They’re at it again.
Trusted to preserve and protect the greatest sport ever invented, baseball’s proprietors insist on tinkering with my game.
First, they gave us the designated hitter, a gimmick that led us to having the World Series played with two sets of rules. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
Then they monkeyed around with the All-Star Game, reducing it to a mid-season afterthought instead of a classic and awarding home field in the World Series to the winning league. Thankfully, somebody came to their senses and scrapped that silliness.
And don’t forget the clever wild card scheme, a one-and-done shootout, eliminating teams from the postseason if they lose a single game when they played 162 for that opportunity.
The World Series used to be decided in the shadows of October. Now, extended playoffs – you once needed four wins to be World Champions, now you need 11 – take the summer game’s showcase event into the chill of November.
Replays with umpires huddling to debate their calls after studying videos delay the game that the bosses think already take too long. To solve that, they gave us the automatic intentional walk. No need to throw four balls. Just take your base. That saves, oh, at least a couple of minutes each game, depending on how many walks are issued.
Now they have come up with what might very well be the goofiest idea of all.
When a game stretches into extra innings, there’s no reason to settle the issue the old fashioned way with hits, runs and errors. Nah. Instead, the deep thinkers who are all around the game these days, have a swell idea.
At the start of the 10th inning in spring training games and the 11th inning if an All-Star Game goes that far, we will start with a man on second base. He gets there not because he earned it but because we are in a hurry for a run to score and the game to be over.
Here’s a better idea. Take away a defensive player for each extra inning played. Pretty soon, there will be only a couple of defenders, a run will score and we can all go home. This sort of like hockey shootouts when goalies essentially are hung out to dry, forced to face what amounts to penalty shot after penalty shot.
All of this has to do with pace of play. Critics think games take too darned long. That, though, is part of the charm of baseball. It is not governed by a clock the way other sports are. It is a leisurely, thoughtful game. If you’re in a hurry to go home, well just stay home. Parking, tickets and concessions can be pricey. Stay home and you can save some coin.
Pace of games has become center stage in this age of millennials, folks who have already imposed analytics on a game which was just fine in its previous form.
Do the tinkerers understand how annoying they are? They are messing around with a product that was perfect. It could be again, if they would just leave it alone.