Nine rules baseball needs to change (cont.)
5. The Jorge Posada Rule. Name me any other sport that allows a team unlimited timeouts. That's what baseball does. A coach or manager is limited to the number of times he can visit the mound without having to remove the pitcher. But a catcher can visit the mound as often as he wishes, and if you watched Posada visit CC Sabathia in the 2009 World Series multiple times in the course of the same at-bat, especially with a runner on second base, you had to think there must be a limit to bringing the game to a dead stop time after time.
The paranoid will insist on the right to change signs, the need to go over scouting reports on the hitter for the 53rd time and the expectation of a catcher to look like a "take-charge guy." Okay, but there must be a limit and there must be value to preparation (i.e., having sets of signs that can be changed simply with hand signals relayed from behind the plate). Give the catcher two visits per pitcher per inning. Upon the third visit and any subsequent visits, a ball is awarded to the batter. Keep the game moving, people.
6. The Carlos Beltran Rule. Electronic devices are banned from the dugout. So why is it okay for first-base coaches to be armed with stopwatches? The coaches monitor how long it takes for a pitcher to deliver the ball to the plate. They then pass along this information to the baserunner. The baserunner can then make a judgment as to his likelihood of successfully stealing a base -- based not on observation, instinct and deduction but on an electronic device. Beltran has been a master at using this information. Leave the stopwatches to the scouts in the stands. Get them out of the hands of first-base coaches.
7. The Johnny Damon Rule. A runner cannot interfere with a fielder's attempt to field a batted ball. But a flying wood projectile with a sharp edge that carries the risk of impalement? That's perfectly okay to mess with a fielder.
The snapped bat -- the one in which a bat breaks apart, not just breaks -- has become less common since baseball instituted standards regarding the size and weight of bats. Nobody snapped more bats than Damon, who preferred those top-heavy maple bats that broke apart so easily. The flying pieces of the bat become dangerous and can create an offensive advantage. An otherwise routine groundball, for instance, can become a gift hit when a distracted fielder has to worry about being impaled by the bat shard headed his way.
The idea that you can create an advantage by having your bat snapped in half just isn't right. Treat the bat part the same way you would a runner: if in the umpire's judgment the bat interfered with the fielder's right to make a play on the baseball -- no contact with the fielder is even necessary -- the batter should be called out, the ball is dead and runners are not permitted to advance.
8. The Sam Holbrook Rule. Get rid of the outfield umpires in postseason play. They have been around since the 1947 World Series. They are unnecessary and create more harm than good by asking umpires to make calls in the most important games of the season in positions and with perspectives they never had all year. Holbrook was the leftfield umpire who made the controversial infield fly rule call in the National League wild card game last October. The ball landed 225 feet from home plate -- 26 percent farther than any other infield fly call in the 2012 season on a ball that was not caught, according to Baseball Info Solutions. But from leftfield, rather than the infield, the pop fly would not have looked that deep.
See also Richie Garcia (1996 Jeffrey Maier call in rightfield), Tim Welke (1996 World Series with a key, inadvertent block of Braves rightfielder Jermaine Dye) and Cuzzi (2009 blown call in leftfield on Mauer). The outfield umpires are not needed. We already have replay to get calls right on boundary calls in the outfield. A Hawkeye-type system and reviews on trapped balls would further make the outfield umpires unnecessary.
9. The Paul Blair Rule. Baltimore won the first LCS game ever played when Blair dropped a two-out bunt in the bottom of the 12th to beat Minnesota, 4-3, in 1969. The LCS for its first 16 years was a best-of-five series. It worked just fine.
But in 1985, as postseason ratings began tanking, baseball gave its TV partners, ABC and NBC, the opportunity for more postseason games by expanding the LCS to a best-of-seven series. From 1980, the last time the World Series drew more than a 50 share, through 1984, baseball lost World Series viewers every year; it added up to a loss of 34 percent of the audience in just a five-year window. (Blame goes heavily to labor unrest, including the 1981 strike.) With a best-of-five LCS, the networks could get more playoff games at the same rate that was established in a six-year deal signed in 1983.
Since 1985, the postseason has expanded again (1995) and again (2012) -- three expansions in 27 years. The result is that this year baseball staged 37 postseason games in 23 days. Playoff fatigue and interleague play (just wait for next season, when interleague play happens all season long) have chipped away at the aura of the World Series, rendering it more like just another tournament round than the showcase big event it should be. Despite pundits' doomsaying, the poor World Series ratings don't reflect the health of baseball -- the sport is robust by nearly every measure -- but do reflect something is amiss with the World Series itself.
Baseball wound up with too much of a good thing -- too many playoff games, or, more specifically, too many non-decisive playoff games. In honor of Blair and the LCS's original roots, let's return to a best-of-five LCS. It would add urgency to the series, reduce viewer playoff fatigue and put the World Series back on a higher pedestal.
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