Written for BronxPinstripes.com 4/14/16
Without a doubt, baseball is the greatest sport in the world. We all know that this is an opinion-based fact, but for a number of us, baseball is the be-all end-all among sports. It’s the only sport with no play clock or time clock. The ballparks are different dimensions. A home run in right field at Yankee Stadium is an out in other ballparks.
It’s a fantastic game, but that doesn’t mean that things shouldn’t change to make it even better. The game isn’t broken, but it could use some fixing.
Shorten the regular season
Have the regular season start later and end sooner. We all love baseball’s return in April, but not all of us love freezing our (insert body part here) off in the early weeks of the season. The same thing goes for the World Series when it is played outdoors in the northeast. A World Series should NOT be played in November. Play 150-155 regular season games and make the All-Star break shorter.
Get rid of the second Wild Card
Yes, it keeps fans interested longer, but a shorter season will keep the competitiveness for a playoff spot go later into the season.
Get rid of the trade deadline
Why not allow teams to make deals for the entire season? Dump the waiver deadline, but keep it that a player has to be on the roster on September 1 to be on the playoff roster.
Make the first round of the playoffs 7 games
To go hand-in-hand with the singular Wild Card winner, make the Division Series a best-of-7 rather than the current short, 5-game series. If you keep the two Wild Card winners, seven games will still work if you shorten the season.
Make the DH the standard
Stop right there if you are going to start the argument that the DH isn’t part of baseball tradition, the National League has more strategy, or you hate it just for purist’s sake. The game of baseball has already railed against tradition. Over the years, we’ve seen the game move indoors, go from grass to artificial turf, the mound lowered, made higher, and lowered again. The game has seen performance-enhancing drugs turn the game on its head, you can’t smash a catcher to bits anymore, the Neighborhood Play is gone, and plays are regularly reviewed via instant replay.
Everyone loves to see a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, but watching a pitcher bat is a yawnfest. Watching a pitcher sit with the bat on his shoulder for a full at-bat or take a weak hack at a pitch is dull. So is watching him strikeout, or watching him bunting or strikeout bunting with two strikes. There’s an imbalance when an AL team has to play in an NL park. AL pitchers take batting practice more often due to interleague play, but not to the extent that their NL counterparts do. Who would you rather see hit: Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and David Ortiz, or Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw and Gerrit Cole?
What’s so thrilling about the double-switch or batting the pitcher eighth in the order. But the number one reason to institute the DH across all of Major League baseball is the pitcher’s health and well-being. There’s being in shape and then there’s being in a pitcher’s shape (no offense intended, Bartolo Colon). There have been far too many back, hamstring, and ankle injuries, not to mention more serious injuries. How’s that Lisfranc ligament feeling these days, Chien-Ming Wang?
If your team is paying a pitcher $20MM a year for four to six years, do you really want to see your team’s investment go up in smoke due to a torn hamstring or ACL?
And Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine could tell you that chicks probably still love the long ball.
Enhance the interference rule
You don’t have to look any further than the Yankees’ home opener to see that the rule for running to first base needs to change. In case you missed it, Carlos Correa hit a tapper to the right side of the mound and took off for first base. Dellin Betances, who can look uncoordinated on this type of play, ran over and picked up the ball. Meanwhile, Correa never ran in the basepath, officially identified as the area between the double lines that stretch from home plate to first base. Betances attempted to shot put the ball to first baseman Mark Teixeira and missed by a mile. Correa was called safe and manager Joe Girardi bolted like a thoroughbred from the Yankees dugout.
An argument with home plate umpire Dana Demuth ensued before Demuth finally relented and conferred with the other umpires. The call stood and the Yankees lost. Afterward, Demuth’s explanation shows that the rule needs to be rewritten:
“My explanation on the call was in my judgment he didn’t impede or hinder the first baseman from fielding the ball. The pitcher launched it, threw it off to right field. That runner does not have to be in a 45-foot baseline. Joe [Girardi] thinks he does. That’s what he protested on.”
Betances tried to make a clear throw to Teixeira, but his throwing lane was obstructed. Had he drilled Correa in the back, then Demuth would have called interference. Either call interference when a runner’s out of the baseline or get rid of the rule.
Reinstitute the neighborhood rule
Somehow the braintrusts on the MLB rules committee thought that by changing the interference rule, especially at second base, the Neighborhood Play could be removed because there was less chance of injury. But you are changing the way professional baseball players have been turning double plays since high school or even little league. It’s ridiculous to call a runner safe because the middle infielder missed second base by a half-inch while trying to turn a double play. Put the neighborhood play back in the rules, but make the neighborhood smaller.
Expand replay even further if necessary
There was a time when many fans, myself included, didn’t want instant replay. But after years of obvious mistakes, it was clear that instant replay was needed and not just for disputed home runs. It was also clear that some umpires needed replay more than others. Had replay been around years earlier, Derek Jeter’s home run in the 1996 ALCS might have been nullified by interference and Jeffrey Maier might have been Bartman before Bartman. Joe Mauer’s double that was ruled a foul ball in the 2009 Division Series, vs. the Yankees, could have been a turning point in the Minnesota Twins’ favor.
Basically, except for balls and strikes, anything should be reviewable. Also, there should be more than two managerial challenges allowed per game.
Stop letting money control the game
Okay, even I have to laugh at this one. It.will.never.happen. But if it did: start playoff and World Series games earlier. Cut ticket prices unless you want to continue to have a ton of empty seats. And while you are at it, make parking more affordable outside the ballparks and make food more affordable inside the ballparks.
Finally, stop playing interleague games in September, when playoff spots are on the line. An AL team shouldn’t have their season ruined because they had to bat a pitcher instead of a DH in a National League park.
So get to it, Rob Manfred and company!