2017-02-19 / Sports

A message to the Commissioner, 'if it isn't broken, don't fix it'

Baseball World
By CARL JOHNSON
Special to the Journal Tribune

Someone should tell Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred that Major League Baseball existed for the past 114 years, since the first World Series in 1903 and was doing fine until he became Commissioner.  During that 114 years, there have been minor changes to the game, such as changing the height of the mound, creation of the designated hitter, restrictions on the use of performance enhancing drugs and others, generally aimed at solving a problem.

The bases, the last time I looked, are still 90 feet apart, there are still three outs in an inning, a batter is still out if the ball beats him to first base, etc., etc., etc.  Not much has changed over the years but Manfred acts like the game is his own plaything to experiment with and change as he sees fit.

His latest experimental change makes me wonder if he has, as they say, gone 'round the bend'.  This change, which will be experimented with in the Rookie League and Arizona Fall League this year, would put a runner on second base at the beginning of every extra inning of play without benefit of a hit, walk or error.  The inning would start with a runner on second.  The purpose of this action would be to make it easier for the offensive team to score in extra innings and, thereby, shorten the length of extra inning games.

He is obsessed with the importance of shortening the game of baseball and every year he and his predecessor have come up with a new idea to do so, most of which have failed.  This proposal is so ridiculous that it is not only doomed to failure it also points out how little the Commissioner knows about the game of baseball and its fans.  Unfortunately, he is in a position to manipulate the game and the owners seem content to let his experimenting continue as long as they are making their money.

As Liz Roscher suggested in her MLB blog last week, 'Rob Manfred is a man on a mission.  He is going to put his mark on the game of baseball if it is the last thing he does.'   Commissioner Manfred, prior to becoming Commissioner, was in large part responsible for keeping labor peace and allowing baseball to avoid unrest which hurt the game.  He is an Attorney with a background in sports law in general and baseball law in particular.

On the one hand, he proposes this as a method to make the game shorter while at the same time suggests that raising the strike zone from the hollow below the knee to above the knee will improve offense.  Obviously, improving the offense will lengthen games.

The other rule change that the Commissioner's Office is looking at and has asked the Players' Association to consider would allow an intentional walk to be issued without the 'delay' of throwing four pitches.  The Manager or pitcher would tell the umpire that they wish to walk the batter intentionally and the batter would go to first without any pitches being thrown.  This is intended, supposedly, to speed up the game.

In 2016 there were 932 intentional walks issued in 2,428 games, an average of one every 46 1/3 innings, or one every approximately 2.5 games.  If this change saves a minute every time it is invoked, it will take a minute off of two of every five games or an average of 24 seconds a game.  

The American Heritage Time Use Study and the American Time Use Study performed by the United States Department of Labor have shown that American men have 5.26 hours more leisure time per week than in 1965 and women have 3.56 more hours.  It also found that there is a difference in the amount of leisure time has increased depending upon the educational level of people being studied but that, although there are differences in the amount of increase over that time, the people with the different educational levels all have an increased amount of leisure time available.

The only time I hear anyone complaining about the length of baseball games is when the media or the Commissioner's Office complain about it.  Think about it.  If you were a fan paying the prices fans are paying today to get into a baseball game, would you want some lawyer who knows nothing about baseball to decide you'd get less for your money?

Last year, at this time, the Commissioner's Office was introducing the rules governing slides into second base and the neighborhood play rule, where the pivot man on a double play would now have to actually touch the bag with the ball in his hand instead of  coming close so he could get out of the way of the incoming runner.  Those two changes which were intended to protect the fielder, but actually put him in more danger, had to be reinterpreted during the year.

Other rules intended to speed up play have not worked for the most part but every year we have these proposed changes.  


It's obvious that the Commissioner is just throwing darts at the game and hoping some will stick.  This is  not the way the game became our National Pastime, Mr. Commissioner.  


The worst part of his tampering with the game to me is the fact that Joe Torre, one of the finest players and managers ever, now MLB's Chief Baseball Officer, ends up looking like a fool trying to sell the Commissioner's cockamamie ideas.


Baseball has never been more popular than in this century and we are coming off one of, if not the most, exciting, post seasons in baseball history.   Leave the game alone, Mr. Commissioner.  To paraphrase Keaton Moore of Fox Sports ' the Minor Leagues were not created for you to test your ideas on' and the game is fine as is.  

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