Major League Baseball (MLB) continues to search for ways to speed up the game and Commissioner Rob Manfred is entertaining any worthy ideas. Some include shorter inning breaks with visits to the mound reduced from six to five. During spring training, a 20-second pitch clock was featured.
It’s been nearly half a century since the designated hitter found its way into the game, but this American League mainstay may finally find a home in the National League as well. There is even talk of placing a baserunner on second base at the start of each half inning when the score is tied after nine innings.
This is already being done throughout the minors.
Probably receiving the most consideration would require relief pitchers to face a minimum of three batters or finish an inning, whichever comes first. Managers have always had the option of pulling their pitcher after just one batter. According to The Wall Street Journal, mid-inning pitching changes add more than three minutes to the game, but less than a third of all pitching changes last season occurred in the middle of an inning.
Hitters have chimed in complaining about the infamous infield shift, where one side is overloaded and sabermetrics claim most balls are hit. Rather than changing defensive rules, move the outfield fence an additional 20 feet deeper. Home runs would be harder to come by and would force players to hit to all fields. MLB should not enable one-dimensional hitters by changing longstanding rules.
Recall the Harmon Killebrew shift from nearly half a century ago. Killebrew fared OK — all the way to Cooperstown. Rewind further and recollect Lou Boudreau, the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians, used it in the ‘40s against another baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams. Whereas Oakland Oaks manager Casey Stengel remembered it being used against Cy Williams in the infamous band-box Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. Prohibit the shift and you are on the wrong side of baseball history. If MLB is that concerned about subsidizing the weaker hitters, perhaps pitchers can throw underhanded?
Today’s players need to take their cue from another Hall of Famer from the early 20th century, “Wee Willie” Keeler, whose celebrated mantra was: “Hit ’em where they ain’t.”
A friend who attended opening day in Philadelphia said a cheese steak cost $15, a water $5, while parking was $18 and the game ticket $85. Fries, peanuts and hot dogs are comparably priced. And yet people wonder why game attendance, according to Forbes Magazine, was down 4 percent last season?
Is the game dying the death of a thousand cuts?
The season is too long, prices too high, stadiums are filled with hideous artificial noise with limited action and way too many timeouts. Moreover, having the World Series played into the dark, cold nights of November is a double knockout that scorns the younger fan base, while the older fans are asleep on the couch.
It’s like playing the NCAA basketball tournament indoors until the Final Four, then finishing by playing outside in a snow squall at midnight. Instead of worrying that the game’s owners are not paying enough taxes, Democrats need to deliver on global warming.
There is a reason why all the top 25 college baseball teams are south of the Mason-Dixon line.
A University of Nevada study said in 22,215 games played from 2000 to 2011, offensive production went up significantly in warmer weather. The one cold weather statistic that increased — walks. Baseball is not meant to be played in 40 degree weather.
If it’s a great day for soup; it isn’t a good day for baseball.
Despite the issues, hope resides in places like the Florida State League where Sunbury native Nick Dunn is making his climb toward “The Show.” Dunn was a standout at the University of Maryland, hails from a great family and is a certified chip off his old man, John Dunn. After two brief stints in State College and Peoria, Dunn has found himself in the advanced A classification of the St. Louis Cardinal organization manning second base.
I may not know the MLB lineups like I once did, but I do know who starts at second base for the Palm Beach Cardinals.
And that’s really all that matters.