We Chicago Cubs fans have endured some dumb baseball over the years. The College of Coaches in 1961 and 1962, the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade, the three year Marlon Byrd contract, and a Greek Orthodox priest sprinkling holy water in the dugout.
Now, just when you thought pitch clocks and three batter minimums for relievers was as goofy as MLB could get, here they are plumbing the depths in an effort to outdo the Chicago Cubs.
Pace of play
I’m going to cover most pace of play ideas in one swoop. That includes pitch clocks, the three batter minimum for relievers, and starting a runner on second base in extra innings. No one ever complained about the pace of play in baseball. Not one fan, player, owner, or front office executive. No one. Until Rob Manfred came along and made it up. Out of nothing. No data, no compelling outcry or outrage, no congressional hearings. Not a word. But here we are discussing endlessly bad ideas on the pace of play.
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And it gets worse
Apparently some are upset about teams tanking. So MLB is considering a rule to penalize teams that tank two seasons in a row.
But how to define tanking? MLB’s idea is that a team is tanking if it loses 90 or more games two seasons in a row. Really? So, losing 90 games is tanking; losing 89 games is competing? Ugh, makes my head hurt like an ice cream headache.
Let’s look at some recent seasons. On the roster for the 2011 Cubs were Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, and Starlin Castro, plus MLB’s sixth highest overall payroll. A team clearly not tanking. They lost 91 games.
Next year the 2012 Cubs lost 101 games. Ten games worse with a much lower payroll. Tanking? How do we know? Certainly not by win-loss record alone.
And is the alternative endless seasons of mediocrity or worse? The Cubs from 1947 to 1966 were among the worst teams in baseball. The Pirates from 1993 to 2012 never placed higher than second and lost 90 or more games ten of those seasons. Were these teams tanking? No. They were just bad, very, very, bad. I bet those fans wish they had torn it down and rebuilt just once.
MLB is looking down the wrong end of the telescope here. Turn it around and what you see from 2012 to 2019 are two teams, the Cubs and Astros, that tore down and rebuilt. Two or three horrible seasons, one mediocre season, and then consecutive playoff-caliber seasons including World Series Championships. That’s better than cellar dwelling for two decades.
Plumbing the depths of ridiculous
And now we find that MLB has contracted with the independent Atlantic League to test several ideas. A robot umpire to call balls and strikes. Ok, I’m curious to see if that’s better than humans behind the plate.
J.J.Cooper and Mark Chiarelli at Baseball America reported that among the other ideas being discussed are the above mentioned three batter minimum, reducing the time between innings (thumbs up on that one), eliminating the infield shift, reducing warm-up pitches, enlarging the bases three inches (what?), and, I hope you are sitting down for this one: moving the mound back two feet.
Wait, does Rob Manfred own stock in a Tommy John surgery center? Who on earth came up with that idea and what problem is it supposed to address?
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The consequences of this idea are horrendous. Every high school and college will face tremendous pressure to adopt the new standard. Laying aside cost, it’ll torture already stressed young arms. Did no one at MLB think about this? Someone needs to get fired over this one.