Time is Tight

Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets

It was hard this past week to go anywhere without hearing about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and his disappointment with the MLB Players Union on shaking up some of the rules to help the pace of play in baseball. It appears that Manfred was hoping for a major change for this upcoming 2017 season:

“Unfortunately, it now appears there really won’t be any meaningful rule change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA,” Manfred said.

The one change that appears to be the most likely is eliminating pitchers actually throwing pitches in an intentional walk, instead having the manager signal from the dugout that they want to place the batter on first. It’s been covered ad-nauseam, but essentially this would be a non-issue when it comes to cutting time in a baseball game, especially considering how few intentional walks there are any more. With that being said, I thought we could look at a few possible changes that could help speed up the game and obviously make it more accessible to the leisurely fan, as most of us diehards aren’t majorly bothered by the pace of the game.

kc2

The most immediate solution to speed up the game would be speed up the process of instant replay. There was some talk for a while that baseball would look into setting a hard time limit on managers for making a decision on whether or not they want to go back and look at a play, but in my mind that is not where the major issue lies. The amount of time it took for replays last year did fall (on average it was about 1:36, compared to 1:51 in 2015) but we can all agree that we have sat through some replays that feel like they take hours. I am all for getting the play called correctly, but I also tend to think that if they added another person in their replay booth back in New York, maybe it could speed up even more. I tend to think this wouldn’t drastically improve the pace of play, but it might end the replays that feel like everything has ground to a screeching halt.

kc3

Another rule that could speed things up would be limiting the amount of mound visits in an inning. Obviously this would mean you would have to count any mound visit, whether it be by a catcher, a pitching coach, a manager or just a random player. I actually wouldn’t have an issue with this, as sometimes the visits can drag on (I’m sure an umpire or two would agree with this). That being said, I don’t think they should limit how many pitching changes a team can make per inning. As much as I am not a fan of 20 million pitching changes in an inning, I also don’t think a limit should be imposed on a team. Part of the natural flow of baseball is that you never quite know what moves a manager is going to make from inning to inning. If a manager wants 3 pitchers to each get an individual out in an inning, there shouldn’t be a rule that says he can’t do that. Maybe something where there is a limit on non-pitching change mound visits but none for actual changes? I’m just spitballing here, but the point is to limit the amount of tedious visits to the mound in an inning, which could speed up the game.

kc4

What about some other possibilities that have been thrown out there?

Pitch clocks-Don’t have an issue with this. As long as it’s reasonable I would be game for it.

Banning infield shifts-Stupid. The issue isn’t shifts, it’s batters who aren’t adjusting to the shifts being put into effect when they are batting. Want shifts to go away? Start hitting the ball to the opposite field. I have no idea how this would save time in a baseball game, as the initial reasoning was to produce more offense, which would more than likely mean a longer game…which by my count would mean NOT saving time.  

Having a runner start extra innings on second base-I almost feel like I shouldn’t acknowledge this, but it has been mentioned. I know sometimes extra innings can feel like a drag, but extra innings also add more drama and intensity to the game. I would hate to see this go away just to save a little bit of time. Could you imagine Game 7 of last year’s World Series, starting the 10th inning with a runner on second? Horrible, horrible idea. Let’s hope this one never sees the light of day.

kc5

One final solution to speeding up the game has been the expansion of the strike zone. I actually am totally on board with this, as it has felt like for the longest time that the zone has shrunk. Obviously, the above graph says otherwise, although over the last few years it has appeared as if the strike zone has gone lower, with the low strike getting called more than the high strike. That being said, many have long felt as if the zone is determined by individual umpires, as some have a bigger zone than others. I would tend to think if you expanded the zone (and I do mean expand, not make it more lower than higher) you will get more batters swinging at the dish. While strike outs are currently up around Major League Baseball, I tend to wonder if they would go down if the batters are swinging earlier in the count and not taking as many pitches. Out of all the ideas that have been tossed out there, this one has the best legs and could really give the game more action as well, as more balls would be in play. All of these items are what Manfred is looking for and honestly, I would rather see a fly out or ground out than another strike out. The game could very well see a drastic change if this happened and could really open up a whole other world of possibilities.

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

So is there a real problem with baseball and the pace of play? To a degree, of course. It’s not every game and it’s not just one move or action that does it, but yes, there is a slight pace of play issue with baseball. It’s nothing that most of us would gripe about, but us “Seamheads” aren’t the only people watching baseball games. I feel as if Major League Baseball and the MLBPA should always be looking for new ways to improve the game and make it as viable as humanly possible. That being said, I also don’t think you should just go and change rules for the sake of changing rules. If a rule need a minor tweak or an adjustment, I believe that is exactly what should be done. The other aspect of this is that baseball is a free-flowing game that has no time limits and can range on the amount of time it can take to finish up. I would hate to see part of that go away just to knock a few minutes off of a few games. Should the players union be more open to changes? Yes. Should Rob Manfred slow himself down and not just assume that major changes need to happen? Of course. The game of baseball is a truly great thing and if you are immensely in love with it you accept it, warts and all. Not one answer will solve all the problems and not all problems need immediate attention. I would much rather see baseball address the issues but not make changes until they have a solid solution that most parties can all agree on. Baseball is definitely not broken, but a few minor touch-ups could make it even better than it is now.

 

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

kc1

Say the name Pete Rose and you are bound to hear many a varied opinion. If there was one former player who is a lightning rod for controversy and passion it would be the man nicknamed “Charlie Hustle”. We all know the story of Rose, one of a man who has fallen from grace because of his vices. This week we found out that Rose has sent a formal request to new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to have his lifetime ban lifted, a ban that has been in effect since August of 1989. Many in and around the game are on Rose’s side in this argument, including the executive director of baseball’s players’ union, Tony Clark. But should Rose have his lifetime ban lifted?

kc2

I know some people don’t completely grasp this, but gambling is the biggest sin in baseball. If you think all the visceral hatred of PED use was as bad as it could get, you would be wrong. Gambling is much worse and can(and has) tore apart the fabric of the game. Gambling is such a no-no in the game that there is a sign posted in every Major League, Minor League and Spring Training clubhouse that reads:

“Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year. Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

This hasn’t been posted for just a few years, or a couple decades; it’s been in clubhouses for close to 100 years. So from the moment Pete Rose walked into a professional baseball dugout he was aware of the dangers and punishment if he gambled on the game. Yet he did it anyway. In fact while manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he gambled on his team. Now, he always has said he “bet on them to win” but does this even matter? He broke rule #1 in the game he loved, a rule that he knew if broken would cost him. It cost him alright; it cost him inclusion into the game that was his life. But he knew the risks and he knew he shouldn’t do it–and did it anyway. I’m not even for sure he feels as if what he did was wrong. Which means much like the fans clamoring for his reinstatement, he doesn’t grasp the severity of gambling in baseball.

kc3

That is the other part of the Pete Rose argument. For years Rose denied he gambled on baseball. He denied it on August 24th, 1989 when then Commissioner Bart Giamatti announced Rose’s lifetime ban. In fact, Rose vehemently denied gambling on baseball:

“Despite what the commissioner said today, I didn’t bet on baseball,” Rose told the media. He does, however, admit that he bet on other sports. “I made some mistakes and I’m being punished for mistakes,” he says.

For years Rose would deny he ever bet on baseball. Years. In fact for years “Charlie Hustle” hustled the media and fans alike by lying and saying he would never bet on the game he loved. But eventually he would go back on that and tell the truth. He would admit that he bet on baseball. But he would do it right before the release of his tell-all book, My Prison Without Bars. So Pete would finally tell us the truth…when it would bring something to him. After years of swearing he was the victim and had done no wrong, he turned around and told the truth when he could make a profit. So the question would have to be asked; At this point, in 2004, did Pete really feel like he had done wrong or did he just admit his wrongdoing for the sympathy? In 2007 he would admit betting on his own team on the Dan Patrick Radio show:

“I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week. I was wrong,” Rose said. “I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team,” Rose said. “I did everything in my power every night to win that game.”

Maybe it’s just me, but it just feels like Pete found a way to give people what they wanted(the truth) while also making money. It didn’t feel like someone getting something off his chest, relieving himself of guilt. It felt like a man trying to manipulate people’s feelings for him. It didn’t feel like remorse. Only remorse he got caught.

kc4

This most recent attempt by Rose for reinstatement isn’t his first. In fact, former teammates have come to his aid before. Back in 2003, Mike Schmidt and Joe Morgan set up a meeting with then Commissioner Bud Selig where Rose could discuss his case with Selig and possibly even move forward. ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote an article back in 2009, discussing an episode of “Outside the Lines” where Morgan and Schmidt discussed this meeting. In the article there is some very telling truths about Rose and his situation:

Morgan actually shed a tear as he talked about his longtime teammate and what had become of his life. And Schmidt visibly agonized in frustration over Rose’s inability to do and say what seemed so obvious to those of us not living inside the Hit King’s skin.

“If it were me,” Schmidt said, “and I had lived a lie for 14 years, and I went up to tell the commissioner that I was sincerely sorry for what I’ve done to my family, to the sport, etc., I probably would be back in baseball now and in the Hall of Fame — because I would have been a tremendously remorseful individual. And I would have felt the burden of that the rest of my life, in everything that I did. And I would have, in my travels, been a totally different person.

“My lifestyle would have changed. I would have felt an obligation to change and to become someone that the baseball world would once again learn to love after forgiving me. I would have been that guy. And I don’t think Pete has been.”

There were no promises made to Rose that day in 2003. But Schmidt went into stunning detail about the topics on the table in that meeting.

The men in that room actually talked informally, he said, about how Rose should go about holding a news conference to admit what he never could admit all those years: that he’d bet on baseball. They kicked around when he should hold that session. And where.

More than anything, there seemed to be awareness that Rose would have to change his lifestyle. The lifestyle that got him into this situation in the first place. That is where a problem arose:

But the men in that meeting also talked about the changes in lifestyle Rose was going to have to make. No more trips to Vegas. No more hanging out at the racetrack. That was going to have to stop.

And, of course, none of it ever stopped. Not then. Not now.

But the nature of the conversation tells you how much momentum was being built for Rose’s reinstatement. It may not have been imminent. But it was clearly within reach.

“So we were very confident,” Schmidt said, “that once we left Milwaukee, that some phone calls would ensue, some e-mails and discussions with Pete’s representatives and the commissioner’s office, that a plan would be put in place.”

But that plan never even made it onto a crumpled up sheet of scrap paper in Selig’s office. And that was no one’s fault but the Hit King’s alone.

People in the commissioner’s office are still muttering that Rose’s first public stop after leaving Selig’s office was an appearance at a Vegas sports book. It wasn’t quite the reconfiguration of Pete Rose’s life they had in mind.

If you have ever wondered why Pete Rose hasn’t ever been reinstated, and why I feel he shouldn’t ever, those last few paragraphs tell so much. The reason why Pete Rose should never have his lifetime ban lifted is because of the lifestyle he just isn’t willing to give up.

kc5

The biggest issue baseball will have to look at is whether or not Rose has reformed, or whether Rose is living the gambling lifestyle. There is nothing we have seen from the last few years that says he has changed. Rose lives 1.2 miles from the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where he signs autographs in a mall music store. Go back and re-read that; Pete Rose, noted gambler who says he wants a second chance, works in a casino. Sure, Rose will tell you things are different and he would never gamble on baseball again. But lets be honest; Rose lied for 15 years, telling us he didn’t bet on his team. He came clean 11 years ago but where does the truth and lie begin and end? As much as we all want to believe Rose can be this better person who would put the game ahead of his own wants and needs, I’m not so sure that person exists in him. Rose has much in common with players who are suspected of PED use and have denied it for years; they believed they were untouchable. They believed because of who they were they would never get caught. Well, Pete got caught and has spent the last 25 years trying to convince everyone that he was the victim. The honest truth is Pete put himself in this situation. Pete created this mess; his decisions led him to this place and time. There is one rule that everyone that plays, umpires, manages or is a club official has to follow no matter what; don’t gamble. Rose broke that rule and has spent all these years trying to convince everyone that he did nothing wrong. The reality is he broke the one rule that will end your career in the sport. No reinstatement, no Hall of Fame, no nothing. This is the bed Pete Rose has made for himself; it’s time for him to admit he must lie in it.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑