Base­ball fine — mostly — the way it is

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - NICK CANEPA

Base­ball’s idea of fix­ing the Mona Lisa is tak­ing a knife to it and mend­ing Leonardo’s work with duct tape.

I like base­ball be­cause it’s base­ball. Im­purely pure. Other than The Shift and des­ig­nated hit­ter, there isn’t much wrong with the game, dammit. Leave it be.

But they can’t. They won’t. They have their Tin­ker Toys out again.

They keep tou­sling the kid game’s hair, which is ironic, in that they hope to ap­peal to the fast and fu­ri­ous youth with all this fu­tile non­sense they keep dream­ing up.

Base­ball was meant to be nei­ther fast nor fu­ri­ous. It is not foot­ball. Or bas­ket­ball. Or hockey. Faster than curl­ing, maybe. You don’t get it talk­ing into a clown’s mouth and driv­ing up to a win­dow — it takes a while for your or­der to ar­rive.

I can’t get my watch band around time be­ing of the essence in the games we watch.

But, when MLB and the play­ers’ union put their heads to­gether, about all you’re go­ing to get is brain flat­u­lence spew­ing from four ears.

As spring train­ing ap­proaches, the lat­est from this think tank has the two sides con­sid­er­ing sev­eral rules changes, a few of which would seem to change very lit­tle, even be ap­plauded, and some dra­matic and, well, ridicu­lous.

Let’s ex­er­cise our taste buds and cri­tique the food be­ing put on the ta­ble:

■ Univer­sal des­ig­nated hit­ter: Death. There’s a rea­son why I rarely watch an Amer­i­can League game. The DH. You don’t wear a fielder’s glove, you don’t play base­ball. The aw­ful thing is that this is com­ing, pos­si­bly as soon as 2020, and the Na­tional League and true base­ball fans will be poorer for it. The DH en­ables the union to have more play­ers on its rolls who can do one thing — and MLB thinks this will add tremen­dous ex­cite­ment. Pitch­ers should bat.

■ From the 11th in­ning on, a run­ner will start at sec­ond base: This is so stupid, so un-base­ball, I don’t know what to say. So I won’t.

■ 26-man ros­ter (12-pitcher min­i­mum): The union will love more play­ers getting money, but this should have been done long ago.

■ 28-man limit for Septem­ber rosters: An­other grand idea. Crazy call­ing up the cast of Brave­heart the fi­nal month.

■ A three-bat­ter min­i­mum for pitch­ers: Yet an­other stupid way to speed up the game.

■ Re­duc­ing mound vis­its: This would be from 8-to-4 in 2019, to 4-to-3 in 2020. I don’t re­ally care. What ex­actly do man­agers and coaches say when they go out there, any­way, other than: “Where we go­ing af­ter the game?”

■ A 20-sec­ond pitch clock: It’s doubt­ful the union’s go­ing to buy it, but it would be all right with me, even if I don’t care about speed­ing up the game. It’s just pa­thetic watch­ing some guys stand out there for a minute be­tween pitches. Ques­tion: Will umps en­force it?

■ A sin­gle trade dead­line be­fore the All-Star break: Ter­rific. And af­ter the dead­line, teams shouldn’t be able to deal any­body.

■ A study to lower the mound: If they want to help bat­ters, if they want more .300 hit­ters and fewer strike­outs from power-hun­gry bats­men, they should just do away with The Shift. Won’t be long be­fore pitch­ers throw from out of a hole.

■ Draft ad­van­tages for win­ning teams and penal­ties for los­ing teams: Hor­rific idea. Drafts are sup­posed to help level the di­a­mond. Seems to me teams would be pe­nal­ized for draft­ing poorly. Rich don’t need gifts.

■ A study that would al­low twosport ath­letes to sign ma­jor league con­tracts: Makes no dif­fer­ence to me. The more the mer­rier.

How much of this is sim­ple spit­balling is hard to say, although I fear some of the sug­ges­tions are go­ing to be adopted, be­cause change, when un­nec­es­sary, be­comes nec­es­sary.

No­tice what hasn’t been brought up? The worst thing of all — um­pir­ing.

Has there been one word said about adopt­ing a univer­sal strike zone that the umps ei­ther ad­here to, or else? I’d hate to see an elec­tronic strike zone, which is doable, but I’d pre­fer it over these guys miss­ing pitches that aren’t close.

If umps are in­com­pe­tent — as some are — get rid of them. If they refuse to ad­here to the rules, ei­ther fire them or fine them.

And when they go to re­play — which also is of­ten botched — they should be able to tell the crowd what’s go­ing on, as they do in the NFL. And, if the bosses want to shorten games, they shouldn’t al­low re­play con­fer­ences to go on like a Rus­sian novel. Make a de­ci­sion, for heaven’s sake. If we can clearly see it, so should they.

I won­der just how much time is go­ing to be sliced from games if some of this stuff is adopted? Over­all MLB at­ten­dance dipped be­low 70 mil­lion in 2018 for the first time in years, but for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. I doubt if length of games caused mil­lions to stay away last year when there wasn’t much dif­fer­ence from what it was be­fore that.

Base­ball is to be swirled, sipped, sa­vored and ad­mired for its time­less nu­ances. You don’t gulp Napoleon brandy.

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