Friday, October 23, 2015

Football: not the only flawed sport

I've spent likely too much energy complaining about flaws in sports. Okay, I suppose it's more accurate to say I've wasted that energy lamenting flaws in American Football, not that those hardheaded players and fans care to listen to reason. Yet all sports have their weak points, and I've realized that they all might benefit from my wisdom. So I will now, from time to time, vent about those others. And I will begin with my favorite, the greatest game ever, baseball.

Let's start by helping the pitchers, shall we? How about calling the whole strike zone for starters (okay, and relievers too)? Why must they get only half to two-thirds of what the rule book says is a strike? It's no wonder that pitch counts are getting so high: if a hurler doesn't groove a pitch he doesn't get a strike. If the human umpires can't figure out what Fox Trac (or whatever they call their strike zone guide) clearly sees as a ball or a strike, then replace them with technology. It's no different than using instant replay really.

While we're talking about pitchers, let's make them bat again. It's only right. Everyone else has to play the whole game, and commentators regularly and rightly opine that, once a ball is pitched, the pitcher becomes an infielder. Make them bat too. Yes, the lament will be that who wants to see pitchers bat? I don't care. Baseball is a game where everyone else plays two ways. Pitchers should too. I hold the same for what is something of the converse: designated hitters don't play the whole game either. Get rid of them.

Throw the sabermetricians out of the ballpark too. Quite frankly, we knew who the great, average, and mediocre players were before Bill James came around, and with a lot less pointless analysis. I admire his love of and commitment to the game, but all he's really dealing in is minutiae. Which means trivia. Use the basic rubrics by which baseball has judged players for a century. They almost always point to the same conclusions as the number crunchers do.

And please stop changing pitchers so often. I've reached the point where I think each team should be limited to four pitchers per nine inning game, barring injury. Take the limit off in extra frames as well. If we help the pitchers with a true strike zone, they'll throw fewer pitches and not be so tired anyway, and can go longer. Get rid of that situational left hander too. He's another sabermetric invention we could do without.

Baseball is a great game. The best ever, by any honest and rational consideration. But like all human constructs it could be improved. Consider these ideas a start.

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