I will admit, I am old. I do not, however think I am “Get off my lawn” guy, I am open to change. If it makes sense. Saturday night, I was surprised to hear John Smoltz calling the Cubs/Mets game, and advocating for huge changes to the rules for extra inning games. In fact, he advocated ad nauseum. He just wouldn’t stop talking about how in extra innings, he wants there to automatically start the inning with runners on first and second, and, later, an even more ridiculous change in format.
I get that baseball is concerned about the lack of younger fans. I am too. But I also question the people who claim it’s because baseball is boring, it takes too long, etc. The reason I question this is because I don’t hear it from Joe Sixpack fan, I hear it from the media. I get it, for the writers and other media members who cover games every day, it’s not special. It’s a job. But when I go out to a game, I am not worried about how long I’m going to be there. I’m there to enjoy the game. I don’t have dinner plans or anything for after the game. If it’s a 2 hour game, fine. If it’s a 4 hour 14 inning epic, that’s OK too. Some people don’t like it because they stop selling beer after the 7th inning in most parks. Well, I’m there to watch a game, not drink. I can stay home and drink, and it’s a lot cheaper. And there’s nobody holding a gun to your head to stay. You are free to get up and leave anytime you want. I equate this to the media crying whenever the Super Bowl is in a place they don’t like, such as Minnesota or Indianapolis. The fans don’t care. The players don’t care. It’s the media members who want a free week’s vacation in New Orleans or Miami on the company’s dime that complains.
Which brings me to Smoltz. I was surprised to hear him saying these things, being the competitor that he was as a player. I can’t imagine he would have been in favor of putting 2 runners on in extra innings when he was pitching. But he’s in the media now, so I guess his perspective is different. I understand the minor leagues are actually experimenting with this, though I can’t say I have actually seen it. That would be the same as in football starting a drive on the 20 yard line in overtime. Oh wait. College football does that and I hate that too. In this scenario, a pitcher could give up a sacrifice bunt, a sacrifice fly, recording 2 outs in the process, and take the loss.
Smoltz also brought up a change that in extras a team can bat whomever they want as often as they want. So say Kris Bryan leads off with a double. The Cubs could put a runner in his place at second and he gets to bat again. What? What kind of logic is that? I’ve also heard other people want to make it a home run derby after 9 innings, which is also preposterous. None of these things is actual baseball. This isn’t playing whiffle ball in the back yard with your brother and having the ghost man on base.
Here’s a crazy idea. Is a tie really that bad of a thing? I know everybody lost their minds over the 2002 All Star game in Milwaukee that ended in a tie. I never understood why. Big deal. It’s an exhibition game anyway. But that prompted the winning league gets home field in the World Series rule, which, thankfully, has been revoked. I don’t see what the big deal of a tie would be. It figures into winning percentage. It happens in the NFL, although rarely.
Baseball is a game without a clock. I personally like it that way. You are playing against the other team, not a clock. I like to be able to have time to think about what I’m seeing, to lean over to the guy next to me and ask if he’d bunt or swing away, to order a hot dog without worrying about missing a key play. I’m not saying you can’t tweak things and make improvements. But I don’t like it when the changes make it a different game, especially only in certain situations. The big deal this year was the limited amount of mound visits each team is allowed. OK, so far I really haven’t seen that making much of an impact in any way. I’m pretty sure there is going to be a pitch clock in the not so distant future. I’m not in love with that, but I don’t hate it either. Of course baseball doesn’t have a problem with taking up 5 minutes for instant replay which still gets it wrong half the time, but that’s a subject for another time. Yes, improve baseball, but still leave it as baseball.