A few years ago I wrote an article proposing some changes to make the great game of baseball even better. Turns out it was more than just a few years ago — seven long years, to be exact. And coincidentally, almost to the exact day (October 30, 2009). I stand by those ideas, but it is time to add a few more.
In calling for instant replay back then, I wrote:
While I support instant replay for pretty much everything short of balls and strikes…
Well, I was wrong — not about instant replay, which I still think is a good thing, but the extent to which it is being used. The current system allows for replay which ends up judging millimeters and nanoseconds. It is just too much. The rules were designed to overturn obviously blown calls, not ones in which human error is understandable.
So replay should be reserved for plays at first base, home run or not, trapped balls and fair or foul in the outfield. These are plays that are easy to review. Tag plays at second and third just have too many moving parts; these are the plays that take several minutes to review and slow the game down (more on pace of play later).
I would also review all plays at home. These have many moving parts as well, but scoring plays are obviously important, and I think everyone would accept taking the time to get those right.
Pace of Play
Okay, let’s get to that now. There has been plenty of talk about pace of play, and some measures are even being taken. For example, there is now a between-innings clock to ensure innings start in a timely fashion. And then there’s… nothing else. It’s all been talk.
First of all, they can start enforcing the 12 second rule that states a pitcher must deliver his next pitch within that window of time. Really, why does he need more? They can also better enforce rules regarding hitters staying in the batters box.
Pitching changes are another huge time-killer, especially with managers obsessed with lefty-righty matchups. Proposals to require pitchers to stay in the game for a certain amount of batters will not work, so we have to figure out a way to make changes shorter. It really is quite simple.
First of all, the manager does not need to take that slow walk out of the dugout to the pitcher’s mound to remove his hurler. He can take a step out of the dugout, get the umpire’s attention and put up his left or right hand. That’s all you need and it saves 30 seconds.
When the pitcher gets to the mound, he gets two warm-up pitches. He should be plenty warm already, what with throwing in the bullpen. That saves another minute.
With all the pitching changes in a contest, you should save upwards of ten minutes a game with these common sense ideas.
Oh, and while we’re here, let’s ban all manager/pitching coach visits to the mound entirely. In what other sport does a coach come onto the field to chat with players? There is plenty of time to devise theoretical strategies in the dugout between innings. Or just send signals to the catcher or pitcher. Many more minutes saved.
Fifteen teams in each league requires an interleague game every day. This is unacceptable. Interleague play should be reserved for special occasions (as I proposed in my original article). With two 16-team leagues, you could have four divisions with four teams each. They could look like this.
As far as the playoffs, MLB could do what the NFL does — four division winners and two Wild Cards in each league.
Some say the talent pool is already diluted. I don’t agree.
This plan would also create 50 new jobs for players, which could lead to…
…the end of the designated hitter. The union would never give up the DH because it tends to be a high-paying veteran job. But would it exchange 15 of those jobs for 50 new ones?
The leagues need to play by the same rules; it is as simple as that. It becomes more pronounced if there is no expansion and interleague play remains a daily occurrence. In that case, perhaps the union would be amenable to scrapping the DH in exchange for…
…expanding rosters. People have floated expanding rosters by one or two players in exchange for eliminating the DH. That’s 15 or 30 new jobs. But I have a different, and I think better, idea. The four non-starting pitchers of a particular game are designated inactive, with four other players activated. This actually adds four jobs per team, or 120 league-wide. That should make the union think twice.
It also gives managers more flexibility on their bench (and unfortunately, in the bullpen, to make even more pitching changes). But it allows managers to play with a true 25-man roster, instead of the 21 players who are truly available.
This issue has spurred a lot of discussion over the past few years, and for good reason; the game is played the same way for five months, and then suddenly, the rules change.
I think September callups are a good thing in general; it gives young players a chance to play in the big leagues and also affords teams the chance to see what the men can do. But having as many as 40 players active for every game for a month? That’s just crazy.
Instead, a limited number should be activated for each game. That number would be open for negotiation, but five sounds about right.
So there you have it. What do you think? Please share your ideas as well.