Tom Verducci is an excellent writer — I always enjoy reading his stuff in Sports Illustrated. He is insightful and always on the mark. Well, make that almost always on the mark because in the newest issue he proposes an absolutely ridiculous idea that he thinks will improve baseball.
Writing about the rise of pitching and the drop in offense, Verducci has a scheme to make things better. Pointing out how baseball differs from other sports because the best player is not always at bat with the game on the line, Tom Verducci has concocted something he calls the “Bonus At Bat.” Best to let him explain it:
Once per game a manager should be allowed to pick any player he wants to hit. You could send your best hitter up for this Bonus At Bat even if it’s not his turn in the order-and without having to remove anyone from the game. For instance, if the Cardinals walk Ortiz with a base open to pitch to Nava, Farrell could invoke his one Bonus At Bat to let Ortiz bat a second consecutive time. (Nava would be skipped in the order but would remain in the game. A pinch runner would take Ortiz’s place at first, and that player would remain available for further duty later in the game.) What if Ortiz is on second base in the eighth inning of a tie game and the eighth spot in the lineup is due up? Farrell could send in a pinch runner and pull his DH off the base paths and into the batter’s box.
Wait, what? A manager would be allowed to mess with his batting order once per game to get his chosen hitter up at a specific time? Yes, it might make that situation more exciting, but it is a silly gimmick that baseball does not need. Verducci presented his plan to the GMs of the Red Sox and Cardinals. They were diplomatic in saying it might be a good idea, but it needs more study.
Even Tom Verducci admits his idea is “radical.” But then he compares it to the designated hitter, which was radical at the time. That will not win people over as many fans still despise the DH.
Verducci does present an idea from Bill James that makes sense — limit pitching changes to one per inning, and only permit more if the reliever gives up a run. This would speed up the game by eliminating the time it takes to switch pitchers.
I am all for improving baseball, but not at the expense of the integrity of the game itself.