How I'd Change Baseball

May 07, 2008

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Street Reporter

How I'd Change Baseball

I'm not one to tinker too much with the game, but if I were commish, czar, and supreme baseball deity all rolled up into one, I'd mandate the following changes:

1. Eliminate the fake-to-third-turn-to-first move by the pitcher. I've seen this work once, though it's done thousands of times and elicits boos every time from home fans (even if it's the home pitcher doing it). It's a stupid play, it should be a balk (its intention is to deceive the runner, which is the definition of "balk") and it looks plain foolish.

2. Eliminate the endless at-bat preparation. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and any of the other great hitters worked their magic without endless twitches and preparations before each at-bat. The Poster Child for this disorder, of course, is Nomar Garciaparra, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that his fragility was due to a repetitive-motion disorder caused by his Rainman-like regime before each pitch. Get in the box and hit, man.

3. Eliminate the wooden bat. That's right. There are so many reasons for doing so, and nothing but a blind allegiance to tradition that keeps the bats in there. They've developed aluminum bats that react the same way as wooden bats, aren't made of unsustainable woods, and don't shatter, creating shards and splinters that fly everywhere with deadly possibilities. At the very least, the new maple bats ought to be banned, since they're not only more prone to breakage, they don't tend to shatter--instead they break off into huge, sharp missiles that fly out at the pitcher or third baseman. Even beyond this, many players assert that the quality of the wood has declined sharply in the past few years. Small wonder, as younger wood isn't as strong and tightly grained, and our forests are depleted. Everyone's going green, why not include baseball, too?

4. Bring back day games for the World Series. Baseball's being lost to other sports, in part because kids don't watch the games (live or in person) the way they could when the games were in the daytime. Sure, ratings are higher at night, but how much does this affect ad revenue, really? And even if it does, sometimes you've gotta sacrifice the present for the future, instead of the other way around.

5. Eliminate electronically assisted crowd noises at ballparks. If fans don't know when to cheer or can't figure it out from the tens of thousands of fans around them, they're too dumb to be watching the game (or, just as bad, they're not paying attention). If you don't have enough fans to make some noise at the right time, you lose your home-field advantage. Make fans feel like they make a difference.

6. Ban cell phone usage at the games. Sure, I'd like to see cell phones banned in practically every public space, at least until they develop portable Cones of Silence like they used to use on Get Smart! But to watch a game with some guy yakking aimlessly to his buddies about everything in the world except the game he's watching not only means he's not watching, it means you're not watching, either (or not without being extremely irritated). If you want to call someone, go back into the walkway. If you want to call someone and tell them you're the idiot who's waving on TV--you're an idiot.

7. Eliminate overpriced beer and food. I realize we're a captive audience, and I realize that teams have to soak their fans because they can't restrain their own overspending and won't agree to salary caps. But we already pay enough for the game, for parking, for Official MLB merchandise, for everything except the air we're breathing (just wait--that's coming next!). Do you have to charge $7 and up for a teacup of beer, or $5 and up for a flyblown hamburger that even McDonald's would embarrassed to serve? Because of "security restrictions" we can't bring in our own food and drink anyway, so now we have to pony up another chunk of cash or go hungry and thirsty for the three-plus-hour epic that's a trip to the ballpark these days? No wonder teams have trouble filling seats.

8. Put the DH in both leagues. The long and the short of it is, pitchers don't hit (literally) at every professional level up to the pros, and when they do, they can barely remember which end of the bat to hold. Strategies like the double-switch or the sac bunt by the pitcher are predicated on the notion that pitchers can't hit. Allow hitting studs like Micah Owings (far and away the best-hitting pitcher of the last thirty or forty years) to DH for himself. To prevent the DH slot creating a generation of players who hit but can't field (see Butler, Billy) require a certain number of years of MLB service before a player can become a DH.

9. Remove the protective armor from players after a certain time has elapsed since their injury. Guys can armor up and crowd the plate if they've ever been hurt at a certain part of their body, taking that part of the play away from the pitcher. Learning to deal with the fear of an inside pitch is part of hitting, and it's part of learning to pitch. The games's not all about home runs, and now that Sir Barry Bonds of the Armored Elbow is gone, let's leave it to guys like ARod and Griffey to chase home run records without the confident protection of Arm Armor.

10. Name the stadiums after the people or company that's contributed the most to the team. If you're going to sell naming rights to a stadium, the company in question should have to cough up at least as much as the citizens of the home city or state, or the team's front office. It's only fair.

Keywords: aluminum bat, baseball, batter, Billy Butler, body armor, cell phone, change, day game, designated hitter, DH, fake, food price, naming rights, Nomar Garciaparra, pitcher, wooden bat, World Series

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