Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is all about change.
Since taking over as Commissioner on January 25, 2015, his main concern has been the pace of play of the game, but he also changed the rules regarding replay, and has made a few other changes as well.
Recently, Manfred told reporters that one change to the game he would like to see made is limiting the number of relievers used in an inning or game.
Commissioner, that’s absurd. With all due respect, it’s time to take your medicine, because you have obviously fallen off your rocker.
Although baseball has stayed relatively the same since its inception in the mid-to-late 1800’s, like anything else it could be improved. Slightly; it’s a fabulous game, and there’s a reason it hasn’t been touched much over the last 130+ years.
Below are some changes that I would like to see be made to baseball.
1. Eliminate pitchers hitting
Major league pitchers are not hitters.
They did not get to the major league level because they hit .600 in high school and .340 in college. They are in the majors because they can pitch. They are not paid to hit for a .290+ average, or hit 20+ home runs, or drive in 80 or more runs a season. They’re paid to limit the opposition from doing that to them.
Some pitchers just happen to know what side of the bat they’re supposed to hold and how to swing it.
Madison Bumgarner is one of those. Sure, it’s funny to see him hit a home run; funny because it means a major league pitcher gave up a home run to an opposing major league pitcher.
They don’t need to be hitting.
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright missed a majority of the 2015 season due to an ankle injury he suffered running out of the batters box on a fly ball out. He shouldn’t have been in that situation.
No matter how bad a hitter is, a major league hitter will give you a better chance to get a hit than a pitcher 100 out of 100 times. Hitting is hard enough to do as it is – the hardest thing to do in all of sports –, so why should we expect pitchers who aren’t in the cage every day to exceed at a comparable rate to the hitters that are?
It makes no sense.
The designated hitter needs to be in both leagues.
It would make the game more exciting, and increase the offensive production. Both should be goals of the commissioner.
2. Ban Bullpens from the playing surface
We’ve all seen this play.
Fly ball down the line at Wrigley Field, or in Oakland (or in any of the other fields where the bullpens are in the field of play), the corner outfielder is on a dead sprint tracking the fly ball, and misses it because he stumbled over the bullpen mound.
Almost every time the outfielder gets right back up, dusts himself off and runs back out to his position. Sometimes the player stays down for a second to give the fans a second to laugh about him falling.
Almost never does this play result in a serious injury. And that surprises the bejesus out of me.
After a couple quick Google searches of odd baseball injuries, and asking a friend, and two sports writers that I used to work under, we couldn’t come up with an exact instance where this has caused a serious injury.
All of us, however, agree it’s had to have happened. How could it not? The outfielder running on even ground and then all of a sudden a pile of dirt, clay and rubber is in his way. How has that not caused an injury?
Regardless, they need to be removed.
Bullpens should be on the other side of the fence in the outfield. Think about how much less intimidating Mariano Rivera’s or Craig Kimbrel’s (with the Braves) or Jonathan Papelbon’s (with the Phillies) trot to the mound to close out the ninth inning would’ve been if they’re coming in from down the left field line as opposed to out of the bullpen gate like a villain out of the dark depths of the shadows.
Not only do they look out of place on the field, but they don’t give bullpen pitchers the chance to be bullpen pitchers. Some of the greatest stories in baseball lore come from the bullpen. There are books dedicated solely to bullpen antics. Give those guys some privacy so the antics and the stories can continue.
3. Let’s give the away team a chance to “Walk off”
If Commissioner Manfred is really interested in speeding up the time of games, here’s a suggestion he may like.
Give the visiting team a chance to win the game in “walk off” fashion.
Here’s the rule change: starting in the 12th inning, if the visiting team scores three or more runs in a single inning then the game is over.
The home team still has the chance to win the game by scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the frame, so that rule basically stays the same. The change is that, for example, if the game is tied 5-5 heading into the 12th inning, then from that point forward if the visiting team scores three runs in the top half of the inning the game ends there.
The home team has had its chances. And they continue to get chances to win the game in the bottom of the frame as long as they keep it within reach.
4. Radar on the foul poles
As many camera angles as there are at Major League Baseball stadiums, there is still one play that occurs and there isn’t a good camera angle in place. That play is the fly ball that goes over the foul pole.
Hitters today are so big and strong, it’s truly a testament to them that something like this would even need to be suggested.
An example of this happened to Matt Wieters in a game in late July. He hit a towering fly ball down the right field line in Camden Yards that was hit so high that it was still higher than the top of the foul pole when it came into view of the camera. Although to Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne, the thousands of umpires in the stands and to me the ball appeared to be fair, the powers that be at the MLB replay center in New York called it foul.
How do we fix this? Why, radar in the foul poles, of course.
Equip radar at the top of each foul pole that has the strength to go 40 feet in the air. (This is because if they went up any further they may interfere with airplanes and helicopters, and we don’t want flights from LaGuardia Airport near Citi Field in New York to be delayed on account of a Yoenis Cespedes moon shot down the line.)
The radar would then just become an extension of the physical foul poles that are already in place, and could end up becoming the difference in an important game.
5. Pitcher’s face equals automatic single
Sadly over the past few years baseball fans have had to get used to the thought of a line drive, comebacker to the mound hitting the pitcher. More times than not the round white bullet of the bat hits the pitcher from the shoulders down.
However, it appears we’ve seen an increasing number of times were the liner hits from the neck up.
At one point there were speculations as to whether the MLB would require pitchers to wear helmets, or if there should be screens put in front of the mound like there is during batting practice. Personally, I don’t believe either of those suggestions would work.
Although I think very, very little can be done to prevent something like that from happening, there is something that can be done to help the pitcher once it does happen.
A line drive that hits the pitcher in the face or head should instantly be called a dead ball. As soon as the ball makes contact the umpires need to call it. Each runner that was on base advances one base, and the hitter is awarded first.
There are more severe injuries that can occur when a pitcher gets hit in the head or face than anywhere else.
This is not only fair for both teams, but also is important to the health of the pitcher. If a ball is hit hard enough, it could ricochet off the hurler’s face 10 feet into the air, thus taking extra seconds before it can be caught so time can be called to attend to the pitcher. During that extra time, the pitcher could be bleeding and/or seriously injured.
Instead of waiting for the play to be over, rule the play dead as soon as it happens.
6. Get rid of the new plate-blocking rule
This is honestly one of the dumbest rules in the rulebook.
From the time a catcher first puts on his shin guards and chest protector, he is told to stand in front of the plate. Block it as if your life depends on it. As the relay throw from the outfield is coming in, set yourself just in front of the home plate making it more difficult for the runner to score, and easier for you to tag him out.
But due to a couple injuries in the majors, one of the more recent ones being to Buster Posey in 2011, Major League Baseball adopted a rule for the 2014 season that states that catchers without possession of the ball cannot stand in front of the plate.
Nowadays we’re trying to find all these different ways to make the games we love safer. But it’s taking away from the games we love.
Get rid of the rule. Does Major League Baseball realize that the catcher is the one wearing the protective gear? If he wants to stand there and be run over, and if the runner wants to run him over, let him.
It’s the runner’s base at the end of the day. And it’s the catcher’s job to keep him from scoring.
Let the catcher block the plate. That’s how the game was made.