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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. William - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    I am all for the make the pitcher face at least 2 batters rule. I hate the constant mound visits and the super specialized nonsense that goes on in the game now. You should be able to get people out from both sides of the plate. If you can’t than you are not good enough to be playing the game. The same goes for hitters and this nonsense about not being able to hit a lefty pitcher or righty pitcher. Learn or go work a real job. All sports are mental but to me it appears that baseball is more so.

  2. REF - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:08 PM

    Award the batter two bases on a walk unless there is at least one strike.

  3. Ladyfan - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:12 PM

    I said “outside the dugout”, which you would know if you had actually read my comments. As in, “on the field”, “while at bat”, “while playing in the field”, etc. If I had said “IN the dugout”, THAT might have been considered a “stupid” comment, but perhaps the only “stupid” one here is the one who can’t read?

  4. Ladyfan - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:16 PM

    and . . actually Blue, now that I’ve heard from you, I do realize that marrying a baseball player might NOT be the worst mistake I could make . . . and I bet your wife would agree with me.

  5. mike - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:25 PM

    There isn’t a baseball fan anywhere on this thread ! ! ! I go to the games to relax whether the game takes 2 1/2 hours or 4 1/2 hours. You all want to speed up the gaem! Why? So you can rush out to the car, rush home and then sit down??? lol gawd . . .

  6. Brian - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    Employ technology to make the game more fair. This is not rocket science. Technology is being used in other sports to make calls more objective, and improves the game for everyone. Look no further than tennis, where at Wimboldon sideline calls have been determined by Cyclops for over a decade. More recently, players can appeal a line call with an instant replay on the scoreboard, where the technology shows exactly where the ball landed. The result: fair calls and no John McEnroesque explosions. If baseball used this same technology, the egregiously bad line call in this past season’s Twins-Yankees playoff could have been avoided.
    RFID tags are common today in retail and industrial applications. Why could this inexpensive technology not be embedded in baseballs, shoes, bases and even gloves? This way, a close call at home or first base could instantly tell if the runner’s foot got on base before a ball touched the player or landed in a defensive player’s glove? And if television networks can accurately display whether a ball was indeed in the strike zone for balls and strikes, why can’t this be employed? The truth is, it CAN.
    I don’t envy the job of an umpire. Looking at replays, I have been wrong on a call more times than I can imagine. So why no utilize replays more? Why not use sensor technology to make the game more fair and help umpires do their job? It’s high time that the game of baseball entered the 20th century, not to mention the 21st. If we do, we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. And baseball will be a better game for it.

  7. MikeJ - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    Craig: I agree with all of your rule changes except for two:
    1) If a batter could be just waved to first base we would miss those situations where a pitcher can’t make a good pitch out of the strike zone and throws it away; and more importantly, we would have missed the play in the 1972 World Series where manager Dick Williams, catcher Gene Tenace and pitcher Blue Moon Odom (I think)pretended to act as if they were going to pass Johnney Bench on a 3-2 pitch with men on and snuck in the third strike.
    2) Only a dedicated communist pinko or scurvy terrorist would ban Kate Smith from Yankee Stadium.

  8. John in NW PA - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:41 PM

    We worry about the speed of the game because we want to see baseball. The game is slow because of all the non baseball “stuff”. Visits to the mound, adjusting gloves, God Bless America and all the rest of the ideas presented here are not baseball. Get rid of them so we can watch a game in a reasonable amount of time, not a bunch of stuff that is not the game being played.

  9. Jonathan in MA - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    I support a more radical idea: Intentional walks should = two bases. If the umpire feels a pitcher was attempting to put a batter on base intentionally, the batter is awarded 2nd. Any batters on 1st or 2nd advance accordingly.
    My suggestion doesn’t kill the IBB, but it will diminish it greatly, especially if there are men on base or if the game is tight in the later innings.
    The best part of baseball is your best pitcher facing my best batter: may the best man win.

  10. JOHNNY - Dec 17, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    Soccer isn’t popular here for two main reasons. No season of it’s own. And low scoring. Thats why we have homeruns in baseball and dunks in basketball. People who know soccer can admire a great play that may not lead to a score. But if they had their own season they would draw more. I say lose the AllStar game altogether. It’s just a commercial money maker now and not an all star game. Home run derby, baloney. Lose it all. Stay in the box and hit the damned ball. why do you need to have signals for the lead off batter. Duh…hit the ball, get on base. Forget the gloves. Ala Garciaparra(sp). Every pitch… good God son, hit the ball. Two visits to the mound even if it is an infielder. PLAY BALL DAMNIT.

  11. dennymah - Dec 17, 2009 at 4:03 PM

    Allow teams only 1 IBB per game per hitter. That would make them think at
    certain times early in the game if they should give a hitter an IBB or take a chance
    and wait

  12. Jonny5 - Dec 17, 2009 at 4:08 PM

    Amen brother!!! Not to mention accidental Balks by pitcher or catcher. That advances all runners, not just the batter.

  13. Mike - Dec 17, 2009 at 4:20 PM

    Pace-of-game changes are good. What’s REALLY needed is to fix the revenue imbalance that allows some teams to stock all-star caliber players even as back-ups, while other teams have to make due with just one or two MLB-caliber players in their EVERYDAY lineup. Fix the revenue! Then baseball will be competitive again.

  14. KingWeazle - Dec 17, 2009 at 4:35 PM

    The reason the games are too long ; 1: strike zone is too small, leads to too many pitches. 2: God Bless America please stand please sing 5 waisted minutes go home and sing. 3: New inning cannot commence until the Ump gets the ok from the TV booth that the 5minutes of commercials is over 4: Hot dog races, and other games in between innings I hate you Bill Veeck!!! 5: Last but not least too many athletes and not enough BASEBALL PLAYERS, it is like watching a softball game all the bonehead throws and running mistakes, their bad play drags the game on.Get rid of the six worst teams and lets stockpile the good baseball players on less teams. If I want to watch Minor league talent Ill go out to Long Island to catch a game.

  15. Andrew Kwon - Dec 17, 2009 at 4:47 PM

    I don’t think it’s fair to put guys out of work (loogys) or the occasional right handed specialist because you can’t wait the 3 minutes for the pitching change.
    Baseball is slow to change most things. Most of these ideas are pretty drastic. If they were really concerned with the game times they could eliminate one commercial per inning and save 9 minutes a game.
    I don’t think anything drastic will be done, nor probably should be done. Maybe starting games at 7:00 instead of 7:05 which becomes 7:07 would shave off a few minutes. The idea a batter or pitcher shouldn’t be given time to think is a little much. Maybe they can only leave the box or the mound once per at bat unless there is a ball in play or brushback. Or a catcher can only visit the mound once per batter, not per inning. If a pinch hitter comes up they almost always have to go over the scouting report. Rightfully so with todays megainformation you have on every hitter.

  16. R Brown - Dec 17, 2009 at 5:15 PM

    Not a speed up rule but would love to see AL change DH rule so that if a pitcher hits a batter you lose your DH. Tired of seeing the AL pitchers tag opposing players at whim.

  17. Tom - Dec 17, 2009 at 5:30 PM

    The between innings breaks have a lot of room for time savings.
    I suggest that the break before the visiting team takes the field gets pared down to some fairly minimal time. Say 90 seconds (3 commercials).
    Then the home teams gets a bit more time, say 3 minutes.
    A bit more home field advantage to boot.

  18. Think Blue - Dec 17, 2009 at 6:29 PM

    Ooooh good one ladyfan. Regardless of what you wrote, your post was quite possibly the most irrelevant jibberish I have seen. So you could understand why I skimmed through the cestpool you call an opinion. “How about banning batting gloves.” You said baseball was different in your era… Was that when you were a little shiza in Germany watching Nazi ball or something? Ban ban ban ban. The game of baseball is comprised of individual professional athletes and the fans who pay in time and money to see them. Perhaps you could go watch the local prison league if you would like to integrate 500 different bans to the game. Do you not understand keeping the principles of baseball entact? This isnt politics its the best game on earth. It does not need ridiculous modifications for impatient fans. If all the people on here were actually baseball fans and could understand the game at an intellectual level… they would understand there is more to the game than “big guy throw ball and big guy hit ball.” Go watch the NBA.

  19. Kate - Dec 17, 2009 at 6:50 PM

    I like the idea above about giving a batter two bases if there’s an intentional walk. It wouldn’t kill intentional walks but it would really, really, really limit them unless strategy rquires it.

  20. Craig - Dec 17, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    Doesn’t matter when without revenue sharing and caps 2/3 of all major leagues cities are minor leagues cities for the other third. Baseball is really in a bad way without the fairness that the NBA and NFL have instituted.

  21. nfieldr - Dec 17, 2009 at 11:50 PM

    Totally agree with Jonny5 about the IBB. Too man things “can” happen on those four pitches to just remove them from the game. My MSBL league used that rule and I thought it was particularly stupid in an amateur league.

  22. Don Edwards - Dec 18, 2009 at 1:10 AM

    Here’s something nobody has touched on…. throw out the 100 pitch count currently in vogue. Let the pitchers pitch! Warren Spahn threw 384 complete games, or 20 per year for 19 years, with 4 left over. Juan Marichal threw 244 complete games, Bob Gibson 255, Gaylord Perry 303, Robin Roberts 305, and this doesn’t even include Early Wynn at 290 games and Bob Feller at 279 games. What is more boring than watching 6 to 8 relievers (per side) walking slowly in from the bullpen, take his warm- up pitches (he is already supposed to be warmed up!), and finally get around to pitching.
    By way of contrast, do you know how many complete games Andy Pettite has thrown in 14 years? (GUESS!) 14!! No wonder their relievers look like heroes…. Pettite is a 6 inning pitcher!
    Also by way of contrast, Babe Ruth had 107 complete games!

  23. topcatNYNY - Dec 18, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    I can’t believe that I’m the only one that defended leaving God Bless America as part of the seventh inning stretch. The song takes but 2 minutes. It honors our country, especially while we have service men and women in combat – it lets them know we care. I actually enjoy watching on TV the faces in the crowd that are singing. But I’ve seen a number of comments here about scrapping what is now a tradition. I would like to know if there are others out there that feel the same as I do.

  24. Think Blue - Dec 18, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    Hell yes I agree. Bunch of liberal d-bags talking about taking out God Bless America. Makes me sick.

  25. Jay Sigler - Dec 18, 2009 at 9:30 PM

    Re: Intentional walks
    1) Until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, require the catcher to stay in his normal “squat” within a box limited to 12 inches each side of home plate.
    2) Each time the catcher violates either of the above restrictions, the umpire shall declare a balk, all baserunners advance 1 base and the pitch is called a “ball”.
    3) If there are no baserunners, upon a 2nd such balk to the batter he shall be awarded 2 bases.

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