Fixing Baseball ?

Sometime last week, MLB Commish, Rob Manfred, went on WFAN radio in NYC and said that he would consider limiting the number of pitching changes that can be made in a game. Notice, he did not say he would implement it by fiat or even make it a central piece in the upcoming CBA negotiations; he said he would consider it. Loads of people went teaspoons as soon as they heard/read that comment. Here is exactly what he said:

“Relief pitchers have really changed the game. The use of relief pitchers — obviously every time you have a pitching change, it goes contrary to our pace-of-game efforts. And the other thing it does — and hats off to them — our relievers now are so good that they actually make the back end of the game — seven, eight and nine — with less action in it. And when you think about keeping people engaged, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Is this a good thing for the game?'”

The “issues” he cites are observably true; if you are going to give this idea serious consideration, you have to begin by acknowledging what is true and then decide for yourself if any of the possible “solutions” to these “issues” are worth the trouble. With regard to the “pace-of-the-game” issue, I suggested several months ago a change that would assist in that dimension.

    If a pitcher comes into a game, he has to face at least 3 batters. That change would probably reduce the number of pitching changes in a given inning.

    Oh, and to protect the integrity of the game from seeing how often a pitcher would come into a game and suffer an injury that forces his replacement, any relief pitcher in that circumstance would immediately be put on the 15-day DL.

With regard to “lack of action” in the back end of games due to the excellence of relief pitchers these days, I have a problem with trying to “fix” that problem. First of all, there is plenty of action in the final innings of games as pitchers and batters face each other – each with clearly opposite intentions. Secondly, I do not think it is a good idea to punish one class of players because they seem to excel at their craft. Back in the “Steroid Era” when home runs were flying out of ballparks at record rates, I do not recall anyone suggesting that certain hitters use balsa wood bats or that the fences be moved back another 30 feet.

The other news events that put Rob Manfred in the spotlight are the nascent negotiations with the MLBPA on a new CBA. The players have expressed an interest in having a few more off-days built into the schedule particularly around games involving major time zone changes. Those are not unreasonable requests but the most obvious way to provide such a thing is to cut the season back to 154 games as it was for many years until the 1960s. The problem with that is that cutting the season cuts the number of TV events meaning revenue would be cut. Eight games represent 5% of the MLB season; I suspect that the players would not be willing to take all of their contracts and shave 5% off the gross just to get a few days off.

However, there is another way to look at this. Suppose each team built 5 home double headers into their schedule on designated dates. To minimize the revenue hit for teams – not eliminate it but minimize it – teams could charge 50% more than usual for tix to those doubleheaders. And with people in the park that much longer, think of the increase in concession sales… Each team would play 5 home doubleheaders and 5 away double headers; it will balance the schedule and create 10 “off days” for the players. It may not be a perfect solution, but it should be considered…

Green Bay, Wisconsin is a small market; there really is not any way to pretend otherwise. Nonetheless, the folks there – and throughout Wisconsin – do love their Packers and come out to support them. Last year, 67,000 fans showed up at Lambeau Field on a summer day to watch a Packers’ practice. This year, the team sold out the stadium at $10 per ticket – 76,000 tix – for a practice. Basically, this event is a day in training camp with 76,000 onlookers.

Now, if you are a Packers’ fan and you did not get a couple of those tickets, you need not worry. The practice will be televised all over Wisconsin and to parts of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.

Oh, did I mention, this is just a practice – the kind where the QBs are wearing bright red jerseys. I do not want you to be disappointed should you tune in…

One other note about Lambeau Field comes from the Milwaukee Business Journal. Patrick Cudahy brand bacon is the official bacon of Lambeau Field – and the Green Bay Packers too. One of the important things to come of this arrangement is that Patrick Cudahy brand bacon will provide a “bacon-themed concession stand” in Lambeau Field. The full menu for this bacon-themed concession stand is not fixed yet, but two items were described:

    The Pigskin: This is a baked potato smothered with chili, cheddar cheese, sour cream and chives. What makes this a Pigskin is that the potato is then wrapped in bacon. You know, if you hold the sour cream there, that actually sounds pretty good…

    A second item has not been named yet but it will be deep-fried bacon-crusted cheese curds. That sounds very good – and it also sounds like an embolism waiting to happen.

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald channeled Johnny Carson and Carnac the Magnificent with this item over the weekend:

Answer: A new sport called “footvolley” — soccer meets beach volleyball; no hands allowed — will debut as a demonstration sport at Summer Olympics.

Question: What do you mean there are too many ridiculous, made-up sports?

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

One thought on “Fixing Baseball ?”

  1. I have an easy answer to speed up pitching changes. The relief pitch throws as long as he wants in the bullpen. He then enters the game and throws another dozen pitches from the mound. Why? Let him throw one pitch to get used to the mound and play ball.

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