Baseball fine — mostly — the way it is
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.