Baseball Should Be More Like Hockey.

For starters, I absolutely love extra inning baseball games. My fiancé and I always celebrate free baseball, because as OOLF mentioned, the best things in life are free, ESPECIALLY when it’s baseball. The biggest issue is that I often have to go to bed before these games end, so I never get to truly take the whole game in (because of work and other frugal things like it, of course). I love the pressure, the intensity, and the anticipation. You even get the occasional position player pitching, and who doesn’t love that??

I do fall on the fence, however, when it comes to the pace of play in the regular length games. In the longer games there are often many pitching changes, visits to the mound, and replays. I have been torn between speeding things up, and keeping them traditional. Speeding up challenges and replay could help, but we must remember that when challenges were introduced they inherently added time to the games. Limiting mound visits for catchers and coaches may also help, but likely not much. A pitch clock…well…after watching Milwaukee’s starters I can’t say I’d be against it, but it removes one element from the chess match between pitcher and batter. In the end, I err more on the side of tradition. This is our game, and some of the best nights of my childhood were spent watching 4 and a half hour Sox-Yanks games when it was far beyond my bed time. That was without extras. I wouldn’t trade those games for anything. That being said, if the games were 20-30 minutes shorter without any fundamental rule changes, I certainly wouldn’t complain.

Now, to approach these issues in terms of extra innings. I recently read an article in the Chicago Tribune about this exact issue (Pace of Play, with an emphasis on extra innings) and I’d like to quote one part:

(There were) 185 extra-inning games out of a total of 2,428 games played, or 7.6 percent. Of those 185, nearly two-thirds (122) ended in 10 or 11 innings, and just eight (4.3 percent) lasted 15 innings or longer.

You can read the entirety of the article here. The author argues that extra innings are not the problem, simply because there aren’t enough games that get to that point, and even when they DO get to extras, they mostly end within the 10th or 11th innings. Changes to extras would take away part of the game that many people love, and I don’t believe it would attract a new demographic like changing the regular length games could. I don’t see the MLB making changes to extra inning games, but if they do, I hope they keep the essence of the game.

With all of that now behind me, here are my suggestions for speeding up MLB games. I personally believe all sports should be more like hockey, because hockey is the best. Baseball is a close second, and doesn’t need as many repairs as say…soccer.

1. Foul balls: Build a plexiglass wall that starts after first and third bases along the chalk lines. Anything that is fair as it passes first or third will be considered a fair ball, and the plexiglass wall will keep these balls in the field of play.

2. Pitching changes: These will now work like line changes. If you want to bring in a reliever, he must enter the game during play and not be caught as the 10th man on the field, with the infield being the area where a violation can occur. (EX: Kimbrel sprints in at the end of a pitch and as he touches the dirt near second, the previous pitcher must be past the chalk line near his respective dugout) There will also be no additional warm up pitches, do those in the bullpen. A team will be allowed 1 minute to execute the change successfully, with a penalty (see next idea) assessed if too much time elapses.

3. Penalties: Can be given for many offenses, including but not limited to pace of play violations, fielding errors, arguing balls/strikes, slashing,, catcher interference, etc. A player will be removed from the field of play for two minutes or 4 pitches, whichever is longer. If the batter is penalized, he or the batter that would follow (if the current batter is already out) is ruled out. If a pitcher is penalized, a position player fills in until the pitcher has served the duration of his penalty. If a run is scored while a player is in the penalty box, that player may return to play automatically.

4. Mound visits, challenges: Coaches may have one timeout per game, which can be used to visit the mound. If a manager wants to challenge a play, and they lose the challenge, they lose their timeout.

5. Extra innings: One extra inning can be played. If the game is still tied, each team sends three batters to the plate with the opportunity to hit a home run off of their own pitching coach’s throw. Most home runs after three batters wins the game, with sudden death swings if still tied after 3 batters.

6. MLB will expand into Vegas. This is not negotiable.

7. MLB teams will now compete for the Stanley Cup. This is also not negotiable.

I admit these are…unlikely. But the MLB should consider them. They’re no crazier than making the batter stay in the box…right?

The reality is that these and many other recommended changes ranging from realistic (enforcement of batter’s box rules) to downright insane (body checking becoming a legal, encouraged move) are unlikely to be made anytime soon. If they are, the changes to the pace of play are likely minimal at best, especially since the introduction of replay has added time onto an already lengthy sport. But that’s okay. I love baseball just the way it is. It is meant to be enjoyed at a slow pace, with plenty of time to talk to friends, discuss each play, and enjoy life. Extra innings gives us the opportunity to enjoy the nuances of the sport even longer, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.