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May '11 31

Old World Pastime – 20 Things I Would Change About Baseball

John Miller, a Belgian-American journalist, and a player/coach for the Brussels Kangaroos, is in his fourth year of writing Old World Pastime, a take on baseball as lived in 21th century Europe.

As discussed last week, yes, baseball is the best game. But let’s not let best be the enemy of perfect. So, here, friends, are 20 suggestions for improving baseball as I see and play it.

  1. Scrap the infield-fly rule. Think how much excitement it would add on pop-ups with first and second and less than two outs. As soon as the ball soared skywards, the defensive team would have to make a decision. Catch or drop. The offensive team would also have to choose, run, halfway or hold. It would add several seriously exciting moments to every game. Imagine if it happened with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning of a tie game.
  2. Shorten the Major League season by 30 games. Finish the World Series by October 5. I love baseball, but too much of a good thing is too much.
  3. Aggregate regular and post-season stats. We already make all kinds of adjustments, for teams and parks, etc., so why not for whether a team makes the post-season or not? Good play in the post-season actually matters more, and should be rewarded.
  4. Limit all amateur seasons — yes, I’m talking to you, Belgium — to three months. For example, in Belgium, play doubleheaders on Saturdays, and a game during the week.  Yes, a man needs a day off on weekends.
  5. Institutionalize the infield-outfield routine I saw the Japanese national team do.  Two balls. Start with infield. Last plays are the impressive, beautiful lasers from outfielders.
  6. Make Major League hitters stay in the batter’s box. Penalize them a strike if they take too much time. Like in tennis.
  7. Ditto for pitchers. If you stall, it’s a ball.
  8. Wood bats in college. That’s a no-brainer.
  9. Wood bats in high school.
  10. Wood bats in Little League.
  11. Bring back 1980s bright, striped unis.
  12. Bring back stirrups. I remember receiving those with my socks and pants when I was 11. It added a necessary, rich formality to the game.
  13. Even out the Major League divisions to five teams apiece. Duh.
  14. Get rid of the catcher’s interference rule. It should be a do-over, unless the offensive team chooses to have the play stand. I was at a game in Baltimore this week where the hitter waited way too long to swing and then tried to slap it the opposite way. He nailed the catcher’s glove — it was not the catcher who interfered.  Ten or so years ago, I was catching when a hitter on the now-defunct Wanze Cardinals — a true buffoon — intentionally nailed me on the wrist. He took first base. By the time I realized what had happened, it was too late. You don’t need this rule. Catchers are punished enough by a hard swing to their hands.
  15. Price controls on beer at Major League Stadiums.
  16. Remove the mandatory helmet rule for base coaches. It looks stupid, and there have been over 200,000 MLB games played without mishap. Just because a freak accident happens, it doesn’ t mean we have to get all child-proof. And why don’t field umps wear helmets, too?
  17. Ban elbow guards for hitters. It distorts the game’s delicate, competitive balance. OK, crowd the plate, but pay the price if you lean in too far.
  18. No more God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch.
  19. Maximum five throws to first base during an inning, to encourage more stolen bases. The sixth throw is a balk.
  20. Instant replay. Actually, nah, no thanks.

Send your suggestions for improving baseball, or your thoughts on mine, to oldworldpastime@gmail.com

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