Finally something to talk about this MLB off-season (which is only days away from becoming “next” season’s spring training) besides who’s going to sign Manny or Bryce. Big news came out late last week as CBS sports and many other sources reported that the league’s owners and the players union exchanged ideas for improving the game. All of it is speculation right now, but some of the ideas make a lot of sense… and in fact, are ones I had suggested here.
Take for example “a draft advantage for winning teams, penalties for losing teams.” Now that perhaps might be going too far, but mirrors what I suggested here just last month when I pointed out that the current amateur draft no longer works. In fact, the system guaranteeing the worst teams the best draft picks now is an incentive for middle-of-the-road teams to actually try to lose, rahter than get better, in order to ensure a primo draft pick who might benefit the team about four years down the road. I think a random pick for draft spots is best, and that actually rewarding teams that win might alienate fans by ensuring the dynasties like the Red Sox and Yankees can reign unchallenged for eternity, with not only their big budgets but an unlimited pipeline to the best young players. But I’m glad others are starting to see that as long as losing 100 games is more rewarding for owners than losing 81, fans in a lot of cities aren’t going to have any reason to cheer.
Or the suggestion that MLB adopt a universal DH rule, something I suggested a long time back. Certainly some NL fans will bemoan the change and lament that it’s killing the strategy of the game, but let’s face it – it’s like a battle that ended years ago. The American League “experiment” is nearing 50 years and as engrained as a part of the game as cracker jack and expensive beers. The Japanese leagues use DHs, so too do the minor leagues. Thus, the kids hitting the major leauge mounds didn’t “grow up”, baseball-wise, hitting, and it’s unfair to expect them to learn the new skill when they become big leaguers. And unfair to fans to suffer through endless at bats of pitchers watching easy balls lob by them,or swinging two feet over balls that scratch the plate. Yes, Colorado’s German Marquez hit .300 and had 18 hits last year, but for every one of him there are ten Mke Foltynewicz’s with their 41 Ks in 58 at bats and an .069 slugging percentage. Universal DH will mean more hitting, fewer unnecessary and time-consuming pitching changes and more aging players who can still hit but are iffy in the field keeping jobs. A win-win for the teams and the fans.
Another suggestion I like is the 3-batter minimum for a pitcher. Obivously, there needs to be some caveats to that rule to allow for injuries (but that, in turn probably requires a pitcher taken out before 3-batters for “injury” goes onto the 10 day DL…now to be called an “IL” or Injured List, apparently) but in general, I like it. I don’t know any fan who is saying “I am not going to the ball game if it’s going to take 3 hours, 5minutes, but trim it to 2:50, and I’m all turned around on the subject”. Neither though, do I know a fan who likes seeing three pitchers trotted out to get three outs in the 7th inning. Or that think that the requisite 8-man bullpen is a wonderful use of roster spaces.
On that matter too, they’ve made a suggestion. Up the roster to 26 men but with a max of 12 pitchers. I like that. Each reliever facing another batteror two can mean a slightly trimmed down ‘pen, and that in turn can mean a bit more complete bench…. more pinch hitting possibilities, more defensive replacements and other types of “strategy” the NL fans love but that are becoming scarcer and scarcer with the simplified home run or strikeout type of game today.
Other suggestions made I’m more on the fence about, like lowering the mound (I guess to lower the advantage 100 mph pitchers have over hitters) or having one solid trade deadline before the All Star game, but all in all I find it encouraging. With owners upset attendance is sliding, players irate the free agent market is starting to dry up and all of us fans thinking the game is not improving by the year with increased strikeout rates matching increased rates of teams finishing below .400, it’s necessary that the sides start to talk and make some suggestions back and forth before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021.