Well, we’re twenty games into the college baseball season, and the TCU Horned Frogs are now No. 4 in the nation. I was watching them sweep Texas Tech last weekend shredding on a nice mid 70’s Tejas spring day with my bud Mexican Joe, and we agreed that the scene was quite idyllic.
'Cept for the dang ping of those stupid aluminum bats.
Something’s just ain’t right, and aluminum bats are one of 'em. I sure wish college ball would get rid of them. Which got us all thinkin’ and talkin’ on what, if any changes, should the big leagues do given that there have been various rumbling from the powers that be about such.
We came up with four changes we’d like to see…and as baseball traditionalists, they’re all back to the future.
1) Raise the mound back up to 15 inches.
Back in 1968, it was the “year of the pitcher.” The combination of those large stadiums built in the 60’s, increased travel and night games due to expansion, and the lackadaisical training methods and habits of a generation of hitters raised in a different era all conspired to make things relatively easy for the hurlers. Bob Gibson dominated the NL with a 1.12 ERA and Don Drysdale set a record for consecutive scoreless innings. So, the league responded by lowering the height of the mound by five inches in 1969.
We think it’s time to raise it back up. Today ball players all work out with weight training and other techniques to add strength, resulting in a situation where every member of the team can take you deep. The good field, no hit shortstop like Bud Harrelson is a thing of the past. Add to this a new generation of stadiums that seem designed to produce home runs (the new Yankee being one of the most conspicuous offenders) and we have a situation where the pendulum has swung too strongly in the offensive direction. Since 1969 when the mound was raised, runs scored per game have jumped from 4.09 to 4.75 in the AL and 4.05 to 4.49 in the NL. Bring it back up to 15 inches; the hitters don’t need the advantage anymore.
2) Get rid of the Designated Hitter
"There's no doubt in my mind that the game of baseball in all its beauty and entirety is the National League game. I would kick the DH out so quick it would make your head spin." -Manager Tony La Russa
Baseball purists have always hated the DH, which was introduced in the AL in 1973. It eliminates much of the strategy of the game, allows pitchers to become headhunters without any fear of retaliation, and keeps bloated players who can no longer adequately perform in the field on payrolls a few years longer.
Supporters argue that it adds more "excitement," since the pitcher is an “empty bat,” and that it adds more action via increased scoring. I’m not so sure of that.
Because of the DH, as aforementioned, strategy is simplified, and bunting and base stealing are reduced. Statistically, the DH adds about a quarter run to the average game while eliminating a little less than two strikeouts per game. But, as pitcher Rick Wise famously quoted, "The designated hitter rule is like having someone else take Wilt Chamberlain 's free throws ."
As noted earlier, it’s not like the modern day players are having a hard time scoring runs, given the small, hitter friendly parks that have been constructed, better training, better scouting via techniques like video tape, and even more efficient bat design with a larger sweet spot.
The DH appeals to those too lazy, or dumb, to keep score…none of those messy double switches, multiple pinch hitters, hit and runs or other such stuff. Just get up thar’ and take yer hacks. It’s another symptom of an ADD addled population trained via television and other multimedia to demand constant stimulation. Everything…all the time.
These are the same forces that have brought us other “innovations” which “improve” our game experience.
Constant, loud, and very, very bad rock music blared at the decibel level of an airplane during takeoff during every single pause in the action.
Dumbass mascots who prance around on the dugout and get in your field of vision during the game.
Mega graphics and videos competing for attention from all corners of the park. And more televisions posted around the park than George Orwell predicted in 1984 .
Certain sports are timeless. I’m certainly not a fan of futbol and just an occasional watcher of golf, but can understand the love that their fanbase has due to their unchanging nature… a game now is as it was years ago.
Baseball is like this. One of the things I’ve always loved about baseball is its lack of change. You watch a replay of the 1969 series on TV and the game is essentially the same. Not like American football, basketball or rugby, where a game now holds scant similarity to the contests played 40 years ago.
So let’s can the DH and play some real ball. And keep the game pure.
3) Vote the best players into the All-Star Game.
It seems like now a days, everyone gets a prize. Kids play little league futbol and even the sucky ones get a trophy. High schools in some states have adopted “mercy” rules, to prevent teams from getting blown out in football, baseball and hoops. Guess it’ll hurt their tender feelings. Everyone’s a winner. Everyone gets a ribbon or a medal.
Makes me wanna puke.
Pro baseball caught on to this unfortunate trend several years back when they mandated that every team have at least one representative in the All-Star Game. Didn’t want to alienate the fans of crappy teams and hurt their feelings.
News flash: The fans of sucky teams are already alienated because…well, because they suck. Naming one of their mediocre players to the All-Star team ain’t going to change that much
So cut it out; the All-Star team should be the best players that year. If a couple of teams don’t place anyone…so be it. They didn’t deserve any representation that year. They'll get over it.
4) Mandate that all weekend playoff and World Series games be day games.
The World Series used to be played in early October. Now, with the playoffs, it’s been extended to late October. This is a problem when teams from the Northeast and Midwest are in it. Because late October nights in places like Boston, New York, Chicago and Detroit can be very, very cold. Not only is this uncomfortable for the fan in the seats, but the game was just not made to be played in those conditions.
Trying to hit the ball on a 40-degree night, or even worse a 40-degree night with a light rain, is not measuring who is the best team in the park. It’s measuring who get’s lucky more often.
Now I’m a realist. I realize the big bucks guys at the television networks and such need to have night games so they can pay for those yachts, mansions in the Hamptons, and other goodies that the hoi polloi that rank at the top tier of our social order get to indulge in. OK. But at least on the weekends, make it a day game.
Not only will this produce better baseball, but it will actually allow those of us with children to introduce them to the game rather than scooting them to bed in the fifth inning or so. As such, it’ll help the game to sustain its fan base.
It’ll also help those of us who have real jobs to be able to watch a few games without having to stay up past one in the morning, greatly improving our productivity and ability to continue employment. There's a recession on out here in the real world, after all.
Me and Mex Joe, we’re still arguing about the whole interleague play thing. But we agreed on these four changes.