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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. Jonathan in MA - Dec 19, 2009 at 12:01 AM

    Jay Sigler,
    I like that a lot– kind of an addendum to my idea.
    It’s key to note that the catcher would need to be outside the squat position before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. Often the ball “gets away from” younger players and the catcher tries to save it by shifting from the squat position.
    What about this?
    1. Clearly unhittable ball: a warning is issued from the umpire, it’s called a ball
    2. A second clearly unhittable ball: a balk if there are men aboard and its called a ball; if there are no base runners the batter takes first
    3. A third clearly unhittable ball: a second balk if there are men aboard and the batter takes second
    I think this creates several fascinating strategic decisions for both the offense and the defense without killing the idea of the IBB.

  2. Jonathan in MA - Dec 19, 2009 at 12:09 AM

    Scenario:
    Bottom of the 9th, Home team is down 3-2
    One out, a man on 2nd. The 9th batter, 1st, and 2nd batters are up next.
    Under the situation described above, the second intentional ball would move the guy on 2nd to 3rd. A third intentional ball (big mistake!) would bring the guy on 3rd home (tying the game) and puts the batter on 2nd.

  3. bronxbomber - Dec 19, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    keep the ibb and god bless america…ibb is part of the game
    count the catcher/pitcher visit as a mound visit…allow one catcher visit in addition to the two coach/mgr visit rule
    push that umpires call the strike zone per baseball rules…too small a strike zone by most umpires slows the game with too many walks
    batter can not get time out to adjust gloves…if he steps out he must keep one foot in the batters box and the game is still live (pitcher can throw the pitch even if batter is not ready like in boxing where you must protect/be ready at all times)
    get rid of the DH….makes no sense to have it in one league and not the other.
    Other than that, baseball is a great sport. Its about flow not length of time

  4. Bernie - Dec 19, 2009 at 11:01 AM

    Cut the length of time for commercials between innings. The whole reason we are having this discussion is T.V. There is nothing wrong with the game. Taking 2-3 min between innings for commercials adds 30 min to an hour to games. Plus commercials for pitching changes.

  5. DH supporter - Dec 19, 2009 at 1:22 PM

    Will all of you stubborn DH-haters watch a little bit of AL baseball?
    It’s not up for debate. It’s the better way of playing baseball. More offense, faster pace, and fewer injuries to the pitcher.
    AL fans love it. We’re keeping it. If you don’t like it, go watch a Padre’s game.

  6. Jay Sigler - Dec 19, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    The problem with a “clearly unhittable ball” is that it is a subjective decision on the part of the umpire beyond his current authority to decide balls and strikes. It requires the umpire to devine intent rather than to describe reality.
    Suppose the pitcher mis-steps in his delivery or the ball slips from his grip, then a truly accidental wild pitch would be penalized unfairly.
    My proposal is designed to discourage intentional pitches well outside a batters swing range by restricting the catchers ability to react. The pitcher could still throw a “blooper” giving the catcher time to react once the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, but stolen bases would be a counter-acting risk.
    With no baserunners, if the pitcher throws 4 such “bloopers” the batter would be awarded 2 bases, thereby discouraging intentional walks.

  7. Jay Sigler - Dec 19, 2009 at 4:53 PM

    The obvious weakness in any attempt to inhibit intentional walks when there are no baserunners is that the catcher does not have to even try to react to the first 3 “wild” pitches, Ball 4 can be blocked in the dirt or maybe really tight inside, perhaps even plunking the batter.
    Of course, the umpire still has the power to eject the pitcher, if he rules the batter was hit intentionally. In that case, awarding the batter 2 bases would be an aditional discouragement.
    Other ideas to shorten games:
    1) Extra innings limited to 1. Ties not made-up.
    2) Balls and strikes both 3.
    3) Max time between last out and first pitch of next inning to be specified and enforced. Fault? Penalty?
    4) All non-game activities permitted only prior to game time.
    5) DH for both leagues.
    6) Ask Alexander Cartwright for his suggestions.
    Of course, any discussion about shortening the length of games flies in the face of concession sales and broadcast advertising revenues. Ain’t gonna happen.

  8. rje49 - Dec 21, 2009 at 6:07 PM

    YES! It used to be just Nomar, but now many more do that same ritual. Do those straps loosen so easily that that won’t stay tight for a single pitch – even if the batter doesn’t swing? Maybe better straps, huh?

  9. DAve - Dec 22, 2009 at 1:59 AM

    If I wanted to watch a clock, I would go to a football, basketball or soccer game(gag, choke,puke). I go to watch a game that I enjoy and could care less if it takes 3+ hours per game. So I spend an extra hour at the ballpark. I could think of worse things.

  10. R. Snyder - Dec 22, 2009 at 5:02 AM

    I’m with you.

  11. Michael - Dec 22, 2009 at 11:04 AM

    What I can’t believe is that no one in baseball has decided to eliminate the possibility of anything undesirable happening during an IBB by using a rule that’s already in the book. Rule 8.02(a)(1) – The pitcher shall not Bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber.
    There is unfortunately the bit in the penalty stating that in addition to being called a ball, repeat offenders will be fined…
    Also, there’s no real need for new rules about the batters box. If the 12 second rule were enforced, we’d save a ton of time. Also, if it were enforced, it would be easy to impose a limit on the batter calling time. If the pitcher does pitch within 12 seconds, there’s no reason for the batter to call time.

  12. Steve S. - Dec 25, 2009 at 12:49 AM

    First of all, let’s make it 3 balls, 3 strikes per batter. Do we need 4 balls to draw a walk? Secondly, have a cap on the number of foul balls hit by any batter..say, limit 3 and the next one is an automatic strike and if there’s 2 strikes already, it becomes an out! I agree, eliminate the 7th inning singing of God Bless America. How about something else to take up the time for the fans? As for commercials as someone stated above, this won’t happen, not in today’s money hungry world! Besides, commercials are timed fairly well with inning changes. Last but not least…rainouts. Why keep fans waiting over 2 hours in many cases to complete a game? Reschedule it if at all possible. Why subject players to wet outfields, unlike the infield is always covered. This could cause more injuries.

  13. Derek - Dec 28, 2009 at 1:19 PM

    Managers should be allowed to manage their roster and change pitchers as strategy dictates and as frequentlt as they see fit.
    LaRussa will retire someday and this problem leaves with him. No minimum batter requirements per pitcher.
    There should only be one allowed mound visit per pitcher before the 2nd visit triggers an automatic replacement (catcher, infielder, coach or manager’s visit, it shouldn’t matter)
    Regarding these pitching changes, managers should be required to jog to the mound, they should have only 15 seconds to “discuss things” with the pitcher (not the entire infield..stay at your position or have the outfielders in and bring out water bottles too!), umpires should meet the manager at the mound instead of waiting until he takes “too much time” discussing things before they slowly walk out there and tell them to move things along, relievers should be required to run in from the bullpen (no menacing walks), they should be limited to only 3 warm up pitches when they reach the “game” mound. Between innings they should get only 3 warm up throws too (not 8) and catchers really do not need to throw down to second (and then around the horn)after the last warm up.
    Best thing baseball can do is mike and earpiece the pitcher, the manager and the catcher. No more signals. Pitcher wants to throw a fastball high vs a curve..he TELLS the catcher (into his glove)..one… up… If the catcher wants something different, he can tell the pitcher…no..two! (10 times per game?)
    If the Manager wants to pitch carefully to a guy, he TELLS the pitcher who (into his glove) TELLS the catcher. Heck, mike the basecoaches and the batting helmets too and they wont be flashing bunches of nonsense either. Signals have gone into QBs and Linebackers like this for years.
    For an intentional walk make the pitcher yell “I can’t get you out, so I am not worthy of pitching to you”. IBBs will surely decline.
    All star game should be meaningless. Best record gets homefield.
    All for 8 doubleheaders per year and 4 more off days! This will shorten the season by a week, get more games into the daytime and force the playoffs back into October
    Replay should be used, including strike zone! Why not?
    Speed the game up by eliminating G-d Bless America. 7th inning stretch should be Take Me Out To The Ballgame only!
    Also battter’s box rules are a joke. Umpires do nothing to keep the game moving. Call a strike if they don’t stay in or call a ball if the pitcher steps off and wanders after each pitch. Make the Umps accountable for time between pitches.

  14. tzzen - Dec 29, 2009 at 3:44 PM

    Fascinating
    There are two respondents to this thread whose names indicate that they are female, and the only truly nasty responses to anyone’s comments during this thread are yours, to one of those females. (and trust me I recognize that commenting on this is likely to elicit some kind of vitriolic response from you regarding the fact that I am clearly a dumb bitch who just needs to get some and should otherwise sit down and shut up, but this is just so interesting to me I can’t resist pointing it out) – Other than the tobacco stuff, Ladyfan’s comments were essentially no different than anyone else’s, and frankly as someone who is claiming you want the “tradition”, I should think you would agree with them (i.e. All Star Game shouldn’t determine home field advantage, players shouldn’t be coming up wearing armor, and interleague play blows). She also was unfavorable towards the World Classic seeing it as something that ruins the real season, which again, seems like a sort of traditional point of view. Yet you find her opinions not only completely stupid, you manage to play the Nazi card to insult her while you run her down. And people wonder why women so often tend to hide their identities on the internet.
    Oh, and for the record, I have no particular issue with the amount of time a game takes, I don’t think they should change IBB, I think there should be an umpire in the booth to correct RIDICULOUSLY bad calls, I think interleague play should go away, and I think the DH is a bad idea. And on that last issue, I speak as someone who grew up watching AL baseball and never questioning the DH, but as someone who now watches the NL, I like it so much better with the pitcher hitting. If nothing else, I think if you’re going to hit someone with a pitch, you ought to have to get up in that batter’s box yourself at some point

  15. Eric - Dec 31, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    Craig, jonny5 does have a very good point regarding the “wave the batter to 1st on an IBB.” That’s a silly suggestion. Off the top of my head, I can think of two game-changing plays which occured during IBB sessions: 1) Roger Clemens overthrowing the catcher and allowing the eventual winning run to score (while on the Yankees) and 2) Miguel Cabrera reaching out and poking an IBB pitch into right field for an RBI single, also a game-winning hit. Yes, these things both happened in the past 6 or 7 years, but they were both thrilling, odd moments. You’re taking away part of the game by removing the process. It’s not a given that the balls make it to home plate. Remember that there are way too many different factors in baseball — wind, grip, etc. — that are part of the game.

  16. Mr. Z - Jan 2, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Get rid of Tony La Russa

  17. anonymous - Jan 3, 2010 at 4:40 AM

    roy halladay & cliff lee could teach too

  18. anonymous - Jan 3, 2010 at 4:55 AM

    THANK YOU!!!! i know how u feel. it drives me nuts the way the game treats pitchers these days. especially when it comes to the joba chamberlain case. the yankees are almost ruining his chances of being an ace by coming up with these stupid Joba Rules. you’d think they think he’s not a human & he’s made out of porcelain or somethin. but jeez if he’s gonna be a starter then let him throw, let him adapt to pitching deep into games & throwing alot of innings. to be honest i dont know if today’s pitching coaches know a thing about pitchin. it’s almost like everyone thinks a pitcher’s strentgh & ability has to do with how many innings he doesnt throw. if a young pitcher wants to learn how to be great, he’d be better off learning from the greats themselves. another thing, i wish everyone would quit acting like strikeouts are such a big deal. You see pitchers these days trying to strike hitters out & eventually they end up walking hitters & getting into jams. But really they should take the “here it is, hit it” approach. Letting hitters make contact (not too much of course) mostly uses less pitches & preserves strength for the later innings

  19. anonymous - Jan 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    you were mentioning the DH-rule limiting injuries to the pitcher. if the pitchers of the pre-DH rule era were able to be batters without having injuries, why can’t today’s?

  20. rick - Jan 4, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Actually You are right. I think the NFL should also have designated receivers. When a receiver gets open the play stops and the designated reciever gets to come in and attempt the catch. This will keep the good recievers from getting hurt. Whats even better abt the DH rule is that AL pitchers can hide behind the DH to hit batters or come high and tight at whim? Clemmens, Padilla?? Bob Gibson was famous for this..but then he also had the guts to get in the batters box afterwards. Love watching fat 40 yr old men extend their career by simply walking to the batters box 3-4 times a game.

  21. NYMalcontent - Jan 5, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    thats the best idea i’ve ever heard to speed up the game. I played in a softball league with that rule and the games flew by.

  22. The D - Jan 7, 2010 at 2:29 AM

    I dont understand why baseball needs to be changed at all. A 3 to 4 hour game makes me happy and all these other things just seem nitpicky to me. And we should never look to football for help, especially shortening the game. It is a game that specifically timed for an hour of play that always take 3 hours to actually occur.
    By the way, I’m a liberal and I dont want to take out God Bless America, so the republicans douchebags should shut it.
    Intentional Walk: Roberto Alomar stole 3rd on an intentional ball.
    DH: I dont have an argument for it or against it, it has solid pros and cons, but what bothers me is that in all the discussion about it no one has mentioned what to me is the most important facet. What about pitchers who want to hit?

  23. Sven-Erik - Jan 9, 2010 at 5:53 AM

    Leave the game alone. Ditch the remnants of the Reserve Clause, make everybody a Free Agent and the rest will take care of itself.
    The owners should have listened to Finley when he said “Make ‘em all Free Agents”

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