How to make baseball better?
We posed that question last week after batting it around in the office, where the responses ranged from half-price beer for last call in the seventh inning to pitch clocks and limits on visits to the mound.
The topic of how to "fix" baseball is a popular one lately.
The position here is that baseball doesn't need fixing. The greatness of the game is the potential for variation -- from a 1-0 pitcher's duel to the prospect of seeing Aaron Judge or Miguel Sano bash a 450-foot home run on a night when the pitchers appear helpless.
Still, anything that's really good can be a bit better.
We received dozens of responses to our question, some very serious (maybe a bit too much) and some that were whimsical. Three guys at Catholic Charities in Minneapolis submitted a 27-point plan for improvement. Here are a few of them.
*No mid-inning pitching changes except for injury.
* Link the starting pitcher w/ DH. If starter leaves game, your team loses DH. Longer starts and better end-game strategy.
* One pickoff attempt per batter but no balks.
*More strikeout celebrations and bat flipping.
David Meyer, who submitted the list, added: "None of this has been blessed by the Vatican yet."
An 18-inch strike zone? An automated strike zone (a popular suggestion), a 10-rule after five innings (also mentioned a few times) an "widening home plate by an inch." -- Bud Mullen, Cambridge.
Turn defense into offense. We figured this one out the second time we read it and think it's kind of intriguing: Give points for outs, not runs. "The team in the field has the ball, so let them be the offense. The batting team gets to go on offense when they get a run. If the top half of the first goes K, K, 6-3, home run, the score is 3 to zero and the side is retired. Use a clock like football / basketball / hockey / soccer to limit game to one hour of playing time. Stop the clock, start the clock, have delay of game penalties etc. Open substitution to keep the best players in their best positions at all times." -- Scott Cullen.
Defense as offense, the sequel: "If a runner gets to third base with no outs, and fails to score that half inning, the defense gets one run." -- Terry Delaney
Give fans some credit: "Stop with all the in stadium messages telling us when to cheer. It's embarrassing! Can you imagine this being done in Yankee Stadium, Fenway or Wrigley? We're not morons, when it's important enough, we know when to cheer. " -- Mark Wiersbeck.
The DH, Part 1: "Get rid of the DH. I despise the concept entirely. It has ruined the game for me." -- Bob Kohlmeier
The DH, Part 2: "DH only for starting pitchers. Once the starter has been removed, the pitcher must bat. The intent, like the National League is to involve the bench and hamper multiple relief pitching changes late in games." -- Phillip Greenhagen.
Ban the shift, a cerebral argument: "Because baseball is played at a slower pace than all other major league sports and has no clock, momentum is key for both player and fan. Whether you're at the ball park, watching on television, or listening to the radio, the sense of a rally is why we love baseball. The ebb and flow of baseball can be truly beautiful when played in its natural confines. But now so often, defensive shifts guided by computer analysis have taken away those joys of baseball. Before the computer, defensive players "shaded" certain players and were allowed to do so. But now baseball players who are on the field, totally vacate their positions which "delete" singles, doubles and triples as well as batting averages. It may be nice for defensive minded baseball people, but it's not enjoyable for fans and has become detrimental to the game." -- Robert Cunningham, Burnsville.
A vote for honesty and integrity: "Baseball is the sport that best represents America and is held up as a standard of behavior for our youth. What has always troubled me about baseball is that it legitimizes lying and dishonesty and in effect is telling our kids that it is OK to not be truthful in baseball games but yet expect honesty in school and at home. Why is it OK if the umpire calls you safe and you know you were out to be silent and not speak up and say 'You know what, you didn’t see him put the tag on me.' Why is honesty expected in golf but not baseball? Can you imagine how upset a coach would be if a player spoke up and said a call was wrong that was not in the player’s favor? Isn’t developing integrity in our kids more important than winning? Imagine a baseball culture where honesty and integrity were valued more than winning? I think that would be a pretty cool improvement to the game." -- Pat Lynch
Fewer innings, more outs: "Change to 3 balls/2 strikes. Play 4 innings each 6 outs." -- Dean Weflen.
Fewer innings, period: "Skip the first 8 innings" -- John Andryski.
A ballpark area for serious fans: Create a "Baseball Fan's Section" at every ballpark "The Baseball Fan's Section (BFS) is for people who actually came to the game to watch and enjoy it. It has rules of conduct and etiquette that are mandatory and enforced strictly, with expulsion from the BFS should one break two rules in one game. The BFS requires that people may not leave or return their seats only between innings or during pitching changes and vendors are limited similarly. Drunkeness and blocking people's view of play for more than 30 seconds during live play is prohibited as are idiotic phone conversations and selfies. Continuous person to person babbling about local gossip, favorite shopping malls and the wonders of new smart phones is also forbidden. Baseball would be much better if there was a BFS section where one could actually enjoy watching the beauty and subtly events of a baseball game." -- Preston Scott, Madison, Wis.
Shorten the All-Star break: "Go back to the 3-day All Star break instead of 4 day. Plug that off day in somewhere else. Like in April when it’s cold, or September when the races are on." -- Todd Hansen.
Ball and strikes, with a nod to Joe West: "Major League Baseball will continue to lose credibility the longer it allows balls and strikes to be called by human umpires. If professional tennis can use technology to determine whether a ball traveling at a very high speed landed in the court of play, which is objectively defined, the same can be done in baseball to determine if a ball crossing the plate is in the strike zone, which is also objectively defined. The MLB and its fans deserve better than to let the varying and temperamental judgment of the likes of Joe West unnecessarily affect game outcomes." -- John Grimes, Minneapolis.
For interleague play, use National League rules in American League parks (and vice versa): "The additional strategy associated with the pitcher batting, and double switches, etc. is a wonderful part of the game that the AL has abandoned with the creation of the DH. Why not allow AL fans to enjoy the game the way it was intended to be played as part of the interleague experience? As an avid fan who maintains a scorecard, this would be really enjoyable. It would also be interesting to see how NL fans would react to viewing games in person with a DH during interleague match-ups." -- Paul Fischer, St. Paul.
Expand to Cuba: "Promote and negotiate for one of the MLB expansion teams to locate in Havana." -- James Cammarato.
Get rid of ... batting gloves: "The game moves too slowly. Too much fidgeting at the plate between pitches. The answer: outlaw batting gloves! Do we really need to adjust each glove after every pitch - even when the bat never leaves the batter's shoulder?! Back in the day, no one wore gloves. Let's toughen up the players and speed up the game!!" -- Duane Willms, Woodbury.
Bonus defense: "If a fan catches a foul ball the batter is out." -- Ross Flom, Aberdeen, S.D.
The "unwritten rules?" Get rid of them: "Stop with the insanely stupid unwritten rules. Baseball players come off as sad children with these. It’s kind of akin to the stupid goons in hockey: totally useless Let players show emotion. Sports are emotion-filled activities. If a pitcher strikes someone out with runners on and the game tied, that pitcher should be able to show some emotion without this ridiculous notion that he’s 'showing up' the other team. The whole 'showing up' concept seems routed in some clueless antiquated idea of masculinity that, in practice, makes the games boring." -- Clark Starr, Minneapolis.
And, finally, one more from the guys at Catholic Charities: "If mid-inning relievers are allowed, they must arrive via team-themed golf cart."
Thanks for playing. We'll let you decide which ones to take seriously and which ones were the result of a bad day at work -- or at the ballpark.