I don’t think there’s an issue with baseball’s slow nature. Baseball is supposed to be slow — otherwise, we couldn’t just sit around in the ballpark, spit sunflower seeds, and drink $8 beer in peace. If baseball was a fast, edge-of-your-seat game, it would be hockey. I like being able to do as I’m doing now: sit down, write this article, and watch the Houston Astros play knowing that I don’t have to be sucked into it the whole game to enjoy it.
I’m not everyone, though. Major League Baseball’s early-season attendance numbers are worrisome — meanwhile, faster sports like basketball see yearly increases in fans in seats and in television ratings. Obviously, MLB needs to change something to speed the game up.
They have already tweaked one preexisting rule in the big leagues, limiting mound visits by catchers, coaches, and infielders to six per game. In addition, they’re experimenting with a rule that places a runner on second base at the start of every half-inning in minor-league extra-inning games this season, while continuing with the successful 20-second pitch clock in the lower levels of the sport.
For the most part, it’s fun to see the higher-ups in baseball work to make it a more marketable sport. I love baseball, and I don’t mind things staying the same, but if kids and preteens are falling in love with the game like I did thanks to a more enjoyable experience, I’m all for it. Disclaimer: I’m 20 years old. I’m not as old as I might seem to be.
I have to come around to the pace-of-play initiatives eventually, so here are five of the best (narrator voice: the worst) proposals for speeding the game up that I could conceive.
1. Runners Left on Base, With a Twist
This is actually a serious one. Don’t get used to it, but this one kind of makes sense. In extra innings, starting in the 10th frame, runners left on base re-spawn on that base to start the next inning, if it’s necessary. By that I mean: if Team X is batting with two outs and a runner on second base, and they fly out to end their half of the 10th inning, that runner reappears on second base to start the 11th.
If the New York Yankees fly out with the bases loaded in the 12th, but pitch well enough in the next half-inning to force a 13th inning, those runners come right back. Straight up, like you’re starting a new inning, but with the work the previous batters did still up and going.
Here’s the catch: it’s the same baserunners having to reappear in the next inning.Let's have some fun with some pace-of-play proposals.Click To Tweet
Take the aforementioned Yankees for example: Giancarlo Stanton hits a leadoff double with New York hitting in the bottom half of the 12th. Stanton is not an elite baserunner, so do you pinch run a bench player for Stanton right there, with no outs in a tie game? The guy who replaces him will have to find a spot defensively and maybe even swing the bat just to maybe run around for 120 feet in multiple innings.
It would not only add some cool, intriguing strategy to the game, but it would incentivize playing for every out. It might not address the game’s slow nature, but this event is taking three and a half hours if we’ve reached the 12th inning anyway, right? At least it makes the late stages a little more interesting.
2. No Bats for Hitters — No Exceptions
Okay, so, you’re on deck, alright? Listen, you don’t have a baseball bat. You’re just … not allowed to have one. You have to step into the box empty-handed, take three strikes looking, and leave for the dugout. If you’re lucky, the third strike will be in the dirt or the pitcher will be too fatigued to throw strikes.
There’s a catch, though: you’re allowed to hit the ball with your hand. Freely swing at a 98 mph fastball with your arms and see if you smack it into the gap for an extra base hit. It would speed the game up because the pitcher’s game is simplified.
3. The Ball is a Soccer Ball, and the Pitcher Has to Kick it to the Catcher
So, get this: the baseball is a soccer ball, and the pitcher, who normally winds up and throws the ball with his hand, has to kick the ball to the catcher. The batter tries to knock a soccer ball out of the park with a normal baseball bat.
It’s a blast. There would be no strategic communication between pitcher and catcher, and no excessive wind-up from the pitcher. Just kick it.
4. Bullpen Carts, but for Base-Running Purposes
After a hiatus of over 20 years, the bullpen cart — used to bring in relief pitchers in MLB from 1950 to 1995 — is back in 2018. Not every team has re-adapted to the use of the bullpen cart, but it’s a quick and easy way to make pitching changes run faster, which in turn speeds up the game.
What if we took it a little further … alright, so a running bullpen cart sits around home plate during every at-bat in every MLB game. Every plate appearance is the same and the rules for hitting are the same, but as soon as the hitter makes any kind of contact with the pitch, he jumps into a hilariously-designed golf cart and has to floor it to first base.
If it’s an extra-base hit, then you’ve got to make the turn and chug along to second and beyond. Imagine Albert Pujols — who at this point in his career has the footspeed of a mortally wounded sloth — beating out a throw for an infield single. Or Carlos Gomez flipping his bat after jacking a home run, then driving a golf cart around the bases while mocking the opposing infielders.
Imagine Billy Hamilton stealing a base by waiting for the right opportunity to drive to second base in a golf cart. Imagine a player getting caught in a pickle and a little NASCAR race breaking out in the infield. Just say yes.
5. Pinch Runners and Pitch Hitters are Trash Anyway
Teams are now allowed to insert pinch hitters and pinch runners, and then re-insert the player for whom the replacement came in. Say Miguel Cabrera hits a double, and it’s a close game, you really need that run to score — but you also can’t take Cabrera and his Hall of Fame bat out of the game.
Or it’s Freddy Galvis‘ turn at the dish in a tied, seventh-inning game. You want to keep him in defensively, but you need a more powerful, reliable bat in that situation. A better hitter will make the game more exciting, even if it doesn’t slow it down considerably.
More action on the bases and at the plate equal a more entertaining and faster game, and there are pluses to consider in player development, too. Have a 22-year-old prospect who needs experience batting or running in intense, late game situations? With this rule, you can slide him right in there and worry not about the later complications.
I honestly hate this idea. You know what, I hate them all.