The San Francisco Giants, as well as all of the other Major League Baseball teams, are watching the new Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred, to see how he recovers from the embarrassment caused as a result of his outlandish proposal on his first day on the job. Manfred had the unmitigated gall to suggest that baseball ban the defensive realignments now being utilized by teams to take advantage of hitters’ tendencies.
Manfred’s notion not only undermines the foundation of the National Pastime, it creates an impossible scenario to enforce. What kind of arbitrary boundaries would have to be designed to implement this rule-change? Or is this bit of frippery merely a smokescreen so that the real issue concerning the Commissioner’s Office, that of the ever-increasing length of MLB games, can then be looked at with a little greater sense of objectivity than might have been done earlier?
Manfred stated that for defenses to take advantageous of hitters’ tendencies, gave those teams an “unfair advantage” by reducing the number of opponents’ base-hits, which means fewer runs being scored, and that would be a bad thing for baseball.
The overall problem is that games are getting longer, as the “B” word cropped up last summer, an arrow to the heart of every baseball fan everywhere.
Never heard that before: baseball is boring.Anthony Rendon
’s now-famous quip last July 18th about not watching baseball on TV because it was too boring, seared many baseball hearts because it portrays an irreverent attitude so long despised by true baseball fans.
In all fairness, however, the job of the new commissioner is to ensure that the game on the national level remains vibrant and alive for all fans, from hard-core, old-school curmudgeons, to the generation now transfixed by little hand-held devices, which are redefining the concept of attention span.
Just as public school teachers struggle to retain the attention of students well-versed in all matters technological, baseball games also struggle. Kids used to the non-stop engagement that video games provide, find the pace of baseball too slow and that creates a valid sense of concern on the part of the Commissioner’s Office. What steps can be taken to ensure that baseball does not die a slow death because an entire generation is in danger of severing connections with the grand American sport?
Sep 25, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) runs to home plate on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Matt Duffy (50, not pictured) during the seventh inning of the game against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Do we care if a whole generation drops off the charts? The way it generally works is that kids learn from those in their lives. If baseball is part of the backdrop of any home, the kids will grow up speaking baseball. Well, if a whole generation practically becomes moot, how does the game continue to thrive? Grandpas can help but if a generation of dads is not on board, the connection is lost for many.
In attempting to keep baseball thriving, for starters, the Commissioner needs to leave the cornerstone components alone. Even though the odds currently favor the defense, since it is successful in retiring batters approximately seventy percent of the time, the idea that a team should be restricted in how it plays defense is ludicrous. How does the umpiring determine the boundaries of a player being out of position?
With the addition of the Instant Replay process, games are even longer than ever, so length of games seems the area baseball would best benefit when it comes to livening matters up. Action is action, regardless of whether it is good defense or timely offense.
Conversely, watching the batter step out of the box to adjust his “equipment” yet one more time, and then witnessing the inevitable retaliation on the part of the pitcher is no fun either. He kicks the rubber, glares, gesticulates in frustration, and circles back behind the mound to contemplate the universe in general, while scoping the crowd for this evening’s potential date.
It’s one thing to see a flurry of quick-tosses over to first base, or a meeting between catcher and pitcher indicating a possible shift in strategy, or a need to justify the upcoming pitch; that’s an integral part of the game. Whether it’s the posturing of one peacock in front of his fans, or the measured response of the intended target that drags on forever, this is one place where the umpire(s) could monitor the lack of action in a much more efficient manner.
The clock has been resurrected as an idea and deep-sixed more than once already, as being far too non-traditional, but the reality is that this simple adjustment, if applied uniformly and religiously, would pare precious minutes off the overall time of all games, while ratcheting up the pressure on all components-batter, pitcher and catcher-to keep their heads in the game.
An appropriate penalty would be the awarding of either a ball or a strike, depending on which party was deemed at fault. Put the burden on the players to pick up the pace or face losing more younger fans to the Rendon-reaction-Yawn.
Already in the minor leagues, new rules governing batters remaining within the batter’s box by anchoring one foot inside, are being planned for this upcoming season. A player will now have to request permission to leave the box for any but a core set of reasons, including foul balls and brush-back pitches that mandate a batter bail out. It’s a start and the results will be tabulated and presented to see what forward progress has occurred.
Managers visiting the mound, injuries on the field, or time being called to allow hot dog wrappers to be retrieved are always going to slow things down in their own stead, so the minutes have to come from somewhere.
But for the love of Mays, Rob Manfred, baseball’s foundation is made of concrete and does not need work, so stick to that clock.
It’s made out of glass.