Tuesday, August 13, 2013

If It's Broken...Fix It! (Three Ways To Make Major League Baseball Better)

Falling all over the place. Ladies and Gents your 2013 Chicago Cubs!

Serious and sad confession coming. I’m a Cubs fan. Having lived in Chicago for a short time when I was a kid, I fell in love with the Cubbies back in 2000. To say I had no clue what I was getting myself into is an understatement. After doing some research on the team, I found out that the "Northsiders" didn’t have what you’d call a “winning tradition.” So I had a choice to make. Stay or go. (It was kinda like finding out your fiancee was a recovering super-slut right before your wedding.)  But I figured “What the hell?” Even though I'm from Flint, Michigan and could have rooted for the Tigers, I still picked the Cubs. The Tigers weren't any good at the time, the Cubs had one of baseball's most popular players in Slammin' Sammy Sosa (Feel free to insert your own PED joke here.), I lived in the city and since I had no team, it seemed like a good idea. (So was marrying a woman a day before I deployed to Iraq. Just saying, I haven't been known to make the smartest decisions at times. Boom! Two marriage jokes already!)

My love for the team was cultivated in the early 00s when the Cubs were pretty damn good. Peaking in 2003, when the Cubs had a pitching rotation of Prior, Wood, Zambrano and Clement. (They led the league in strikeouts and all won at least 13 games.) I spent that summer watching baseball almost everyday. Watching every pitch and every hit. My TV lived on WGN as I would listen to Cubs legend Ron Santo wax poetically as the team went 88-74. Which was good enough to win the woeful NL Central. (God rest the man’s soul but Ron Santo was a horrible color man. He was dreadfully uninformed about stats, mispronounced names and completely biased toward the hometown Cubbies. Ron Santo was about as fair and objective as the judge in a show trial.)

The Cubs looked liked they were well on their way to at least the NL Pennant but we all know how that turned out. Even still, all the pitchers mentioned above were under 26 years old, the Cubs brought in Derrek Lee and Greg Maddux via free agency and they looked like the would contend for years to come, but we all know how that turned out.

Fast-forward almost ten years to 2013, the Cubs are just as bad as ever if not a touch worse. They’re no closer to returning to their former “glory” although new general manager Theo Epstein looks like he has a plan. When your team’s out of the hunt it’s always hard to follow a sport but I’ve always been able to stay engage in baseball but not this year or the past few to be honest. I’ve only watched two games from start to finish this season.

Exciting as Mike Trout is I'd still rather catch the SportsCenter Highlights than watch a full Angels game.

Watching baseball has become almost like a chore lately and it’s not just because my team sucks. The Dodgers have been very entertaining to watch as well as my "hometown" Tigers and players like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera are "Must-See-TV", but that’s still not enough.

Being the solutions oriented young man that I am, I’m here to offer up a few ways to fix America’s pastime. The game itself on the field, as it’s played that is, is pretty close to perfection. I don’t have any "on the field" rule changes to offer up rather a three tweaks to improve the viewing experience live or on television.

1) Get This Show On The Road Already! AKA SPEED UP!

Baseball has always been terribly slow as it is, but lately the game’s been moving about as fast as a snail locked in Snoop Dogg’s dressing room. (For any white people that don’t understand the reference, it just means really, really slow.) The average speed of a MLB game is around 2 hours 55 minutes. Yankees vs. Red Sox games average around 3 hours 30 minutes. Postseason contests involving any combination of Major League teams average about the same. Ouch!

That’s too long to do anything much less watch a baseball game. (I’m sorry, but I’m only willing to do a few things for that amount of time. Most of which involve naked women and alcohol.) It's a pretty easy fix however. Cut down on all the pointless stepping out of the box from batters. They step in and out, and in and out. Adjust their gloves. Adjust their helmets. Step in the box. Take a few practice swings. Call for time and DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN! STOP IT! Take a few practice cuts, step in the box and try to hit the freaking ball!

Batters aren’t the only ones slowing the game up. Pitchers are even worse. The time in between pitches and the "in-between pitches routine" some pitchers have are down right painfully long. Some guys can take upward of a minute and thirty seconds. Try it right now. Wait a minute and thirty seconds.... 

Keep waiting....

And waiting....

See. Don't you just wanna shoot yourself!  Fast workers like Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander are way easier to watch than slow pokes like Dice-K or Barry Zito. Pitchers have more control on dictating the pace of game even more so than the umps. (More on how they're slowing down the game later because they're guilty too.) Speaking of them…

2) Stop Show-Steal Umpires

Is it just me or lately haven't the umpires become just as much a part of the action as the players? Umpires have gotten more and more “showy” and it’s hurting the game as much as the slow play.

This is happening why too much this season.

Umpires have been mouthing off at players, taking their masks off and walking toward the mount like their ready to fight or something. I saw the Tigers catcher have to physically hold back an ump the other day. Really? Come on! You can’t say anything to these guys. Umpires are apparently about as sensitive as a pregnant woman in her third trimester. (I got two kids and trust me when I tell you this. Never, ever, ever argue with a woman when she’s at that stage of her pregnancy. Just politely nod, say “Okay honey” and go fetch whatever crazy food she's craving that day.)

The reason the umps are so out of control is because they don't seem to be accountable for any of their actions. They can say and do pretty much whatever the hell they want. If the players can be punished, so should umpires. They're on the field and they're performing a job just like the players. If a player's performance can be questioned so should an umpire's. And don’t even try to get an ump to admit it when they blow a call. You’d have an easier time trying to convince a Tea-Party Member that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

3) Replay, Replay and MORE Replay!

Baseball’s biggest underlying problem (Besides some of their biggest name players taking  Pac Man “power pills” that is.) is the lack of replay. This is 2013 damn it! There are HD cameras all over the field! Fans at home can see every little thing and so should the umpires. I’m not sure if the umps have gotten worst or the technology has just gotten that much better. Either way, replay is an absolute must at this point.

The umpires say they want to get the calls right and if that's true umpires should be screaming from the mountain tops for expanded instant replay. I know some of you just “love” the human element but I say screw that. I’d rather them get the call right. Hell, I'd have them put robots on the field if it meant they could do a better job of calling the game than humans.
Trust me guys! He was out by a mile! - MLB Umpire
Sure, watching your favorite manager run onto the field and raise a little hell over a blown call has a certain amount of entertainment value, but that goes back into what I was saying about slowing the game down. The manager or player can piss and moan all they want, but the call never gets changed. I guessing it feels good to give the guy an ear full, but I'm sure players and manager would rather have the visual evidence to support whatever they’re arguing about. Adding an umpire in the booth to look at close plays at homeplate as well as close plays on the base paths should do the trick. Don’t give me crap about “pace of game”. Because if you cut out all the arguing, the pitcher’s in-between routine and batter’s doing stuff like this, then there’s plenty of time.

I really like baseball. I really do. Those summers going to Wrigley Field were some of the best of my life, but even if my team was in it I’d still find baseball hard to watch. Baseball really needs to fix this. The younger generation is pulling further and further from the game, in favor of football and basketball. I’m afraid if they don’t fix it, they (MLB) really will be America’s PAST-TIME.

Thanks for reading! Join the discussion by leaving a comment below. Agree or disagree? Let me know. Follow me on Twitter @ParisLay, subscribe to the blog and as always ENJOY THE VIEW!

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