Baseball’s gremlins, the tinkerers who hide in corners waiting for their moment, are back messing with the world’s greatest game, determined to change it to their own whims.
The first target was the designated hitter and an effort to unify the rule so that the two leagues agree. That is a worthwhile idea since it is kind of stupid to have two sets of rules, especially when we get to the World Series. The way to do it is to scrap the American League DH and return baseball to a nine-man game, the way it was originally designed to be played.
The pace of p[lay committee, seeking to speed up a leisurely game, has a novel plan to require relief pitchers to face three batters. That idea reduces wasted time changing pitchers from batter to batter but scrambles strategies to have specialists in the bullpen face a single batter against whom they might have an advantage. That creates take-your-chances relievers and will drive managers, who are already marginally adjusted when it comes to pitching matchups, right over the edge.
They are also poised to put in a 20-second pitch clock, reducing pitchers trips around the mound, discussions with the baseball and other time-consuming activities. If NBA players can get up and down the court in 24 seconds, pitchers can throw the ball every 20 seconds.
Now, if the gremlins really want to improve the game, they can start by banning defensive shifts, foolishness that leaves vast expanses of the field unguarded. There is a reason that defensive players have been positioned strategically for 150 years. Leave them in their places.
And while we’re reforming the game, it would be a swell idea to get rid of the exotic statistics that advanced analytics keep heaping on the game. The best argument for that came from Bill James, the high priest of Sabermetics, on the day after Hall of Famer Frank Robinson died. James thought it appropriate at that moment to offer an observation on 1966, Robinson’s Triple Crown season when he became the only man to win the Most Valuable Player Award in both leagues.
Here is James’ Twitter post:
“By the way, Baseball Reference WAR insists the most valuable player in the AL in 1966 was not Frank Robinson, but Earl Wilson, a pitcher who was 18-12 with a 3.43 ERA, one point better than the league ERA of 3.44. Look it up. No offense; just thought I would mention it.’’
That was the year Robinson batted .316 with 49 home runs and 122 runs batted in. He was the World Series MVP that year as well.
Dennis Eckersley, also a Hall of Famer, offered a two-word comment to James.
No, not those two words.
Eck wrote simply: “Shut up”
James then deleted his post. Don’t worry, he will reunite with the rest of the gremlins, waiting for another day to impose their theories on how to improve baseball or, at the very least, change it.
That’s if they don’t kill it first.