Tag Archives: MLB

If MLB Really Wanted To Speed Up Baseball…

MLB About To Introduce Two Ridiculous Rule Changes To “Speed Up” The Game.

Why The Changes Are Bad And What They Should Do Instead.

These fans watching baseball in the 1940s don’t look bored at all. That may be because the average length of a 9 inning baseball game in the 1940s was about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Baseball is a slow and boring sport. The games are too long. There is not enough scoring.

These are some of the complaints that have been lodged against the National Pastime.

The only part I’ll agree with is that the games are definitely too long.

MLB executives and the players union are trying out two changes this year in the minor leagues to  speed up the game. After trial periods, it is likely these changes will be permanently adapted in the major leagues. They may indeed speed up games by a few seconds. For the vast majority of games these changes will have little effect and do more damage than good to the overall structure of baseball.

There are other changes that would be more practical and easy to implement to dramatically shorten all games without changing baseball itself. I’ll discuss that after we review the two proposed MLB rule changes.

The first proposed rule change is that a team will be able to declare an intentional walk without the pitcher throwing any pitches. The pitcher’s manager will just signal for an intentional walk and the batter will go to first.

The second rule change is even sillier. In extra inning games, starting in the tenth inning each team when they come to bat will start the inning with a man already on second base.

So why are these changes beyond foolish?

Let’s look at the first proposal, the announced intentional walk. Although it sounds like an easy strategy to walk a batter intentionally, it is sometimes not so simple to throw four balls that are nowhere near home plate.

There are pitchers, such as the Yankees Dellin Betances, who when called upon to execute an intentional walk, every ball they throw can be an adventure. A wild pitch is always a possibility. Lobbing the ball to the catcher is hard for some pitchers. There are also quite a number of pitchers who throw the ball too close to the plate, so the batter can swing at the ball. Every now and then you’ll see something that you rarely see. Here are just two recent examples.

Miguel Cabrera drives in a run on an intended intentional walk.

Gary Sanchez of the Yankees nearly hits a home run on a pitch that was meant to be a ball.

As I pointed out many pitchers really have a hard time throwing a ball intentionally outside of the strike zone when the situation is called for. This is far more common than you might imagine. Wild pitches can change the outcome of a ballgame, especially with runners on base as seen here in multiple cases:

Then there is the opposite effect, where the defense pulls a tricky play.

In the early 1970s I recall seeing Reds superstar Johnny Bench get fooled at the plate. It happened on the biggest stage possible; game three of the 1972 World Series.

Bench had a 3 and 2 count when A’s manager Dick Williams paid a visit to the mound. Williams talked with pitcher Rollie Fingers and catcher Gene Tenace and made it seem like Williams told Fingers to intentionally walk the dangerous slugger. Because as Tenace returned to the plate to await the next pitch from Fingers, Tenace, stood up, put his hand out calling for an intentional ball four.

And guess what? Tenace jumped right back behind the plate and Fingers threw a slider for strike three, stunning Bench and everyone watching. It was a deft move you don’t see very often.

I couldn’t believe that I found the moment on YouTube.

In 1996 Dennis Martinez and Tony Pena of the Indians, successfully pulled the same move on Blue Jays star John Olerud.

It’s true, these flubs are extremely rare, but they do occur. The automatic intentional walk is a shortsighted rule change and ends up removing strategy from the game.

One other thing: how does the new rule go down in the record books? Will the pitcher be credited with four pitches thrown? What happens when you are at three balls and one strike, do you just declare the walk when you want to intentionally pass a batter or does the pitcher still have to throw a pitch?

The second rule change of starting the inning of an extra inning game with a man placed on second base to begin the inning is simply ludicrous.

No nail-biters anymore, no strategy – it’s just get this game over with. This is what MLB is saying.

Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, is in favor of bringing the rule to the major leagues if the minor league experiment works.

Torre said, “Let’s see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.”

Really Joe? How many games went to 18 innings or more in the past ten years? How many times did a manager use their whole pitching staff?

In the entire history of Major League Baseball there have only been 46 games that have gone more than 19 innings. On average less than 10 games per year last 15 innings or more. If a manager goes through his entire pitching staff, well he’s not a good manager. Believe it or not many fans enjoy marathon games. It’s the time of those exciting games that gets people sleepy, not the number of innings.

If you want to ruin baseball then this rule change is perfect.

By the way: how would the scoring work for putting a runner on second? Idiotically.

The pitcher didn’t allow the runner on, so why penalize him and the team when a ground ball to second for an out advancing the runner to third and then a fly ball can result in a run. The pitcher and the team was essentially defensively effective, but could lose the game.

This rule is MLB being lazy and coming up with a dumb solution just to shorten games and appeal to younger fans with limited attention spans. It’s like MLB took a page out of the NHL rule book with hockey’s overtime shootout to decide tie games. That adjustment has been horrible for hockey and its fans.

Now what are the ways to speed up baseball games significantly?

Change # 1 – Enforce rule 5.07 (c) of the Major League Baseball rule book which states:
“When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball. The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

Did you realize rule 6.02a (8) says:

If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when: The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;

Have you ever seen that enforced? I haven’t. But I’ve seen pitchers call the catcher to the mound six separate times for one batter or take over 30 seconds between each and every pitch.

I’ve noticed and counted the time between pitches in many games. Most pitchers take between 22 -27 seconds to throw a pitch after receiving the ball back from the catcher. Some pitchers are agonizingly slow, like the Dodgers Pedro Baez (over 30 seconds between pitches) and Kenley Jansen (27 seconds between pitches). There are many hurlers who can transform their own fielders into a trance-like state with all that inactivity.

There’s no excuse for this. Watch R.A. Dickey or Mark Buehrle pitch and the game moves at a brisk pace. Unfortunately they are the exceptions. Most pitchers take wayyyyy too long between pitches. Put up a pitch clock and give the pitchers a little leeway- 15 seconds and have them throw the pitch or call it a ball. Figure saving at least 5  seconds per pitch with 260 total pitches being thrown. total time shortened per game: minimum 26 minutes
Continue reading

The End Of Baseball’s Take-Out Slide?

Mickey Mantle Breaks Up A Double Play – 1961

Is The Take-Out Slide About To Be Made Illegal?

Mickey Mantle Breaking up double play May 13 1961New York – May 13 – ON THE DOUBLE – Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees is force out victim at second base and Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Chico Fernandez gets off throw to first to complete double play in fourth inning at New York’s Yankee Stadium today. Behind Mantle is Tigers second baseman Jake Wood, who fielded Bill Skowron’s grounder and started the twin killing by tossing to Fernande. Tigers won 8-3 (AP Wirephoto – 1961)

This is a play you may never see again.

Mickey Mantle is nowhere near second base and certainly does not look like he is sliding. No, the Mick is definitely trying to take out Chico Fernandez and stop a double play. It was a legal play in 1961, but soon it may not be.

After the 2015 playoff injury to the Mets Ruben Tejada when the Dodgers Chase Utley steamrolled him in a violent collision, Major League Baseball decided to review the rules governing taking out a fielder during a slide. There is a strong possibility of introducing a rule in the near future to stop a runner from barreling into a fielder.

There is already a rule in the books, Rule 5.09(a)(13), which states:

A batter is out when — A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.  Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.

I don’t believe that any player should intentionally hurt another player in sliding, but taking out the fielder who is trying to complete a double play should not be made illegal or penalized with the threat of suspension if the fielder gets hurt. Continue reading

One Big Reason Baseball Is Dropping In Popularity

Catering To The Next Generation Of Baseball Fans

You may have read that one of the 2014 World Series games was competing for viewers with a Thursday night football game. The television audience for the World Series ended up being less than half of that of the football game.

No surprise there as football has become the dominant televised sport in America. So besides letting World Series games be played at night when the next generation of fans is going to bed, what else is MLB doing to discourage young people from getting to like baseball?

This photograph below will clue you in:

Group Seating Citifield September 2013

Group Seating Citifield September 2013

This photo taken in mid-September 2013 shows a class trip of 12-year-olds at Citifield, the New York Mets ballpark.

It was a beautiful sunny weekday and the Mets and San Francisco Giants were playing for nothing, nada, zilch. Both teams had been eliminated from any playoff possibilities weeks earlier.

Obviously with group seating the Mets gave the kids the best possible seats in the house to get them engaged and interested in the game, right?

Well of course not. Group seats are usually in the farthest reaches of the ballpark and these were no exception, in the corner of the upper deck in right field in section 503.

Now I understand why the Mets and most other teams put group seats in generally undesirable places. These are seats that will usually never be sold, because who wants to pay $15 or more and sit in the stratosphere. The Mets are not going to give $75 seats away for $15 to a group.

But this photograph below shows the kids view of the game and the reality of how many fans were at the ballpark just 10 minutes before starting time.

Citifield 10 minutes before game time

Citifield 10 minutes before game time

It never got much more crowded than this when the game got underway. The announced attendance was 22,897. Everyone there knew that there was no possible way that there were even 12,000 people at this game. The ballpark remained as you see it: thousands of empty seats in huge clusters.

There were schoolgirls sitting on either side of me and both were attending their first baseball game. Being a chaperone on this trip, they asked me questions and tried to watch from our birds-eye vantage point. As the game progressed, with the exception of the few boys who follow baseball, most of the children lost interest rapidly.

For many of the kids who were in attendance this would be the only game they would ever go to because they had no interest in baseball before the game, and were not going to have any interest after the game.

What could the Mets have done?

They should have taken the thousand or so children that were in the four to five large groups seated in the far reaches of the upper deck and moved them to seats anywhere closer to the field. When I actually mentioned this to the Mets personnel man in charge of groups in our section he looked at me like I was crazy and said that was not possible.

It was indeed possible if someone from the Mets ticketing, marketing or publicity department could have had a bright idea and made an executive decision and said something like, “Hey, the season’s virtually over and our ballpark is pretty empty today. You know what might get us more fans in the future? Let’s move these kids down to decent seats so that they will be close enough to be involved in the game. Maybe some of them will come to appreciate and love baseball if they can actually see what is going on up close, rather than watching the jumbotron screen or straining to see the ant-size ballplayers from their mile away seats. This would be a good way to develop a new generation of Mets fans.”

Well that never happened and it probably never will happen. Unless MLB and their teams realize that they are rapidly losing a huge part of their future baseball audience, baseball  will be as popular here as cricket.

It’s Time For Day Baseball Games To Return To The World Series

It’s Been 30 Years Since The Last Outdoor, Daytime World Series Game Was Played – Who’s to Blame? MLB, FOX & “TV Research People”

World Series baseball the way it used to be played - during the daytime. Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon awaits the first pitch from Yankees ace Whitey Ford to begin game 3 of the 1960 World Series at Yankee Stadium, October 8, 1960.

World Series baseball the way it used to be played – during the day. Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon awaits the first pitch from Yankees ace Whitey Ford to begin game 3 of the 1960 World Series at Yankee Stadium, October 8, 1960.

30 years ago on October 14, 1984 the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres played game 5 of the World Series at Tigers Stadium under what used to be normal circumstances – they played a day game.

Three years later in 1987 the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals also played a day game in the World Series, but you would not have known it because the Twins played their home games indoors at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Since then, every World Series game has been played at night. Continue reading

Crazy Baseball All-Star Game Ticket Prices

$2.40 For An All-Star Game Box Seat?

Fenway Park ticket booth before the 1946 All Star Game

$2.40 for a box seat is not the crazy price we are talking about. Those days are long gone.

The scene above is Fenway Park where the 1946 All-Star Game was played. As fans lined up for tickets the night before the game at the box office (what a novel idea), they had the choice of purchasing box seats for $2.40 or reserved seats for $1.80.

Please direct your attention to the kids, wearing suits no less, neatly lined up waiting for tickets. Yes, even kids could save up $1.80 by delivering newspapers, mowing lawns or doing chores in 1946.

The crazy prices we are talking about are for the current baseball All-Star game.

According to a May 9 Forbes Magazine story, the 2014 baseball All Star Game in Minneapolis is the second most expensive ticket in All-Star game history. The article points out that according to a ticket broker who owns hundreds of MLB All-Star tickets the average ticket price for the 2014 All-Star Game is significantly higher than the previous four All-Star games, with a current average ticket price of $1,096. Continue reading

Babe Ruth’s 1920 Uniform Sells For $4.4 Million At Auction

Babe Ruth, King Of The Sports Memorabilia World

Nearly sixty-four years after his death, Babe Ruth set another record on Sunday May 20, 2012 . His circa 1920 Yankees road jersey sold at SCP auctions for a staggering $4.4 million.

Photo © SCP auctions

This eclipses the previous highest amount paid for a piece of sports memorabilia, a Honus Wagner baseball card, which sold in 2008 for $2.8 million.

To put the amount of the sale price in some perspective, Babe Ruth earned approximately $910,000 during his entire major league baseball playing career from 1914 -1935. This of course does not account for inflation. In modern dollars with inflation Ruth would have earned $15.3 million.

Also Ruth made vast amounts of money during the off-season, barnstorming and doing various product endorsements and personal appearances.

How would Ruth have felt about his uniform selling for more than he made his entire career? I’d like to think Ruth would have had a good laugh at that fact.

Babe Ruth, second from left, with his Yankee teammates, early 1920’s

Here is a photograph of Babe Ruth early in his New York Yankee career during spring training, possibly wearing the multi-million dollar uniform.

On a side note

The Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Yankees last night, May 21 at Yankee Stadium by a score of 6-0.  What made me notice this otherwise unremarkable game was what the New York Times said today in the sports section:

But the clutch-hitting woes of the Yankees — not just their wheezing All-Star first baseman — remained for another game, a 6-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals in front of 39,229 fans.

Anyone attending or watching the game on television knows the announced attendance of 39,229 was a joke. Looking at the mostly empty stadium, there were probably no more than 8,000 people attending the dreary game, which was played under a constant, steady rain.

The idea that baseball attendance is counted not by clicks of the turnstile, but by tickets sold is ridiculous. It’s another slight problem in a laundry list of things that MLB should address before baseball becomes completely irrelevant.

Additional Baseball Playoff Wildcard Is An Abomination

New Watered Down Playoff System Brings Lesser Teams New Hope

In 2011 the team that tied for the tenth best record in major league baseball won the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals were a good team at 90-72, but were they the best team in baseball? If your measurement is winning the World Series the answer is yes. Using any other criteria the answer is definitely not. They were a team that got hot at the end of the year and that carried over throughout the postseason.

The real question is: should a team that has the tenth best record in baseball have the right to play in the World Series? Continue reading

ESPN “Improves” Baseball With Incredible Technology

A Strike Box, Called K-Zone, So Viewers Can Have their Main Focal Point Completely Obscured

I watched ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball for the first time this season for a few minutes. The Yankees were battling the Reds in interleague play.

For those baseball fans who don’t know where the strike zone is or question the umpire’s judgment, the brilliant minds at ESPN have put a rectangle superimposed over the home plate area to point out what was a ball or a strike. It was on the viewing screen for every pitch in the bottom of the 9th inning.

I quickly turned off the game before it ended and put on the radio. It was unwatchable.

I was reminded of FOX’s failed “improvement” to professional hockey called “FoxTrax” which lasted for a couple of years in the mid 1990’s for NHL national broadcasts. If you liked following a glowing blue glob (the puck)  and having televised hockey look like a video game, then this was the technology for you.

If you need this visual aid for the strike zone, I suggest you take some masking tape and outline a box on your television screen.

Good move ESPN.

The First Baseball Strike – May 18, 1912

An Unlikely Catalyst Causes a Baseball Strike – Other Players Rally Around the Unpopular Ty Cobb

On Wednesday May 15, 1912 The Detroit Tigers were playing the New York Yankees at Hilltop Park in upper Manhattan when one of the most infamous incidents in baseball history occurred.

Ty Cobb, the star outfielder for the Tigers was incited by a fan to go into the stands and pummel him.

The fan, Claude Lucker (alternately spelled by contemporary papers as Lueker or Leuker) worked as a page in the office of Tammany boss “Big Tom” Foley.  From the onset of the game Lucker was being particularly obnoxious according to all accounts. Cobb and Lucker exchanged nasty barbs and Cobb warned Lucker to stop calling him names or he would come into the stands to take care of him personally. By the fourth inning Cobb had had enough and he jumped into the left field stands and started administering a beating and no one seemed to interfere.

Sticks and stones were probably not as harmful to Cobb as the names which could hurt him – especially when the racist outfielder was called a “half-nigger” by Lucker, which was what apparently drove him over the edge.

It should be noted that Lucker had a machine press  accident when he was younger and was missing one hand and had Continue reading

When The Record Books Are Wrong

The New York Yankees Actually Hold The MLB Record For The Largest Attendance In A Regular Season Game.

Records are made to be broken…that is if anyone knows about them.

If you look up the largest attendance during the regular season to see a major league baseball game, the Sporting News Baseball Record Book and many online sources claim that the paid attendance on September 12, 1954 of 84,587 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium is the largest ever.  The Yankees were visiting the Indians that day for a doubleheader and were battling for a pennant that Cleveland would eventually go on to win. The Yankees finished in second place with 103 wins (no wild card in 1954)!

But is the 1954 Indians-Yankees game the regular season record?

Probably no one, with the possible exception of the members of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research) really cares, but the official record books are wrong.

On September 9, 1928 The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Athletics were in a tight battle for first place, a half game separating Continue reading