Things that are broken, Part Two

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

This is the second in a three-part series on things in sports that need to be changed, updated or significantly improved.

Today’s edition focuses primarily on Major League Baseball.

I have three things in baseball that clearly need attention, and it would take very little effort to make the changes needed.

The first is fighting in baseball.

Baseball players have become very sensitive souls. Pitchers don’t even have to make them duck out of the way to trigger them to stare out at the man on the mound.

Part of this is just the fact that a growing number of people in our society are looking for opportunities to fight. I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why that is, but it most definitely is a fact. We are becoming a fight-first world, and it has not made us better.

Baseball can’t fix that, nor should we expect it to.

What they can do is try, as best they can, to manage that mentality and try to minimize the potential damage.

The best part of this problem is that another sport has already given us the solution.

In hockey, if two guys drop their gloves and square off to fight, the linemen will try to jump in and stop them. If they can’t, and often they can’t, the boys fight and the linesmen jump in as soon as it’s appropriate.

Two other guys might also decide to fight, but it is never 2-against-1. The rule is called the “third man in rule,” and it says that when two guys fight and a third person intervenes, the third guy is automatically given a game misconduct penalty — he’s ejected from the game.

And the players respect this rule, and they follow it.

My solution: if the batter charges the mound and the pitcher fights back, they both are automatically ejected and the league will hand down appropriate suspensions. Anyone else who leaves the position they were in when the batter crosses into the grass from the dirt at home plate will automatically be ejected and suspended for 16 games (about 10-percent of the season).

The position players will not rush in. The runners and on deck batter stay still. The benches will not clear. The bullpen pitchers stay where they are.

You move, you’re out, and the league would like a word with you.

The first base and third base umps observe the benches, the home plate ump manages the players on the field, and the second base ump and security officers keep the pitcher and batter from killing each other.

Shorter skirmishes, fewer injuries, more baseball.

And finally, the check swing.

Baseball can’t figure out how to determine what’s “a swing” and what isn’t, and it’s very disappointing.

For whatever reason, no one can figure out a uniform procedure for knowing when a batter has gone too far with the bat on a pitch.

My solution: If any part of the bat crosses the front corner on the opposite side from where the batter stands, it’s a swing and a strike. It’s that simple.

Another aspect of my solution is that only the first and third base umpires would be allowed to make this call.

The home plate umpire would no longer be able to call it himself. He has enough to worry about calling the pitch, which more and more umpires are proving they aren’t capable of doing.

The catcher would appeal directly to the first base umpire, taking the home plate ump out of the process completely.

Ball parks would be fitted with special cameras in line to make this call, and check swings would be reviewable.

And finally, major league baseball needs a mercy rule.

There is nothing worse than having the first basemen or the left fielder come in to pitch in the eighth or ninth inning because the losing manager doesn’t want to waste their pitchers on a game where they are getting blown out.

What results is a farse and dreadful excuse for baseball. Guys are throwing 50 miles-an-hour to batters who don’t know if they should swing hard or play along with the gag.

It’s dumb, and it needs to stop.

My solution: A mercy rule for the majors.

Under my plan, the losing team would have the option in either the eighth or ninth innings to just say “we give up” and the game would end. This could only happen after the team that is losing is down by 10 runs or more after the end of the seventh inning. The home team would still get the final at bat in any case.

You ask about the fans getting cheated out of watching innings? A rain-shortened game does the same thing, and no one is concerned about it then. And if the score is 17-4 in the eighth inning, how many people are sticking around to watch the final out?


I’ve got more things to fix, but I have run out of space for this week.

We’ll keep going next week.