Dear MLB: Solutions for pitching changes, reviews, extra innings and more

Dear MLB: Solutions for pitching changes, reviews, extra innings and more

It's been nearly two days since the latest fulmination about the crushing tedium of baseball -- its pace, that is, rather than its execution -- and how its games can be made faster for the modern generation, which apparently lives life as though it has a Lyft waiting in the driveway.

The most notorious one, which sticks a runner on second base after the 10th inning of games to bring back the thrills of the sacrifice bunt and slow roller to the right side, was rightfully ridiculed for its inherent idiocy, but a competition committee (like the one in the NFL that gave us the exciting new catch rule that requires a wide receiver to hold a thrown ball until death) keeps firing out new ideas like speeding up intentional walks and replay mechanics.

None of which is guaranteed to do anything or even suggestive enough to intrigue the youth of America (say, anyone younger than 50) to watch more baseball.

But since they have ideas, we have ideas.

PITCHING CHANGES

THE ISSUE: There are a lot more of them now than ever because managers be managing. No baseball idea ever goes uncopied or unabused, so shaving time off here is vital.

THE SOLUTION: After the first reliever, each additional reliever loses a pitch, as in the third reliever starts off with a 1-0 count, the fourth with 1-1, the fifth with 2-1, etc. By the time you get to the fifth guy, it’s a full count and hitters have one pitch. Time will fly right by, and if it means the end of the delicate mental battles between pitchers and hitters, hey, at least you’ve shaved off a couple of minutes – until you get some wiseass who just fouls off pitches out of spite.

MUSIC

THE ISSUE: Every hitter has his own tune, and moseys to and saunters from the plate to hear as much as much of said song as possible. This first became a crisis when Carlos Baerga of Cleveland seized upon Macarena in the mid-90s, thus midwifing a torture implement of untold agony to the game.

THE SOLUTION: Speeding up the music slowly but discernibly to fool the hitters into changing their stride to the plate, thus getting to the box earlier and saving . . . oh, 10 seconds tops. Until, of course, you get a hitter who figures it out and has Sibelius’ Karelia Suite played. That’ll slow anybody up.

REVIEWS

THE ISSUE: It takes too long to initiate the process because managers like to take their time deciding, it takes more time because umpires trot blobblishly to the video equipment, and even more time because the fellows in the Chamber Of Secrets often agonize over a play. Getting it wrong seems eminently more sensible by comparison.

THE SOLUTION: Managers must pay out of their own pockets (cash only; no billing) for every challenge – $5000 to a charity, service organization or winery of their choice. In addition, umpires can decide to accede to a challenge or decline it if the call is too obvious by simply saying, “No. You’re wrong. I’m not doing it. Shove off, Waddles.” The kids baseball is trying to reach like that sort of anti-authority kind of thing, even if it is delivered by someone in authority.

TIME BETWEEN INNINGS

THE ISSUE: Commercials, which help pay the freight but are often not worth the wait. This will not be changed because sports would rather turn back time than give back a dime, but I see one idea.

THE SOLUTION: Starting the game while the commercials are still playing, and then telling the folks at home, “You missed a five-pitch groundout, a review and a manager ejection while you were watching that floor wax commercial . . . and here’s the 1-1 to Khris Davis.” This will enrage viewers and sell them on the idea of coming out to the ballpark to see all the stuff they miss at home. This solves the sports-wide problem of television being a better vehicle than the “in-game experience,” which is a stupid term that should never be used again under penalty of beating.

EXTRA INNINGS

THE ISSUE: They’re extra. Evidently, some people in baseball think more baseball is worse than less, a marketing concept known as “scarcity by embarrassment” that has never really taken off in America, or anywhere else for that matter.

THE SOLUTION: Tell anyone who doesn’t like extra innings to take poison. If you really are trying to make the case that your product stinks so much that you would do anything to minimize it, why not make the games seven innings, or even five (thereby taking care of Problem No. 1)? Why not just run a simulation of the game, send the results to the MLB offices and ship the box scores out to all the metrics folks to reduce to sub-atomic structures as they do currently?

THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Reduce the season to six marathon weekends – 72 hours in a row without rest. The more games a team fits in, the better chance it has of winning enough games to get to the postseason, a seventh weekend, so the players will pretty hustle their sit-upons down to the nubbin for the extra paycheck. That’ll speed up the game to a very agreeable pace.

THE ALTERNATE TO THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Extra innings are great. The more, the better. More people are more interested in a 17-inning game than not. In fact, innings 10 through infinity are played at a much faster pace than innings 1 through 9, so just start with the 10th and don’t tell anyone you’re doing it. You know, just to see if anyone is paying attention.

GASBAGGING

THE ISSUE: People yammering ceaselessly about time of game being the reason baseball fans skew older and how this is a fundamental crisis that must be addressed immediately lest the sport die and the nation implode atop its rotting corpse. This has been an ongoing snivelfest for nearly ever, and baseball is no more willing to put its money where its stopwatch is than it ever has been.

THE SOLUTION: Shutting up at the first available opportunity, and maintaining that stance until the rest of us have safely left earshot. That may not speed up baseball, but time won’t seem to run nearly so slowly the rest of the day.
 

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.