Once upon a time, there was this thing they called “Baseball.” It became so popular that the people in the land called it their “National Pastime.” People would spend hours watching this game on warm summer days. They knew the rules and loved the fact that it was not a perfect science. Words like out, safe, strike and ball weaved into the language of the populace. When getting the wrong order at a fast food restaurant you can tell the person behind the counter “Hey two more strikes and you’re out fella.”
Everyone felt secure in the fact that every game was played with rules that were the same for generations. We could compare todays stats with those from games played 100 years ago. Everything was understood and the majority of people were happy.
I can’t remember when it all started to unravel, to the point that this game I loved so much is becoming unrecognizable. I started to hear that the games took too long to play. Some were loudly complaining that they could not sit through a three hour game. So the geniuses who run the game, including those who never played baseball at this level, began to look into ways to speed it up. After all, they couldn’t allow people, who were paying a weeks salary to watch a baseball game, have to suffer through three or more hours of men running around a diamond shaped field.
I don’t know about you but if I was spending a ton of money to watch a baseball game, I would want it to go on forever. Like if I was flying first class, I would want the plane to keep circling the airport. What’s the hurry? I want my money’s worth.
To speed up the game MLB has tried a number of things. Yes some of the changes were due to the pandemic of the past year but the avalanche of ideas both thoughtful and down right goofy, have been in the making for a number of years now. Starting extra innings with a runner on second is not going away. Seven inning doubleheaders? Get used to it.
Now we hear that the independent Pioneer League, a designated MLB Partner League, will be implementing a new rule for games tied after nine innings with a sudden-death home run derby. MLB is thinking of moving the pitchers rubber back 12 inches so the hitters can see the ball better, ushering in more home runs. It is what MLB thinks all fans want to see more of. So get ready, this extra innings home run derby will end up being a new thing at the big league level one day.
They announced that: “Under the rule, each team designates a hitter who receives five pitches, with the game determined by the most home runs hit. If still tied after the first ‘Knock Out’ round, another hitter is selected for a sudden-death home run face-off until a winner is declared.”
What’s next? Playing with three on a side like we did as kids. Right handed batter has to hit to left and run home to third to second then back to third and home? Why not put the ball on a “T” and eliminate the pitcher? How about 2 strikes and you’re out and 2 outs to end an inning? It seems that MLB will listen to anything to speed up the game or produce more home runs.
One more thing about the seven inning doubleheader. The other day Madison Bumgarner, pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks, threw 7 innings of no hit ball against the Atlanta Braves. He was not credited with a no hit game but was credited with a complete game. It will go on record as the 7th complete game shutout in his 13 year career. Baumgarner, until this game, has pitched 15 complete 9 inning games in his career. To give him credit for a complete game of 7 innings is Blasphemy!
I will leave you with this from Rod Sterling: “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” Baseball is not the Twilight Zone yet. But our national pastime is becoming a “UFO.” We think we saw a ball game but something is askew. What is happening to our beautiful game?
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