It’s baseball season! Or at least it is supposed to be. Looking outside my work window here it is SNOWING. Those two things just don’t go together in my mind. However baseball discussions are abound here in my two person office. Sometimes they get colorful, with one of us a White Sox fan and the other one needing to acquire a better taste in teams, but that isn’t the point. We have been having discussions about baseball in general over the last few weeks (He actually is somewhat knowledgeable about baseball and isn’t a koolaid drinker like most Cubs fans I know). One of the questions he asked me was if I was a ‘baseball purist’.
We thought about that for a bit and I suppose that on most parts I would have to say no, I am not. The DH is something that I strongly believe in. You can give me all the arguments about how the DH supposedly takes strategy out of the game and so on, but I don’t want to see a pitcher strike out or bunt 4 times a game and I certainly don’t want my $25 million per year starter to pull a hammie running from first to second. To him I brought up Kerry Wood, who got hurt in a collision while running the bases and was never the same after that. Players should also love the DH as it opens up another roster spot.
The next topic that came up in the purist argument was the ‘unwritten rules’ part. Just recently there was a team that was down several runs in the 9th inning and bunted to get on base. The defending team got pretty pissed about it because of a supposed unwritten rule. To ME, the players are being paid to try and win the game. In that particular case, the defending team certainly didnt’ lay down as they employed a shift against that batter. Well, if THEY were going to play as if the at bat ‘counted’ then the batter should have also, which he did. I don’t know why more batters don’t bunt against the shift. Make them respect all fields, THEN smack the crap out of the ball. If you went 3-4 with 3 bunt singles, odds are your team might have done well. And the next game they might play you a little more even in the field so you can swing away. To me the same thing applies to a no hitter. I don’t care if it is 2 outs bottom of the 9th and we are losing 12-0, if I can get on base and a bunt is the way to do it, you had better defend against that possibility.
So then the topic moved to hit batters. I never progressed past little league, but even then it hurt when I got his with a pitch. I can only imagine what it is like to get nailed with a 98 MPH fastball to the ribs or worse. To me, sometimes you can tell when a pitcher meant to hit a batter. Sometimes they are just wild, sometimes they are trying to pitch inside and miss, but sometimes you just know they are trying to hit you. The ‘unwritten rule’ is then that YOUR pitcher will bean someone from the other team the next inning, usually the best player coming up. Here I also disagree with the unwritten rule. Why would I want to give the other team a free base? Oh, I would make it known that the inside of the plate is mine and if they got hit, then they got hit. But intentionally throwing at an opposing batter is just lame.
Fights! You see them from time to time where the benches clear! Batter gets plunked, throws his helmet to the ground, glares at pitcher who acts all tough, batter charges, everyone leaves dugout and stands around looking tough. Want to stop that? Here is how. Automatic suspension for that game and the next, no appeals, to ANYONE who leaves the dugout or bullpen for a fight. Anyone and everyone. If you can’t field a team after that you forfeit the game, sorry. Batters, if you want to go at the pitcher and have it 9 on 1, because the other 8 are already on the field, have at it. You’ll still get suspended for fighting and have gotten your ass kicked. However pitchers be wary. Your guys could get the same treatment. No warnings to the other side, if he retaliates, your batter is screwed and it is your fault.
When it comes to the season itself, we were both in agreement that it is just too long. The season does NOT need to begin in April and have the regular season going to Halloween. Ideally it would be May to mid-September for the regular season and then playoffs. However that would mean eliminating 30+ games. Everyone would scream about that. You could just figure what every player makes per game now and adjust all contracts to the prorated per game of the new schedule. Yeah, that would go over well. Oh well, play your games in April. You won’t get me there, even with free tickets.
Also just a few days ago there was a game that went into many extra innings, using up a lot of pitchers. This brought conversation about a proposal to have teams play 2 extra inning and then if nobody scored to start the next inning with someone on second base. This might be one area where I am a purist. I just don’t like it. Games shouldn’t end in a tie. I get it with football. It is a violent game with injuries happening all the time. Baseball should never end in a tie. Game goes to 18 innings? Manage your pitchers better then. And speaking of managing your pitchers better, make it so that any relief pitcher has to throw to at least 2 batters, unless he ends an inning. None of this using 5 pitchers in an inning that takes forever. Learn to manage your pitchers.
Last but not least is the overall labor agreement. You can tell what most baseball reporters, writers and radio hosts think because almost to a person they think they players are getting screwed and many think they should strike. My guy here is sort of along that same line of thinking, but not heavily. I feel that this is the first time in 20+ years that the owners have had any advantage and the players are acting like whiny little bitches because they were the ones that got taken last time. I hear commentators say that players should strike until they get rid of arbitration (which players seem to mostly win?), set a floor for payroll, eliminate the draft pick compensation and to have service time started earlier, none of this stashing people in the minors for a month to get an extra year. The telling part is you ask what the players will give up in return and the answer is usually ‘nothing’. Yeah, you can tell who the big union people are there. I think the contracts have evolved to more like they should be, paying for performance, not past performance. Players keep getting out clauses after 2 years of a multi year deal if they think they can do better, but give a team that out? Ha! I think the owners should pay hardball. The draft pick thing can go, but you don’t get service time relief. You want to keep out clauses? Then owners get them too. I think a diminished skills clauses should be there with easily verifiable things to avoid manipulation by either side. If you signed a 5 year deal as a power hitter averaging 35 homeruns and batting .290, then regress to 22 homeruns and a .250 BA, and do that 2 years in a row, the team isn’t getting what they paid for. Why should they take all the risk? As for a floor, I am all for that. There should be a minimum. That can be what the owners give up.
What say you to any of these things? They make for some lively discussion here.