If you have read any of the “Commissioner for a day” blogs, it should be apparent to you that I’m a huge fan of Major League Baseball. I have ideas that would create more interest, parity, and excitement in baseball. With this segment, I will suggest a couple of simple changes that will help speed up the game.
After pitchers dominated baseball for years, somebody decided to lower the pitcher’s mound in order to give hitters a better chance against guys like Bob Gibson. I’m not saying that the mound needs to be higher. What needs to change is this.
Several years ago, guys like Mo Vaughn, David Ortiz, and Barry Bonds would wear HUGE protective gear on their front elbows, basically allowing them to stand on the inside part of the plate, daring pitchers to come in on them. By crowding the plate, they were able crush pitches on the outer half. Baseball slowly made hitters decrease the size of “body armor” Today, a hitter like Chase Utley of the Phillies averages 25 HBP every year. He doesn’t wear protective gear, but he does crowd the plate.
In order for pitchers to be successful, they must be able to pitch to both sides of the plate. They must be able to come inside on hitters with fastballs so that they can go away with off speed pitches. With the way hitters stand in the box, they have become owners of the inside third of the plate. Pitchers are afraid to come inside for fear of hitting a batter. Once that happens, unnecessary warnings get issued and pitchers get hammered because the don’t want to be ejected for coming inside and hitting another batter.
So here’s the solution. Change the size of the batters boxes. Move the inside line (the line closest to the plate) back 10 inches. This may not seem like a lot, but I think it is enough to allow the pitchers to reclaim the inside part of the plate. At worst, it should even it out a little. The more strikes pitcher’s throw, the more a hitter must swing. Adding this simple change along with the elimination of the DH, having only the best umpires call balls and strikes, and establishing a maximum number of times a catcher can visit the mound in one half inning, will definitely have an effect on the average length of a Major League Baseball game.
Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies is ALWAYS visiting the mound, sometimes 3 or 4 times during a single at bat. It always seems to happen in tight spots, where a base-runner could be trying to relay signs to the hitter. Teams have been stealing signs, or at least trying to since baseball began. I don’t think you need to put a speaker and microphone in the pitcher’s hat so the pitch selection can be radioed in. Then again, maybe you do. I think a catcher should be allowed to visit the mound twice during an inning. As soon as he moves towards the mound the third time, the team is charged with an “official visit”. Then, as soon as the pitching coach or manager makes another trip to the mound, a pitching change must follow. That would make the pitcher and catcher have to be on the same page. If I could limit the number of pick-off attempts at first base, I would. That would favor the base-runner, and I’m not really trying to change anything that would favor one team or another in a given situation. The changes I’m suggesting, are for the game as a whole.
The casual fans complain that games are boring, and last forever. Truth is, they last less time then an NFL game. The beauty of baseball is there is no clock. There’s only and established number outs. The game lasts until the final out is made. I’m just trying to suggest ways that it happens a little faster.