So anyway, while waiting for the World Series to resume and then for the offseason rumor mill to start churning at maximum speed, I was thinking about what new stuff to throw up on this website and decided to take another crack and stuff that I really like about baseball that need to be emphasized. Part of this is to amuse me (hence why I do this and the random podcast episodes nobody listens to these days) and much of it is to find a way to promote the sport to the masses and gain new fans so baseball doesn’t actually die as predicted by various sci-fi shows and media outlets every so often. Without further ado, and until Josh brings back the Hope Monster, let’s take a look at what I think would be fun. Maybe you’ll agree, or maybe you’ll have other thoughts, I can’t tell you what to do.
A Question of Balance
In my youth, I really enjoyed the Splinter Cell series of games, where you played as a super spy who snuck around everywhere and was essentially invisible to the enemy as he performed operations for national security or what have you. The sequel in the early 2000s, Pandora Tomorrow, introduced a spy-vs-mercenary mode where spies would try to neutralize an objective while sneaking around stronger, more heavily armed and armored mercs. The chief complaint at the beginning of the height of gameplay was that the spies were overpowered, so patches were made to balance the game so the merc team had a chance to win.
I haven’t played the game in years, and haven’t actually held a controller for a long time now, but this is akin to the huge imbalance in baseball which is forcing three-true-outcomes offense. It is obvious that the pitchers are well ahead of hitters due to velocity, spin, tunneling, etc. Strikeouts have increased dramatically, batting averages are down, and home runs are basically the highlight du jour for most clubs because the only hope hitters have most of the time is to swing and hope they run into one. I do love home runs, but like everything, I think they should be blasted in moderation because all those dinger highlights might get stale after a while. I think most of the items coming soon will rebalance the game for the offense somewhat, but we won’t know until actual games are played.
The Ghost Runner
I’m glad they don’t do this in the postseason, but I think most players do like the rule of putting a man on second in extras to shorten the game. As some on Twitter have said and also Rob Manfred, most people would be in favor of a rule that lets them go home early from work:
As an extension of this, I think baseball is more exciting when the pitcher is stressed because there are baserunners. They can’t do the windup, they have to hurry to the plate to reduce stolen base attempts, and the offense has a better chance to make some noise. I think I’d rather do something like the NHL in that there’s an actual overtime period before they go to shootout, but in the case of MLB, have the 10th and 11th innings played as normal before implementing the automatic runner from the 12th inning onwards. If the home team can’t win within 11 innings anyway, they deserve the chaos. Baseball being a sport designed for random outcomes should be full of chaos! But yes, save the mega-chaos until later in my opinion.
The pitchers already have the advantage, let them be the ones stressed out! The batters at this point probably need all the help they can get.
The Pitch Clock and Restricted Defense
I think we will obviously need to see Spring Training 2023 to determine how teams are leveraging the new rules and how players respond to them, but I do think that the major new rules that involve a pitch clock and restricted shifting are good for the game. I know that most people don’t think that will prevent batters, especially left-handed batters, from swinging for the fences or pulling the ball anyway, but I’ll try to address that later.
I think the pitch clock would be great for stolen bases and for keeping the pace going, and since the clock also forces the batter to stay in the box or suffer an automatic strike call, it isn’t biased toward one side or the other. Having extra hits squeak through where they would’ve been gobbled up by shifts before means extra base runners, so I’m cool with that as well. I’m well in favor of anything that adds baserunners even if it naturally lengthens the game, because offense is fun.
I also think that the pitch clock will reduce max effort pitching due to a shorter recovery time, which gives batters a better chance to make contact, thus increasing balls in play and action. Action is good, and will also increase the opportunities for the defense to make spectacular plays! More action in a game that likely finishes in three hours seems like a win-win to me.
Run Like You Stole Something
The larger bases that are coming next season should hopefully increase the incentive to steal more bases. I know stolen bases have almost become a lost art due to analytics. I don’t think analytics are bad overall because ultimately we want the team to win more games, but I also think that rebalancing the game to incentivize the analysts to attempt more steals is a good thing. Action plus opportunities for great throws and tags make for a more aesthetically pleasing game.
While this isn’t going to stop the development of power pitchers, because reducing the time for opportunities to steal will still be critical, I think rewarding athletic players on offense (fast steal-happy guys who take advantage of holes in the defense with line drive hitting) and defense (have to make up more ground due to more balls in play with pitchers possibly trying to induce contact to go farther in games) is going to be great for both us hardcore baseball fans and the casual fan in the long run. Hopefully MLB also remembers to make the ball more consistent so a ball that is squared up justly rewards the hitter with extra bases or the (hopefully just occasional, let’s say 10% of the time) home run.
This stems from AC’s previous fun blog about revamping the postseason, but I’m definitely in favor of anything that gives the best team an edge in the playoffs. If the front office, with the backing of ownership’s money, builds a team that can churn out 100+ wins, they deserve to be rewarded with a reasonable advantage while the rest of the field gets run through a woodchipper.
Respecting the Fan’s Pocketbook
This part stems from the fact that my hometown Oakland A’s might be pulling a Major League to move to Las Vegas (never mind the whole thing about the Colorado River running out of water because nobody should be living in those states, much less diverting all that water, but this isn’t an environmental awareness blog I guess).
I think, having matured in my thinking and my understanding of the world around me, that asking a community to finance a rich bastard’s pet project is gross. I’m glad that Chicago basically told Tom Ricketts “no” when they asked for funding to renovate Wrigley Field, and I’m glad Oakland flatly told the A’s “no” when they asked for public financing for a new stadium away from the Coliseum site.
Given how much we shell out for game tickets (with supply and demand still considered), the owners shouldn’t expect taxpayers to further foot the bill for a stadium that might be deemed obsolete once the rich folks get bored. I’d like to see some revenue sharing-associated penalties for certain teams *cough cough* Pittsburgh *cough* who just bag the funds without trying to improve their shitty ball club, but perhaps that is too much of a pipe dream.
As the World Series games slog on into the dead of night (at least on the East Coast), I’m excited to see what the new rules do in spring training, and how teams will maximize their roster flexibility to take advantage. I’m going to trust that the people who get paid to run the Cubs know far more than I do, and as the saying goes, let’s see what happens.