Thursday, November 5, 2009

6 ways to fix baseball

The World Series wrapped up last night and the Yankees are the champs. I watched parts of the final game mostly because I thought I should. Like always though, I could not bring myself to watch every moment of it because it is simply too boring and too long.

I am not a baseball hater. I played junior baseball and loved the game growing up. I have, over the years, become disenchanted with baseball simply because it takes too long. The last numbers I saw show that the average NHL game goes 2 hours and 22 minutes. The average baseball game goes 3 hours and 7 minutes.

I have friends who are hard core and tell me I simply don’t appreciate the tactics and subtleties of the game or its traditions. I have great appreciation for both, but what baseball fans don’t realize is those traditions have changed and those changes have made the game too snail like to be an enjoyable watch. Back in the old days players picked one of the 4 bats the team had and warmed up then walked directly to the plate to hit. Now players scan through their bin of 25 specially made personal bats before heading to the on deck circle and somehow still manage to appear rushed when its actually their turn at bat.

Here are my 6 changes to baseball that will speed it up and make it fun to watch again.

1-When a player steps into the batters box. He must stay there for the duration of his at bat unless he is knocked down by a pitch or has to leave the box because of a running play at the plate. No backing out to tap the cleats, adjust the batting gloves, spit, play mind games with the pitcher, tighten the hitting elbow, shin, or wrist protectors.

2-Pitchers may not leave the mound until an at bat is over unless they leave for injury reasons or to play a ball. No more standing on the grass bouncing the rosin bag off the back of their hand. No more rubbing the ball and spitting. No more walking off the mound to reset ones hat. Its one of the reasons I love Roy Halliday. None of that crap happens when he pitches.

3-If you can’t run in the equipment you wear to bat then don’t wear it. Why does the entire game have to stop because a guy gets to first base and calls time out so he can remove his batting gloves? Put on his sliding gloves. Change from his hitting helmet to his running helmet. Remove all of his protective elbow, shin, wrist and ankle gear and then stand there and spit 3 times before telling the ump he is ready to go.

4-You are not allowed to stop a game because you are dusty. If you slide into 2nd base and you get dirty, that’s life. Why does the entire game stop so that one man can wipe the dust off his uniform?

5-Each team is granted 10 time outs per game totaling 30 seconds each. A pitching change gets 60 seconds because the guy has to run in from the bull pen and yes he is required to run not walk. If you are a pro athlete and can’t run 400 feet then I am not sure this is still a sport. Calling all the players to the mound to talk to each other with their gloves over their mouths is a joke. If you need more than 30 seconds to have something explained to you during a game, then you are not smart enough to be a major leaguer.

6-And finally relief pitchers. No practice pitches while all of us sit there and wait for you. The relief pitchers have been in the bull pen for hours and know when they are likely to be called. They have been warming up for 20 or 30 minutes and in fact we often see them stop warming up because they are getting tired. If you are not ready to pitch when you get to the mound, they shouldn’t have called you in.

This tradition started when often outfielders came in and yes they needed to get their bearings from a raised mound after playing the earlier part of the game in the outfield. Also in the olden days the bull pen (when they even had one) often didn’t have the same height and distance as the game field. That is no longer the case. Run to the mound and throw the damn ball.

I apologize to baseball purists, but if you want me back stop wasting my time.

See you at the rink.

One year for almost ending one life.

OHL Commissioner David Branch has ordered the suspension of Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas for the entire season and playoffs after his hit on Kitchener’s Ben Fanelli last Friday. This suspension effectively ends the junior hockey career of Liambas since he is a 20 year old player.

While the collision was brutal and the resulting fractured skull and orbital bone of Fanelli are worse than brutal, some argue the suspension is too tough since it was not a dirty hit and these types of hits are a part of hockey.

I am not one of those people. The hit clearly met the exact description of charging and the resulting discipline by Branch is completely in keeping with the severity of the injury. That is the key here. The injury and the placement of the injury is a documented part of punishment.

I do not have an OHL rule book in my office, but the NHL rule book I am staring at must be very close or exactly the same.

Rule 43.1
“A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any player. Charging shall mean the actions of the player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice”

That is the general description. Here is where the rubber hits the road.

Rule 43.3
“The referee, at his discretion, may assess a minor penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check, to a player guilty of charging an opponent.

This is the part that brings the injury into the equation.

Rule 43.5
“When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.”

So injury and the severity of it is a part of the penalty. As you can see next, it is also a clear part of the supplementary discipline.

Rule 43.6
“When a major penalty and a game misconduct is assessed for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, an automatic fine of one hundred dollars shall be imposed. If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.”

Again, I am not sure the OHL rule book reads exactly the same, but I would be surprised if it did not.

Charging occurred here. The violence level was off the chart. There was extreme injury to the face and head of the victim and I would contend that a one year suspension is entirely appropriate based on the degree of injury.

You can debate whether this is just a tough hockey hit gone bad or whether this type of thing happens all the time and thus the suspension is too tough. You can blame the victim because a 16 year old kid turned the wrong way at the last moment.

The fact is this meets every and all the criteria for a penalty and a suspension and the only debate is, should a 20 year old energy player lose the rest of his junior hockey career for almost ending the life of a 16 year old rookie.

I do not accept the argument that he didn’t mean to hurt the kid. That has never held any weight with me in this case or the Bertuzzi case or any of the others. It’s almost a Clintonism. Of coarse he didn’t mean to fracture his skull but he did intend to hurt him. He just wasn’t concerned how serious the injury he inflicted would be. That lack of concern or what some people term a lack of respect is something that is rampant at all levels of hockey now because that’s the way we teach players to play. Coaches no longer admonish their own players for dirty or dangerous behavior. They simply rely on the on-ice officials to do it. If they ref didn’t think it was dirty or dangerous how could it be dirty or dangerous?

The only way to have respect is to be taught respect and that is something coaches no longer do.

See you at the rink.