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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
whatnot.

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. Suede - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:49 PM

    Here is how you fix the home field advantage question involving the All-Star game. Simply put, you widen the parameters and make it about more than just that one game. It is fine to include the All-Star game as one of the variables, but there should be two more: the individual records of the two teams that reach the World Series, and the overall record of the respective leagues in Interleague play. Therefore, you have three variables, and the team that earns two of them earns the right to homefield advantage. This helps to make up for a single All-Star game model, and also balances out playing in a weak division resulting in an inflated record.

  2. chris - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:50 PM

    Chris Carpenter, Aaron Cook and Greg Maddux could teach that clinic too.

  3. Jeremy - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    The only reason I don’t agree on the intentional walk rule (which I’ve always thought “seriously? why are you throwing these balls?”) is that something can happen on intentional walks to change the game. This past year a pitcher was lightly tossing a ball to the catcher and over threw it to the backstop, a runner on third could have easily scored. It allows for that random occurrence to still happen. Also a batter might feel that one was left a little too close to the strike zone and take a swing at a soft pitched ball.

  4. RobRob - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    If you want to cut down on the number of pitching changes, simply mandate a maximum of 11 pitchers on the 25-man roster and loosen the rules on transferring them to/from the minors.

    With a closer and five starters, you’d be left with five remaining relievers. Not so few as to handcuff a manager for any single game, but not so many as to give them an excuse to bring in a new pitcher for every left-handed hitter after the fifth inning.

    Loosening the transfer rules would help ensure that pitchers don’t get burned out, but since roster moves can only be made outside of the scope of a game, you’d still be limited in-game.

  5. woody_eh - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    if the games were lower scoring, they would be done sooner. that’s the biggest factor. all the other suggestions are nibbling at the edges of the issue. if the public wants a faster, lower scoring game, raise the mound again, legalize the spitball, and put all the gameballs in a humidor.

  6. Crash521 - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    Another rule change that is necessary. Eliminate the Robocop armor that batters wear. If they are afraid of their elbow getting hit, keep it out of the strike zone. Or, whateve is worn up to the plate must be worn on base – body armor, elbow armor, leg armor. Singing “God Bless America” doesn’t make you a patriot. Vote repsonsibly every danged election if you really want to be a patriot. Make the pitcher throw four pitches for an intentional walk. The pitcher must face one more batter after an intentional walk is issued. Make a team have to pay a price for an IBB (risking unintentionally walking another batter.) NO CLOCKS! Eliminate travel days during the playoffs and make teams use five man staffs, just as they have had to do for the first 162 games. You don’t change the rules for the playoffs. Get rid of the DH for good.

  7. Ted - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    Exactly. All Star games are mostly exhibition games anyway. Play them after the season’s over and let a team’s win/loss record EARN them this advantage. If their is still a gross imbalance between the leagues then rotate home field yearly.
    Now maybe this has already happened, but what if a wild card team sporting a barely above .500 record gets to the Series and has home field advantage over a team that won 100 games? It might be more sporting, but it wouldn’t be right.

  8. tom benedickt - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    I think the current rule is the hitter cannot leave the dirt circle around homeplate. You often see them show the ump a broken bat to go get a new one. Why not keep the pitcher in the dirt circle of the mound? Why not go to your mouth 4 times to intentionally walk a hitter? The replay system definitely needs to have an umpire in the booth to call down, rather than umps leaving the field. Catcher gets 1 trip per inning, or a ball is added to the count. Lose the God Bless song. Fewer days off/doubleheaders to shorten the season would probably require adding a player or 2 to the 25 man roster.

  9. Dasher521 - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:03 PM

    Eliminate the All Star Game for home field advantage. Alternate between leagues. The only exception, the defending World Series Champion, if in the playoffs, gets home field advantage until they are eliminated.

  10. SB - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:14 PM

    How about just getting rid of the IBB altogether, make the pitcher pitch to all the batters.

  11. Jim Kelley - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:15 PM

    SALARY CAPS and REVENUE SHARING are really just such small issues not worth mentioning in the same breath with important things like home field advantage courtesy of the all-star game.
    Let’s not forget other important things like uniform colors and mascot behavior guidelines!

  12. Steve - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:21 PM

    How about more product placement around the ballpark like the old days, and less TV commercials that are holding up the game. Like little league, it shouldn’t take more than 3 mins between innings to get your team on the field, and a few warm up tosses. Also when a new pitcher comes in the game, he should have to immediately start pitching. Didn’t he already get to warm-up in the bull pen? If you’re bringing in a position player to pitch, then too bad, you’re a bad manager for having let your team get to the point of wanting to bring in a position player… as rare as that happens.
    My one odd suggestion would be to randomly let loose some wild animal on the field during gameplay. Or maybe each opposing manager gets one chance a game to press the release button on a cage that lets loose a wild animal. This could disrupt a pitch, swing, or play in the field. Imagine trying to run down a fly ball to deep center, and a grizzly bear comes running from the fence. Sounds like an inside the parker to me.

  13. scatterbrian - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:28 PM

    “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.”
    Baseball doesn’t use a game clock, so this is an irrelevant comparison. And that’s one of the badass things about baseball: no clock.
    With the amount of people wanting to speed up the action–staying in the box, eliminating pitcher/catcher pow-wows, no-pitch IBBs, 90-100 seconds between half innings, etc.–it’s curious why soccer isn’t more popular here.

  14. topcatNYNY - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:28 PM

    Here are my views:
    Limit mound visits by catchers to one for every three batters.
    Do not ban God Bless America – crowd loves it – it makes Baseball american as Apple Pie and what does it really take, two minutes.
    I love the idea of just sending the runner to first on intential walks.
    I actually love the idea about home field advantage at the World Series to the winner of the All Star game. It has actually made the all star game watchable – but get rid of the HR derby.
    No November games???? I have problems with 3 1/2 hour games, not a 7 month season. But realistically, it’s too cold to play in November – it degragates players skills.
    Regarding replays, I like the booth idea as long as it is not a 5 minute endevour everytime.

  15. topcatNYNY - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:29 PM

    Here are my views:
    Limit mound visits by catchers to one for every three batters.
    Do not ban God Bless America – crowd loves it – it makes Baseball american as Apple Pie and what does it really take, two minutes.
    I love the idea of just sending the runner to first on intential walks.
    I actually love the idea about home field advantage at the World Series to the winner of the All Star game. It has actually made the all star game watchable – but get rid of the HR derby.
    No November games???? I have problems with 3 1/2 hour games, not a 7 month season. But realistically, it’s too cold to play in November – it degragates players skills.
    Regarding replays, I like the booth idea as long as it is not a 5 minute endevour everytime.

  16. Joe - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:34 PM

    How about enforcing the strike zone. It sometimes seems to me that the strike zone is between the catcher’s knees and his chest. This will really speed up the game, fewer pitches, fewer pitching changes, and so on.

  17. Briggem Cultus - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:36 PM

    How about recruiting more American players? The game is overwhelmed now with Caribbean and South American players. By signing way more college players, the game would build up a bigger fan base by connecting the pro game with the college game, much like football. And even though it is politically incorrect to say so, who cares who wins anymore when so many position players on either team come from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico? Watching MLB has become like watching an all star game from Venuezuela. And this isn’t about race, its about outsourcing our sports entertainment.

  18. Earl E. - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:37 PM

    Why worry about the speed of the game, IF you don’t have the time to go watch the game, stay at work or home and leave the game alone. It has done well for longer than any of us have been around and it will continue to flourish if we leave it alone

  19. Old Gator - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    I am not going to waste my brilliant solutions to everything wrong with baseball on the 45th position on this thread. I think, rather, that I’ll just hang around down here and see if I can cadge a beer or two.

  20. Think Blue - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:48 PM

    These are all horrible ideas. The game pace is fine. We don’t need you ADD jackasses changing the good aspects of the game. Don’t compare baseball to football. There is a reason why they are seperate sports. Just watch AL games only and shut your mouth.

  21. schriendog - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    Shorten the season by every team playing twelve doubleheaders — preferably within the division.

  22. Ladyfan - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:51 PM

    Though I doubt that ANY attempt at all will EVER be made to shorten the time of baseball games, though I heartily wish it would. That being said, there are other ways to “fix” baseball besides shortening the length of the games. How about banning the use (and the constant spitting of) tobacco outside the dugout? In fact, how about banning spitting altogether, outside of the dugout? Can any of you men tell me exactly WHAT all that spitting accomplishes, except to remind every female fan that she’s so glad she did not marry a baseball player? Then there’s the All Star game. Why? Serves no purpose whatsoever. If you want to give the players a break, give them a three day break to get trading accomplished. Why play a game where players are likely to get injured and change the course of the season? And I definitely agree that the winner of the All Star game should NOT determine the home field advantage of the series. THAT should go to the league whose World Series team has won the most games during the REGULAR season. And please please PLEASE do NOT play that silly World Classic thing before the regular season. How many more players have to get injured or ruined before baseball sees the folly of this? As for the constant fastening and unfastening of gloves, how about banning gloves? I come from a generation where baseball players did not go into the batters box armed like gladiators. Yes, batting helmets are absolutely necessary, and PERHAPS one elbow pad, but that’s it. Are today’s players men, or mice? Oh and I left out one more VERY important thing . . . .could we please please PLEASE stop having interleague play? don’t you all get sick of playing the teams in your own division eighteen times? wouldn’t you rather play some of the other really fine teams in our own league, than play meaningless games against another league? I’m seriously asking . . . does anyone else out think interleague is completely ridiculous?

  23. Think Blue - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:52 PM

    Amen brother.

  24. jimgentile46 - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:52 PM

    I like this idea. The all-star game is an exhibition to allow the fans to reward their favorite(and hopefully deserving) players some accolades. It was never supposed to decide home-field advantage for the most important, and last, game of the season: the 7th game of the World Series.

  25. Think Blue - Dec 17, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    Hi Lady fan, you just wrote the stupidest comment I have read in a long time. “Ban chewing tobacco from the dugout.” How about we ban you from bringing your purse to the game. Get outta here. I bet your happy you did not marry a baseball player. I could only imagine how mad you would be with spit on your $4 million dollar lawn. Get out of here.

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