baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

State of Baseball Address

Yes, Joe Magrane did this on the MLB network, but everyone's entitled to an opinion of the great game of baseball. So here's my assessment of the game, including what's working, what needs improvement, and some suggestions for the future.

First of all, the game is still vibrant. The fan base is passionate, the debates are inspired, and the game as a whole has not fallen off the national past-time landscape as many people feared over the past few decades. The MLB network IS the greatest thing since sliced bread, and maybe better.

My favorite TV show right now is the Hot Stove Live, except when they get a little too cute with the staged pieces. It's totally unnecessary, since the show is exactly what fans and people in the game need during the long, cold offseason. The best thing about Hot Stove Live, and the network as a whole, is the noticeable lack of loud, screaming, insulting analysts like you find on most TV and radio sports talk shows.

The one show I can live without is Front Burner. I feel terrible for Tom Verducci (MLB insider and Sports Illustrated Magazine's Senior Writer). He's one of the most engaging and insightful baseball analysts around, and on this show he has to act like a game show host. Sad, and again, unnecessary. I know it sounds strange coming from a "fan" rather than "real" baseball writer, but I don't need to hear what the fans think. That's what blogs and talk radio are for. I want expert analysis and access to the people playing and managing the game.

I appreciate the effort to integrate women into the network, but I have to say it won't be real to me until an unattractive, middle-aged woman is on the show, providing expert analysis and top-notch reporting, and not just showing cleavage and asking canned questions to the various insiders. That will come in time, and is not a problem specific to MLB network, so I am willing to put it on a back burner, if you will.

Back to the game itself, I've hated the DH since its inception and my opinion hasn't changed. However, I am beginning to wonder if the different rules for different leagues serves a useful purpose after all. The ongoing debate about which league is better, and which rule is better, keeps people passionately debating, which is good for the game. So while I would ideally love to see the DH banished to the same place as flat catcher's gloves and umpire's outside chest protectors, I am willing to keep it for the time being.

Video replay for home runs is very interesting, and the idea of replay for fair and foul calls makes sense. Any of the judgment calls like plays at bases and balls and strikes I would not like to see. I can't remember who suggested it, but it would be great to have a video replay umpire as an extra person on the umpiring crew, to avoid all the time wasting of the current system. Just please don't let the managers throw out red challenge flags. You can put an eye out with one of those.

I agree with Joe Magrane about bringing back bullpen carts. I always get nervous when I see a 300 pound setup guy sprinting in from the outfield. This is a heart attack waiting to happen, folks, and besides, the carts were fun, especially the baseball-shaped ones. It's also a great promotional opportunity, like NASCAR sponsor ads all over race cars.

Many people have addressed the slow play issue, and I have long thought that the use of relief pitchers has turned the last three innings of baseball games into the last two minutes of college basketball games, where constant play stoppages from intentional fouls bring the suspense to a grinding halt. My solution is that there should be a set number of warmup pitches each team can use each inning. Once that number is reached, any subsequent pitchers have to come in and pitch without warming up (other than in the bullpen, of course).

On a related note, the best idea I've seen from other baseball writers is that player visits need to be counted the same as bench visits to the mound. The second visit means the pitcher has to be removed. Those two rule changes would speed the game up and with any luck shorten the parade of relief pitchers at the end of games.

My favorite baseball person right now is not a current player, but rather Nolan Ryan. His effort to restore the dignity and effectiveness of starting pitchers by stretching them out to pitch more innings is the greatest thing since the MLB network. It has to be an organizational philosophy that starts the second a young player shows up in the minor leagues, and in Texas that is what they are doing. The baseball gods love this idea, and I know they are up there smiling at the Rangers and will nudge them into the playoffs before long.

The key idea here is that managers like Tony LaRussa, as brilliant as he is, have changed the mindset of pitchers to make them into these fragile pawns, rather than the powerful initiators of action and masters of their teams' fortunes that they used to be. With all the improvements in sports medicine, and the increase in size and strength of players over the past few decades, pitchers should be pitching more than they used to, not less. Pitchers should pitch fewer innings as they age, not more, the whole system has been backwards for too long.

The Verducci effect has been used to justify severe pitch counts and innings limitations, but if you look at what he says, it's the rapid increase in innings from year to year that hurts young pitchers, not the totals themselves. This does not contradict the Ryan experiment at all, just start them at a higher innings limit in the beginning and gradually increase it until it gives pitchers the strength and more importantly the confidence to pitch nine innings whenever necessary.

One of the best ideas related to rosters that I've seen (again, I wish I remembered whose idea this is) is to let teams use larger rosters (I would say 30 players for every team) in April instead of up to 40 in September. Many people have pointed out how stupid it is to have extra players possibly decide division and wild card races, especially when some teams bring up 10 players and some 3, causing all kinds of roster size inequities.

Just push the minor league season back a few weeks and let some competition spill into the early regular season. In September, the minor league teams would still be playing, but top prospects can always be called up as part of the 25 man roster. The loopholes about postseason eligibility need to be eliminated, too. None of this DL manipulations that allow players that were not on the major league roster on August 31 to be able to play in the playoffs.

There is debate about roster size during the season as well. Some advocate raising it from 25 to 26, to recognize the reliance on added pitchers over the years. Some even say it should be 24, to force managers to use pitchers more economically. To me, 25 is fine, as long as my other suggested rules changes and philosophical changes are put into effect. I miss the a deeper bench, including a third catcher, which allows other catchers to pinch hit, and allow for more pinch runners for catchers and others late in a close game. In other words, more strategy decisions.

If I had to choose 24 or 26, I'd go for 24. One thing we don't have enough of is the two-way player a la Brooks Kieschnick. A 24 man roster would encourage teams to find these guys to use as mop-up pitchers and pinch hitters, or even better, a useful two-way player like Micah Owings, who is a legitimate major league pitcher and position player.

I support a world-wide draft with bonuses based simply on round picked, so that less successful small market teams don't have to consistently pay more than more successful large market teams for their new prospects.

I would restrict the Rule 5 Draft to let only bottom half of the league teams add players, and only top half of the league teams lose players. The intent is to prevent stockpiling of talent by the winning teams like the Yankees. The way it is right now, teams like the Pirates actually get punished for stockpiling prospects, which makes no sense.

The whole 40 man roster structure needs to be reexamined. It is a throwback to an older day and age, and might not make sense anymore. It causes minor league players to get released simply because the team acquires a new major league player. Who does that help? Let minor league free agency take care of this kind of thing after the season.

Okay, I could go on, but this is enough for this year. Even Obama can't address everything all at once. The point here is that baseball is the greatest game, but it can always be improved here and there to keep the passionate debates and the hot stove fueled for years to come.

Caroms Off The Wall

RIP Jane Jarvis, first organist for the New York Mets. She's been missed since she stopped playing for the Mets and now she will be missed as the icon she was. The Mets should pay tribute to her by bringing back the organ and trashing that horrible canned rock music that is several decibels too loud and totally out of sync with the action of the field.

If you look up replacement level pitcher in the baseball statistics glossary, there's a picture of Josh Fogg.

Domo arigato, Mr. Delgado. (Thank you, Mr. Delgado, in Japanese, which the Mets used to flash on the big screen when Carlos Delgado hit a home run.)

© Judy Kamilhor 2010


Post a Comment

<< Home