A Dozen Solutions to Strengthen Baseball

Recently I was conversing with EJ… ya know that dude who writes the “Blog About  Nothing” piece every Friday… read it already will ya? It’s good… and, I told him about something I wrote for a site that was called “Informative Sports”. He said he would like to check it out. So, I went into my archives to look for it so I could email it to him and I came upon this little ditty from yesterday’s pages of “Informative Sports” that was written in 2009.  I think it is still relevant today and might cause some peeps to come up out of the woodwork to get a discussion going.  So… here it be…

 

A Dozen Solutions to Strengthen Baseball

Riddle me this: why does baseball need to have certain people constantly attempt to reinvent the perfect game? The game was fine the way it was invented back in the 19th century, and except for some tinkering with equipment improvements and some minor rules changes, people should just leave the game alone. Stop inventing certain statistics. Stop trying to introduce electronic enhancements to the game (e.g. instant replay, which is never instant anyway), stop reinventing the wheel, and let the grand old game the heck alone.

Here are some things.. 12 things… to either not do to baseball or to eliminate from baseball.

1) Get rid of the stupid and nonsensical “hold” stat. What the hell is this any way?  Relief pitcher comes in. He throws to

call for relief
call for relief

one batter and he gets an “H” in the box score the next day. Do they really keep this as a stat? Give me a break!

It is totally meaningless and useless except for some greedy agent trying to get this scrub specialization pitcher a raise during contract negotiation time. Just to point out how fickle the baseball gods can be and why this is a stupid stat: Starter Scott Richmond hurls 7 innings of shutout ball and leaves with 2-0 lead on May 19, 2009. He does not get the win because the Blue Jays bring in a reliever to start the 8th that blows the game. That pitcher promptly gives up two runs and Richmond is no longer the pitcher of record so the potential win he could and should have had, is gone. The Jays score a run in the bottom of the 8th and that same reliever who gave up the two tying runs is now the pitcher of record and ultimately gets the win added to his record.

So try this on for size… according to the MLB scoring method, the relief pitcher now is listed as having a blown save but also is the winning pitcher of record. If say, he had pitched to one batter and then was relieved by another pitcher, he would have been credited with a hold. Talk about dumb statistics. I hate the hold and the blown save stat. They are dumb inventions that were created by baseball powers/nerds to have another useless number to crunch and use to validate the proliferation of the overuse of relievers and the specialization of relievers in the good old game of baseball. Time for common sense to take over here in this case. There is a rule that states if the official scorer of a game determines that a player was ineffective he can designate the win to another pitcher. In this instance, logic should have prevailed and the win should have been given to the pitcher who came on to relieve the pitcher who blew the lead.

2) Bring back the four-man rotation.  Want twenty game winners again? Want pitchers who toss more than 180 innings a4 man rotation

year and are called dominant again? Then eliminate the five-man rotation and reinstate the four-man rotation. Stop babying these players and let them do what they were hired to do — throw the damn ball! Yes, the owners want to protect their multi-million dollar investments. However, this over-attention devoted to the so-called well-being and welfare of pitchers is dumb. For years, pitchers went out and pitched as long as they could, in every game they could, during a season. Then some general manager or coach decided because of spat of injuries in all likelihood, they needed to protect the pitcher’s arms; so they stretched the rotation by going to five hurlers. What this does is not improve the starting rotation but rather hinders its performance.

Assume most pitching staffs have a #1 pitcher and a #2 pitcher who can provide at least 180 to 210 innings and about 17 to 20 wins.  Then the staff usually has a decent #3 and a gaggle of guys who can compete for the #4 spot. By using a five-man rotation, the #1 and #2 pitchers are limited to about 32 or 33 starts a year. Given that most pitchers barely go seven innings any more, that gives them maybe 190 innings a year and, if they are lucky, they may win about 18 games if they figure in the majority of decisions of those starts. That is based on a pitcher having at least a 60% win-loss percentage in every start he makes for the year. Now go to the four-man rotation and the days when pitchers went deeper into games. Suddenly the 33-start year becomes 40 starts. Using the same formula of 60% win-loss percentage, the chances have gone decidedly up for a pitcher of that ilk to win the 20 victories usually held as sacred by an ace (40 x .6 = 24).

Assume, also, that if certain baseball mavens, such as Jim Katt, are correct that pitching more will actually strengthen the pitcher’s arms, then assume the pitchers will once again go deeper into the games. Say that this regimen allows them to go at least 7 innings instead of the present 5 or 6 innings.  That means a pitcher is throwing over 280 innings a year on average.  Instead of a team having its weakest starter at #5, going every fifth day (or about THIRTY times a year), the team has its best starters pitching more games, going deeper in the games and eliminating the need for useless middle-relief specialists that take up roster space that would be better served by employing offensive and defensive bench strength. It is time to start teaching the youngsters coming up that the old ways were much better than the new ways. Also, just how many injuries did the top pitchers suffer back in the so-called old days compared to these present days?  

3) This item coincides with the second item. Raise the mound back to the 15 inches it was in 1960s.   The improvementbaseball mound of training techniques making batters stronger and better adapted to turn on a pitch.  And the improvement of equipment and the ability for the batter to wear body armor could allay fears of the injury-inducing heater inside. This allows the batter to lean into pitches for better plate coverage and gives him advantages that in the 1960s were not possible. Pitchers in the 1960s (who had the aforementioned four-man rotation) threw 20 complete games, had ERAs of 2.00 and lower, and struck out over 200 hitters a year. The baseball “powers that be” said the pitchers were at an unfair advantage and the game needed to provide more offense because pitching battles are boring and scoring runs is exciting. Therefore, they introduced expansion in 1961 and then lowered the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches in 1969. Lo and behold, Roger Maris suddenly hits 61 homers and Mickey Mantle hits another 54 in 1961 the same year. Players like Harmon Killibrew, Rocco Colavito, and Norm Cash also begin to hit far more home runs and produce better offensively then they had in previous years. In fact in 1961, besides the M & M boys, four other players hit more than 40 home runs:

    • Jim Gentile (46)
    • Harmon Killibrew (46)
    • Rocco Colavito (45)
    • Norm Cash (41)

 

In 1960, only one player hit 40 home runs, and he was Mickey Mantle.  Between 1960 and 1969 the earned run average (ERA) in both the National and American Leagues was consistently under 3.00, with many years including two or three pitchers under 2.00. In 1968, the AL had four players with ERAs under 2.00, led by Luis Tiant’s 1.60. Also, in 1968 the NL’s Bob Gibson led the majors with an ERA of 1.12! Between 1960 and 1969, eight pitchers won at least 25 games. After 1969, when the mound was lowered only 5 inches, pitchers have not won over 25 since then up to the present. Baseball management got what they desired and baseball has paid the price many times over since. Ever watch a game between Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson? Or, between Frank Lary and Whitey Ford? Now that is entertainment if you love baseball.Barry Bonds wearing protective gear

4) Abolish body armor for hitters. If a hitter has an injury and is concerned about aggravating it, he has two choices. Take his chances at bat or do not bat. But get rid of that body armor that allows players to lean over the plate and take a pitch off their arms or shins with impunity. What’s next — rib pads a la football? Shoulder pads? And to make matters worse, I would wager a fair amount that 95% of these batters that wear this crap do not even have an injury and wear this body armor so they can lean over the plate with immunity.  Yet, the players still get aggressive when they do get hit! It has no place in baseball. If players want to pretend to be gladiators by wearing body armor, then go play football. 

Artificial-Grass-

5) Outlaw artificial turf once and for all. Baseball should never be played on any other surface than good old grass and dirt.  And it should never be played indoors either, except for weather circumstances (such as in places like Toronto or Minneapolis which require a retractable dome). Any stadium that has artificial turf has the next ten years to get rid of the stuff. The only thing the artificial turf does is save money for the owner because of the significantly low-cost maintenance involved with mowing, watering, fertilizing, etc. The ball plays as if it is a cue ball caroming around the felt top of a billiards table. That is not baseball. Balls bounce off seams in the artificial surface where sections meet and players can snag cleats and hurt themselves. It has no place in baseball and is a safety hazard.

 

6) Change the season back to 154 games. So the owners lose four home game dates with a move that would prove very costly even in low-attendance locations such as Kansas City or Florida.  Because it is not just the ticket sales that are1955 schedule affected, but also the concessions, the parking and the advertising. And that could mean serious cuts in revenue per game.  So throw the owners a bone.  Extend all playoff series to seven games and get rid of the five-game first round playoff series. It is unfair to teams anyway to play only five games.  The series at five games will always favor the hot team. The extra two games would give the teams a chance to even things out and would offer a better appraisal of each team’s worth.  With a 154-game slate, the season could start a little closer to the old start dates which were around April l2th. And they could end maybe a week earlier so the chances are better on both ends of the season and playoffs that games won’t be getting played in the snow. 

 

MLB-on-FOX

7) Change the time slot for nationally televised games so that they end at 11:00 PM on any given night. On weekends, all games must start no later than 6:00 PM, and preferably be played around three or four in the afternoon. If need be, give back a percentage of the money the media has paid to broadcast the games. We are talking billions of dollars here to begin with, so giving back some millions to begin to regain fan interest is an investment and not a loss. By showing the games at suitable times children who have a reasonable bedtime can watch them more frequently with their fathers. This is a small price to pay. The fan baseball creates as a child will be a fan for life and pass the tradition on to their children. That is how a market is continually built and strengthened. 

marlin fans

8) Set aside a section in all bleachers for fan-friendly promotions that were popular back in the 1960s and earlier. Recreate ladies’ day once a week. Have a half-price promotion daily for service people.  Play a scheduled doubleheader occasionally. It is all about creating and strengthening the fan base. If the average person cannot afford the game, then believe it or not, the base will erode and baseball will be headed back to a struggle just to regain revenue in the future. Why mess up a good thing when it takes so little effort to throw us little people a choice and cheap bone every now and then? 

Remember point seven where the son watches games with his dad? You better believe with single-parent households that now number more than ever, there are many young moms that watch and go to the games with their sons. I know because I had a mom who took me to my very first Yankee game. I never forgot it and it made me a fan for life. This would make it easier for young parents to enjoy the best game in the world with a son or a daughter.  The profit in the end will be much greater.

9) Require all teams to have a fan appreciation day. Let the fan go out on the field and meet and greet the players — ALLfan_appreciation_day_ the players. This needs no explanation because it is what it is, a chance for kids of all ages to talk to the players and get an autograph or two (and maybe, in addition, a photo or two).  One of my most prized possessions as a kid was an autographed picture of a player who lived in my home state of Connecticut and played for the Boston Red Sox. Jimmy Piersall was his name, and he became a favorite of mine during his shortened and sometimes hard and tragic career due to mental illness. The irony is that he was from the hated Red Sox and I was always, even as a young boy, a dedicated Yankee fan; but the fact remains that a personally signed picture of the player made that much of a difference to me. It was a treasured piece of memorabilia that I could have and hold. It was like a piece of gold to me. Baseball should always be a child- and fan-friendly game. Enough with the profit mongering management suits such as Lon Trost of the Yankees who seem to want to squeeze the metropolitan New York fan out every depression dollar they can possibly get these days.

Grant Balfour

10) Never, ever, create a section in a ballpark whereby children cannot get autographs from the players before the game. Specifically I am talking about those so-called exclusive premier seats in places like Yankee Stadium that go for thousands of dollars. Too bad the hoi polloi have to deal with the people who actually come to watch the games and see the players and not arrive at the park merely as a social and status event.

11) If by the third or fourth inning, a team knows that certain premium seats are not going to be sold, and will therefore be unoccupied, then randomly search out families from the cheaper seats and allow them to sit in those seats. The good will that would be created and the promotional value will be well worth the time and effort to let us “poor unwashed” experience the “good life”.  The point is, those seats are not creating revenue in the form of monetary value, so why not use them to create value in other ways? Like doing something nice for the fan? It wouldn’t cost anything when you think about it but would gain rewards that would last a lifetime. Plus, when those national TV cameras scan those empty expensive seats… well, they will not be empty any more, will they? 

12) Writers note: Obviously there is now much more replay of various umpire calls in baseball than when this article was originally written in 2009. So, read the following with that in mind. But, I still kinda feel the same way about using so-called instant replay. It makes games unnecessarily longer. Now, the manger takes a slow, belabored stroll out and begins to have a “conversation” with the umpires… all the while he’s got an eye towards his bench waiting for the high sign… for the Yankees’, Manager Joe Girardi looks in to see if coach Tony Pena gives a “thumbs up” or “arms across the chest” sign. If it’s a “thumbs up”, a challenge is issued and a review needs to be done. It just adds too much time to the game. Even though the Yanks tend to be way above the league average… last I heard about 70% of their challenges go their way… it still just adds too much time to the games in my opinion.)

Eliminate the instant replay review of home runs. It serves no real purpose and wastes valuable time. The amount ofmlb-instant-replay missed calls is miniscule and does not warrant baseball needing this electronic device to muck things up further. What is next — instant replay of steal attempts? Identify if the player’s tag hit the runner’s thigh before his toe touched the bag? This is not football, thank God! Leave the game the way it is, a game played by humans and decided by humans. If it is that big of a deal, then eliminate the front row of seats so fans cannot reach over the wall to interfere with the ball or place an extra ump out there whose sole job is to watch that play.

Nothing will be done… why? M-O-N-E-Y! Owners want the seats for the potential fanny in the seat who can buy refreshments and souvenirs, and, the league ain’t gonna pay to put another ump on the field.

An interesting take on the review of home run balls comes from Brian Bruney (New York Yankees) currently rehabbing on the DL. (Writers note: He was at the time this article was originally written.) Bruney thinks his injury was facilitated by the lengthy delay in a game on April l9th when the umps took over eight minutes to determine if a Jorge Posada home run was a home run. He thinks the pitches he took to keep warmed up during that time led to his elbow issues. He says, “Major League Baseball needs to figure out a way to figure out if it’s a home run or not. It shouldn’t take 8 1/2 minutes. I think that’s what screwed me up, so hopefully they’ll figure that out and it won’t happen to anybody else.”  
 

There you have it: twelve simple and relatively inexpensive things that could be done to bring back baseball to a sense of reality. Any questions? Other ideas? Hit me with your best shot and maybe we can post them in a future article for discussion.

 

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Comments

comments

4 Comments

  1. Well I’m glad to be the inspiration behind this. As someone who once considered himself a baseball fan, most of these moves would get me back into the game again, but your 6th point is wishful thinking. Thanks to TV money, there’s no way MLB will consider moving back to 154 games. Shoot, just pray they won’t think of increasing the season past 162.

    Great stuff as always.

    P.S: Thanks for the plug in the intro.

  2. Welcome… ya do good stuff.

    Frankly… most of my suggestions will never see the light of day. Still, if MLB insituted about half of them it would be great for MLB and the fans of baseball.

  3. My thoughts on each. Not that they matter.

    #1. Would not change anything either way.

    #2. Too many injuries now. Going to a four man rotation would only add to the IR list. ERA’s will inflate. BA’s and offensive stats will rise.

    #3. I have been a proponent of this one for years with one exception however: we alreayd have a strikeout ratio for all MLB batters that has risen to epic proportions.

    #4. All for it. Except for a wrist sweatband and proper headgear; get rid of everything else. Bonds used to look like a gladiator when he came to the plate.

    #5. Agree totally. Hate the stuff. Will help in reducing injuries as well.

    #6. Agree with 1 exception: keep the same start date, finish season earlier so we can finish the damn WS before it turns cold.

    #7. I don’t see how this would help the game.

    #8. I think most teams have some form of this already. Maybe someone back then read your first article.

    #9. Done – I think

    #10. Kind of like mandatory press conferences. Each team should make 1/3 of their players available for chat/pic sessions prior to each game in a common area where it can be controlled but accessible by the kids. And no Dad , this is not for you.

    #11. Okay!

    #12. Well, we all know now this is not going to happen!

    Good stuff Joe!

  4. Great blog and I like the suggestions.

    #3 was educational for me, I was not aware of this and it needs to be done, but probably wont. People today love offense and the homers are part of the game and the main reason PED’s were so rampant. I love watching a good pitchers duel, although a lot of people don’t. I like the strategy and the pitcher being forced to make smart decisions when one pitch could determine a ballgame.

    The Hold stat (consider the source, I love my stats) is totally unnecessary.

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