The need for speed in baseball

THE 1896 Baltimore Orioles. The game of baseball has changed since then, but not enough (Wikipedia).

Sports, like people, tend to be set in their ways. It takes some jarring event or movement to shake things up and get people – and athletic institutions – to accept change, no matter how overdue.

With that in mind, with most sports paused or downright stopped, this might be the perfect time to consider some alterations in “the way things have always been done.”

Let’s start with baseball. America’s first “national pastime” is the creakiest of all the major sports in this country. Time-honored traditions may be nice, but they don’t necessarily bring in fans who grew up on X-box and iPads.

Some needed changes have been ignored for so long that they seem ancient all by themselves. Let’s start first with the length of a typical MLB contest. Games that used to take two hours now take three. That may be good for the beer vendors, but it’s strictly snooza-palooza for fans watching on TV.

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Just like the shot clock sped up basketball, we need a pitch clock. If you can’t throw the ball within 30 seconds you’re not very focused. First violation is a called ball. Second is a balk or base on balls. They’ll adapt.

More liberal substitution rules should be studied. Perhaps players subbed for would be allowed to return after three innings, or some other formula. Also, consider a designated runner for one batter, once he’s hit (or been walked) safely.

Extend the designated hitter to the National League. Any pitcher who wants to bat for himself, fine. But otherwise let’s spare the nation the embarrassing efforts of 95 percent of hurlers striking out on three pitches.

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Another one of the things that causes games to be draaaaaaaawnnnn out is late-game pitching changes. In years past, a game typically involved a starter (who worked five to six innings), a middle reliever (two or three innings) and a closer (one or two innings).

But now it’s not uncommon to have a team – Mike Scioscia, we’re talking to you – use nine or 10 pitchers in a single game. What worse, is that it only works half the time.

New rule: barring injury, no more than one pitching change per inning.

The old practice of letting a baseball game run for an uncertain number of innings is, well, too old. Let’s borrow an idea from the lower levels of the game. If the score is tied after 10 innings, start the 11th with a man on second base. Each team gets an inning or two. Game tied after 12? It’s a tie.

Next week we’ll take on football, and go deep for some needed reforms.

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It’s Getting Drafty in Here Dept: Jake Vogel of Huntington Beach High was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the second day of the MLB Draft. A centerfielder for the Oilers, Vogel has committed to play baseball for UCLA.

Vogel batted .350 for HBHS with 12 home runs and drove in 59 runs in a career that was cut short by the coronavirus his senior year.

The orange-and-black posted a 6-3 season that was interrupted before Surf League action could start. They were 25-7 the year before, won the league crown and ranked 22nd nationally and sixth in the state.

Wild World of Sports is posted on Mondays.


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