than that all the time.

  11. Cyclone - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:05 PM

    High school ball has been inducing speedup rules for coming on two decades now. One of the best ones is that the batter is not allowed to leave the batter’s box unless a) he swings (fair, foul, or strike – doesn’t matter), or b) he is brushed out by a pitch. If one of those two things doesn’t happen, at least one foot must remain in the batter’s box at all times; even when taking signs from the base coach. If I recall my playing days correctly, frequenct violaters were penalized with a strike to the count.
    There were several other rules like that, and whatever they were (my memory fades…) they certainly worked as 7-inning doubleheaders were between 3 and 3.5 hours for the norm. MLB struggles to get in 9 innings in that much time!

  12. Jimmy - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    HATE the All-Star game for home field. One of the dumbest things ever thought up.

  13. TMC - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    Eliminate the straps from batting gloves. I get very tired of watching the batter undo/re-strap 5 times between pitches.

  14. Nate - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    Catcher to the mound should definitely count as a “visit” I don’t know how many times certain teams do this and it just bugs the shit out of me.
    Another one is how much team some players take in between pitches. Ortiz is one of the worst.
    Everyone should just sing “take me out to the ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch.

  15. Jonny5 - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    Point is, why change a perfect game? Since there are many more hitters than pitchers the players wouldn’t want it anyway. It seems the game is being changed for dumb reasons. Such as you not wanting to see 4 balls thrown. Tough, it’s baseball, love it or leave it. This is the equal to the DH. Done because chicks dig the long ball. Or because Pitchers are special, both dumb reasons. I like the other ideas besides the National anthem though. And replays, sometimes they could make the game more fair, people make mistakes….. Even Officials

  16. Chris - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    I agree 100% with Randy and Cyclone. The effing Red Sox and Yankees bring games to a standstill every night by stepping out of the box to adjust their batting gloves after every pitch. If it isn’t a foul ball/brushback/passed ball/wild pitch, then penalize the batter a strike for stepping out. I’d even take it a step further – if the pitcher steps off the rubber more than once, it’s a ball. Get the sign and throw the damn ball. It shouldn’t take 60 seconds between pitches. I also don’t like the idea of getting rid of the four pitches for an IBB. If you don’t want to throw more pitches, make like Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale and drill the batter with the first one (ha).

  17. Mark Armour - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:19 PM

    I would love making a reliever pitch to two batters. Absolutely love it. It would completely eliminate a certain kind of pitcher–a guy like Mike Myers with an absurd platoon split. If you had a guy like Ryan Howard and you had a good right-handed hitter on either side of him, you would rarely be able to bring Myers type to get Howard–the pitcher would have to have some ability to get the righty out or it would not be worth it.
    This would be wonderful.

  18. Mark Mills - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    Biggest problem in majors is time between innings. Too many commercials. Could we require managers visiting the mound to walk a little faster than a turtle? How about a time clock between pitches? If the pitcher doesn’t throw it in time, it’s a ball. If the batter doesn’t get ready, it’s a strike.

  19. Jonny5 - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    That’s a good one. Why do you have to re-velcro your gloves even if you didn’t swing!!! Drives me nuts!!!!

  20. chris - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:23 PM

    By the way, Craig, “Is they such” ain’t such a gud use of yer grammer. :-)

  21. archilochusColubris - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    Hahaha, best suggestion ever.

  22. TMW - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    The most effective and fair way to speed up the game through minimizing pitcher warm up time.
    I think that each team should have one selected inning (they can choose depending on the ease of work in the previous inning) where the starting pitcher reports directly to the bullpen. When the pitcher comes back out for the next inning, 3 warm ups, no commercial break, right back into action. Do this once on each side that’s instantly 4-6 minutes saved on every game.
    And also, if multiple pitching changes. The 3rd pitcher of an inning onward gets 3 warmups. One commercial break possible per mid-half inning.
    This not only speeds up the game, but it’s also a disincentive for managers over-managing with tons of marginally necessary situational relievers.

  23. Skpbp - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:32 PM

    How about going to minor league rules and limit the time in-between innings to 90-100 seconds? That would save approximately 18-20 minutes per game.

  24. TimberLee - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:33 PM

    I like the (first) idea of making pitchers deal with at least two batters. If that means that teams replace a LOOGY on the roster with a pinch runner or a defensive infielder, so much the better, as well as cutting down on visits to the mound.
    I strongly feel that catcher (or any other player) visits to the mound should be eliminated. Let them work out their problems with signals or whatever later on the bench.
    In fact, I think all of these ideas have merit. Well, the only problem with playing games in November is that some teams have no way to deal with the cold. Get a roof, for crying out loud, and use it when you need it.

  25. coolio4433 - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:43 PM

    Just have Brad Radke and Mark Buerhle come in and teach a mandatory clinic for pitchers on how to work fast.
    I remember some barely over 2 hour games when those guys pitched (well).

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