May 7, 2007
As much as you might like MLB baseball, do you ever find yourself yawning in boredom by the time the fourth inning rolls around? Fear not, there is hope yet. ETB contributor Christopher Thell has a few ideas for spicing up the game.
Once again the sweet winds of spring are upon us, ushering in a wonderful time in sports. Soon, though, the NBA and NHL playoffs will have run their exciting course and the boys of summer will take center stage in the American sporting consciousness.
As America’s national pastime, baseball is a treasured contest that has been practiced on our soil for over 100 years. However, as fine a game as it is, Major League Baseball suffers from one nagging problem that keeps it from being a true spectacle that is consistently compelling: MLB is, all too frequently, kind of boring.
True, minor adjustments like the DH, a wildcard playoff team, and the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs have breathed some new life into the game over the years, but it’s simply not enough to corral the attention of today’s savvier, attention-deficit fan, one who tires of the endless throws to first base to keep a runner from stealing or the yawn of extra innings. In today’s more flamboyant, reality television-fueled society, it’s imperative that MLB make a few changes in order to maximize its entertainment value.
So, after careful consideration, I have concocted a handful of simply implemented changes that will do just that, making MLB a must-see sport, one that demands to be watched night in and night out.
1. Steeplechases and Sand Traps
Currently, the base paths and the outfield are far too easy to navigate. In order to make running the bases more interesting, steeplechases will be placed halfway between first and second base and second and third base. This will not only make running the bases an acrobatic event–as base runners must vault through the air and either into or over the waiting water–but it will also make routine ground balls to 2nd or shortstop endeavors of true adventure.
This infusion of obstacles in the infield will have the added benefit of making it extremely difficult to steal a base. Base stealing will become a thing of rare beauty, something to be truly celebrated. In addition, it will cut down drastically on those incredibly annoying throws to first base to hold the runner on, which leads to so much wasted time between actual pitches. There isn’t a soul alive who wants to see the pitcher chuck the ball to first ten times in an at bat. The Steeplechase will all but eliminate this.
The outfield will also get a makeover. Who couldn’t track down a fly ball in a perfectly manicured field completely unencumbered by obstacles? In order to make playing the outfield more exciting, three large sand traps will be placed in every section of the outfield, one each in left, right, and center. These sand traps, which can be no more than three feet deep, will vary from ballpark to ballpark in their exact shape and configuration, but will all have a uniform square footage. Now, a routine fly ball or ground ball to the outfield will never be routine again. Will the outfielder play it right, adequately navigating the precarious sand traps? Or will he trip and break his leg as he stumbles head over heels into the middle of the pit? The audience must watch in breathless anticipation to find out.
2. The DH Imbibes
First, the DH will become mandatory in both leagues, a change which is long overdue. Who wants to watch some pitcher hitting .164 flail away at the plate? Please. This modern game is about offense, about producing runs. But simply making the DH mandatory in both leagues isn’t enough. Since the DH doesn’t play in the field, and therefore doesn’t have to deal with the stress of playing defense for nine innings, another challenge must be implemented to make DHing a true event. This is easily accomplished by combining two things that have always gone together: beer and baseball. From now on, immediately preceding each at bat, the DH will have to chug a large concession stand beer. This will make DHing truly interesting, particularly by the time that fourth or fifth at bat in a game rolls around and the DH doesn’t take kindly to a heater high and inside.
3. Walks and Errors Punished Properly
From now on, every time a pitcher walks a batter, the catcher will be caned Singapore style, and it’s cumulative. Meaning by the time that sixth walk is issued, a half-dozen lashes with the cane will be coming for the catcher, to be meted out by the opposing team’s DH between innings. What could possibly focus concentration more and discourage intentional walks and pitching around the game’s stars better (two things which greatly reduce the enjoyment of the sport) than having to watch your battery mate fiercely caned for your lack of control or cowardly strategy? This will also serve to speed up the game and make every single pitch count.
However, the pitcher isn’t completely off the hook. In similar fashion, from now on, whenever an error in the field occurs, the pitcher will be caned in order to shame the fielder – one lash for every error that game, again, also cumulative and to be administered by the opposing team’s DH between innings. Now, not only will errors hurt the pitcher’s chance for a win, but his backside as well.
4. Raspberry Beret
The seventh-inning stretch will no longer feature the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” A new song must be injected into the line-up to breathe life into this tradition, something truly brilliant and inspirational. Therefore, instead of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the seminal Prince song, “Raspberry Beret,” will now be sung between sides of the seventh inning. Why “Raspberry Beret?” Because, frankly, it’s a damn fine ditty whose time has come. Imagine the spectacle as fifty thousand fans sing along to one of Prince’s best songs ever… “She wore a raspberry beret, the kind you find in a second hand store…” Enough said.
5. Bare-Knuckle Inning and The Batting Cage Battle
If the game is still tied after nine innings, the tenth inning will now be played sans gloves by all fielders except the catcher and pitcher (for safety’s sake). How wonderful will this be? True, it may lead to a few broken fingers, but imagine the spectacle. Will a shortstop dare raise his bare hand to knock down a scorching line drive to preserve the win? How about trying to take away a home run barehanded?
If the game is still undecided after the Bare-Knuckle Inning, there will be no 11th inning. Instead, the batting cage will be wheeled around home plate, and all players will gather around as the action inside the batting cage is shown on the scoreboard for all fans to witness: the respective manager of each team, stripped to the waist, engaging in a no-holds barred fight to determine the winner of the game. Whoever is knocked unconscious or taps out first loses. Gambling among players will be encouraged during the bout, and fistfuls of bills will shaken in the air as encouragement.
This will ensure that everything possible is done to win the game before it comes down to a skipper cage fight, as the managers will pull out all the stops to avoid having to get down and dirty in the batting cage. This also guarantees that managers will be true leaders of their teams. Champions. Gone will be the flabby ex-player who can barely walk to the mound to change pitchers, replaced by a lean, mean fighting machine. This change in game-end policy will keep every fan glued to their seat until the always compelling, and often bloody, finish.