Apr 27, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; MLB umpire Bill Welke (52) warns the Atlanta Braves dugout against the Washington Nationals in the seventh inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The independent Atlantic League has been experimenting with pace-of-play initiatives even beyond what Major League Baseball set out to do at the start of this season. No. Just… no.
I’m a baseball purist, or at least I’d like to think so, especially in the growing debate around pace of play issues and speeding up the game to impress the “casual fan.” F*** the casual fan. Let ’em watch MMA and the NFL. Adding a clock to the game of baseball, even if it’s only in-between innings to move the game along, is short-sighted.
And I hate the pace of play initiatives taking place in the minor leagues now like having a pitch clock to count down every single dead period. That’s about as un-baseball as baseball can possibly get. But hey, gotta grab those kids away from their smart phones, right? Spare me (and get off my lawn).
Hell, I even hate instant replay, and I’ve written about that before.
I know, if you can get the call right, you should, but there’s something to be said for baseball’s beauty in imperfection due to some even subconscious degree of subjectivity. That might result in a bad call here or there, but umpires are very, very good, and those bad calls even out over the course of the year.
Real baseball fans understand the long play; if Angel Hernandez hoses the Rockies on a terrible call in May, by the end of a 162-game schedule, Hernandez will have hosed the Rockies’ opponents a more or less equal number of times. Everything evens out over the season. And replay is just too… football.
So when I read that the independent Atlantic League is experimenting with some, um, significant rule changes – namely three balls for a walk, and two strikes and a foul ball for a strikeout – I literally went through the roof. No, seriously. I have to call a guy or something, there’s water leaking everywhere and one of my laptops was ruined.
Har. Har. But seriously, what the hell is going on, Atlantic League?
The rules were implemented in an exhibition game two weeks ago:
"When the Long Island Ducks host the Bridgeport Bluefish on April 18, a batter will be called out for a two-strike foul ball and will be given a walk for three balls rather than four.“While these rules are not under consideration by the Atlantic League, we continue to serve as an experimental laboratory for ways to improve the pace of games,” league president Rick White said in a statement Tuesday. “The changes should spice things up for fans as the 2015 season approaches.”The league said the changes for the exhibition game were proposed by Paul Auster, a 68-year-old author and baseball fan. The league said the changes were not under consideration for regular-season games."
Yeah, they’d sure as hell better not be under consideration for regular season games, Atlantic League.
Look, I know it’s indy ball – and I played indy ball – so I understand that you’re trying to get butts in the seats and keep things spicy for fans, because the quality of play in indy ball (even a respected league like this) isn’t very good. (Sorry. It’s not. Peruse the rosters of the Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish if you think I’m taking pot shots.)
But there’s a difference between trying new things to improve pace of play (ugh, but I get it) and doing gimmicky things to get your league in the paper (or written about on websites like this!) and earn yourself a little publicity. “The changes should spice things up for fans,” White said. Thaaaaat’s what it’s all about. Spice!
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The Atlantic League has one of the finest reputations of any independent league over the last 25 years.
Don’t ruin all that goodwill by trying gimmicks to “speed up” a game that’s been doing pretty damn well for, oh, 150 years.
I’m OK with speeding up between-innings times, and with baseball finding creative ways to keep people in the seats and engage younger fans, but let’s all draw the line at ruining some of the bedrocks of the game (like, ya know, three strikes).
Postscript: if you haven’t yet read Connor Farrell’s piece from this morning yet, go right here and do that right now.
Not even gonna tease it for those unfamiliar, just interested to see your first reactions to it and whether you agree with him or not.