Major League Baseball just killed the “manual intentional walk” in the spirit of speeding up games. Managers can now trigger an intentional walk by signally the umpire rather than forcing the pitcher to waste a dozen lifetimes across all viewers by going through the usually pointless exercise of tossing in four wide balls.
This not only moves things along, but also spares us from seeing the humiliated catcher stand with his arm stretched out in a stance that looks vaguely French, announcing that ten grown men are scared pissless of the guy with the bat. (Yeah, strategy, whatever. Watching it has always made me momentarily sorry to be alive.)
It’s a good start. But the fans deserve better.
Here are nine more badly needed upgrades to America’s pastime.
1. All stadium music must be a variation of “Flight of The Bumblebee.”
2. No more strolling on and off the field after every three outs. Each team gets 27 consecutive outs and a max of 39 at-bats per game. Any base runner who doesn’t score by the time he’s up again forfeits his base.
This will mean high-scoring games that are stunningly short, mostly because the game ends when it’s impossible for a team to win (i.e., the home team trails by six runs and has used 34 at-bats). For an extreme example, if the visiting team scores no runs after spending their 27 outs or 39 at-bats during the “top half” of the game, the first run scored by the home team in the “bottom half” wins:
Tied game after 54 outs? The visitors bat again. If they score a run, the home team immediately begins batting and must score a run within the same number of at-bats it took the visitors to score. This repeats until one team fails to score within the needed at-bats. If there’s no winner after each team has had 39 at-bats, both teams lose. Nobody deserves to win.
3. No more wasting time by having the catcher throw the ball back to the pitcher. The pitcher will have a bucket filled with 60 baseballs and will retrieve a ball for every pitch. The catcher will hand the pitched ball to the umpire, who will drop it in a second bucket. The buckets are swapped as necessary. During plays at the plate, if a runner overturns the umpire’s bucket the catcher can use any of the scattered balls to tag him out.
4. Any pitch under 90 miles per hour is a ball. Knuckleballers won’t be grandfathered so they shouldn’t expect to be on the hill at age 52.
5. The strike zone is expanded in applied practice (no bullshit this time) to follow the actual rule: it spans the area above the plate from the batter’s kneecaps to his shoulders. Umpires not enforcing this will be fined or fired. Overnight, this will increase the pitcher’s target from the size of a Whitman’s sampler box to something far more accommodating:
As the average nine-year old child could easily hit the enlarged strike zone in three out of three tries, it hardly needs to be stated that…
6. Batters only need three balls to earn a walk. This will be the sixth and last time this rule is revised (it was reduced to an unsettling eight balls in 1880 and dickered down to its current disturbing four balls in 1889). Naturally, three foul balls will now count as one strike, since endless do-overs should have been killed back when using a glove was for nancy-boys.
I’m sure you’ve noticed, but all changes should make baseball observe the “Rule of Threes.”
Namely, every rule or custom with a numerical expression will be in threes or multiples of threes. This includes putting the hyphen back in base-ball, restoring the nine printed characters originally intended to represent the game on paper.
7. Players or coaches may make no restroom trips after the game starts. Anyone breaking the seal forfeits three outs for his team. Bowls of salty pretzels shall be kept in both dugouts.
8. Players must run at full speed between the bases at all times, including after hitting a home run. Jogging will cost your team three outs. (All penalties further shorten the game; a bench-clearing brawl gives everyone an early night.) To encourage hustle, bat boys and foul-line girls will follow rules applied to Wimbledon ball runners, including assuming a racing crouch between duties.
9. Pop-ups and flies caught in the cap behind the back count as three outs. More unassisted triple plays, more razzmatazz. Everybody wins.
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Top image: Wikimedia Commons