Like every red blooded American, I am told year after year that I should embrace America’s pastime as it is a rite of summer, and thus welcome it with open arms. We American’s love baseball, and the game itself stands for so much of what we as a country symbolize. The old timers love reflecting on the greats of yesteryear, while stat heads rattle off their fake teams. The start of the baseball season coincides with the beginning of spring so everyone’s a winner. We flock to the ballpark and overpay for everything from the time we bought the already overpriced tickets, just so we can sit in the sun and lounge with our friends and family. Nothing is better than a day at the ballpark, well except of course watching the actual game.
Wait, what? Are you loco man? I just read an entire diatribe dedicated to the brilliance of baseball, only to hear you don’t actually enjoy the game? Untrue, I love baseball, but I do not love what baseball has become. I remember my first game at Yankee Stadium, it was in 1994 and the Yankees beat the Orioles. I remember thinking how I was walking into a cathedral that held an aura that just couldn’t be explained…and I was 12. That was the last game of the season because of the looming strike, and on April 12 I fell in love, yet had to wait another 7 months before I could even remember what I enjoyed so much about it. When it comes down to it though, that story is a metaphor for everything that has become of the game. Just like the lock out shortened season, the game itself has grinded to an inexcusable halt. Games are routinely over 3 hours and rarely can the average fan say they actually paid attention to the game as much as they should have when they last saw their team live; let alone admit to watching 9 full innings of baseball at home. There is a reason why they call innings four through six the “nap” innings.
Ok just say it, I know the phrase is coming, so let’s get it over with before I explain my theory, “You’re destroying the purity of the game by changing it.” Why is the “purity” of the game so important anyway though? When basketball games grinded into a half court mess of keep away what did they do? Invented the shot clock. When hockey games became tedious because of the “Devils Trap” what did they do? Invented the trapezoid. Same goes for the two point conversion, and the college overtime rule. When bread goes stale you don’t toast it hope it gets fresher (extremely guilty), you throw it out. Below is my proposal for fixing baseball and giving the people what they really want.
Shot Clock (well, pitch clock)
Before you overreact, hear me out. The best aspect of basketball is that it is two and a half hours, and football is three, which means, that bearing overtime, you commit a specific time to that game, and know approximately when you will be free of your investment. However, baseball has no clock so the games have no set time, and thus become marathons, while it's a war of attrition just to stay focused through all nine. And that’s before the playoffs when games become 4 hours. When you play 162 games, which is incomprehensible amount of time dedicated to watch your team by far and the most of any sport anywhere, something has got to give. By setting up a pitch clock for pitchers, there won’t be all that down time that makes the game last longer than it should. With over-managing skippers constantly going to the pen, and the amount of pick off attempts and foul balls, it's a ton of wasted time for a small pay off of action. In fact, As we speak I have a baseball game in the background, and can you tell everything that’s happening without actually watching. The pitch clock will also give the viewer a whole different way to stay focused on the game, as there will be more going on during the down time.
• As soon as the pitcher catches the ball from the catcher, he has 25 seconds before he must release the ball.
• If he does not release baseball in the allotted time it counts as a ball and the clock resets.
• If he has 2 pitch clock infractions during one at bat, the batsmen will automatically take a walk.
• Each time the pitcher throws over to the 1st basemen 5 seconds will be deducted from the pitchers pitch clock. He may not throw over a 3rd time.
• A catcher may visit a pitcher once an inning. Once the catcher crouches the clock begins.
• There may only be one pitching change per inning.
• Batters are only allowed to step out of the box once per at bat.
Runs will increase, which will make dominating pitching performances that much more incredible as pitchers are forced to control the game and the tempo. Spectators will consistently have a few different things to focus on rather than just wait, and most importantly, the games will go much faster. Pitcher will need to adopt a philosophy of controlling the situation, and thus having more freedom to call their own games. Hitters are certain to have an advantage with this scenario, but Major League Baseball loves to tout the long ball, remember “chick’s dig it”, and this will certainly increase the amount of run scored. However, hitters will have to constantly be prepared and base runners will no longer be able to torment pitchers with the hope that they will throw off his teaming. So with that said, what is glaring negative other than your “purity” and “statistics” argument? More offense? Check. Shorter Games? Check. Faster paced action? Check. A new way to value pitchers? Check (for you stat heads out there).
Below the comment’s will tear this article to shreds, but I stand by what I have written. It is an honest interpretation of how to improve baseball without taking away its essence at heart.
By Johan Lang
I'd love to see this attempted. Whether it be in the minors or college, I think it needs to be tested before implementing in the majors. It would definitely revitalized the fans who dread watching baseball on TV and help the cell phone surfers pay attention at the games.