Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Perfectly Logical and Symmetrical Baseball League (PLASBL)

Major League Baseball isn't broken. But it's not perfect.

I’m not aspiring to higher office. I’ll just settle for succeeding Bud Selig as commissioner of baseball. This is my nine-point platform and I’m sticking to it.
  • Plank #1: Eliminate the designated hitter rule. This is long over due. Going back to sandlot baseball, every one had to take his (or her) turn at shagging balls in order to merit a turn at bat. “DH” baseball is just pseudo-baseball, quasi-baseball, crypto-baseball, proto-baseball, near-baseball, old-man or geriatric baseball. Real baseball means that each starter has an offensive as well as a defensive role to play. In real baseball, if some one gets 400 at bats, you know he has at least minimal skills with glove and arm. Real baseball saves starters' arms, provides more strategic drama to the game, gets more players into the game, and provides a built-in deterrent for the bean ball. Enough ink has already been spilled on this. If you want a platoon sport, settle for football or slo-pitch.

  • Plank # 2: Enforce the real strike zone. The strike zone is over the white of the plate, above the knees and below the arm pits, when the batter is in his normal hitting stance. The upper level of the strike zone is not determined by the catcher's head or shoulders. When umpires went to the inside protector, they started depending on the catcher for protection, at the expense of the optimal position. Thus, the zone has evolved into a wider, flattened area in which pitchers get calls on pitches inches off the outside corner. On the other hand they wouldn’t get the pitch above the belt called as a strike. There was no consistency. Pitches so far outside that no batter could reach them would go for strikes. Or, on the other hand, pitches in the legal zone would be called balls and the guy on the mound would be forced to throw one right down the middle. How many games were broken up by the pitcher surrendering to the umpires’ idiosyncrasies by watching his next pitch bang against the outside wall? How many innings were ended by pitches way off the plate which couldn’t be reached by the normal bat? The outside protectors might have been clumsier and maybe they don’t give you the same mobility. But I have had the experience of umping with both protectors, and I can say that with the outside protector you could work the top of the strike zone better and see the entire plate at a higher level. The dullest play in baseball is the unintentional walk, because it is mixed in with strikes. By calling the entire strike zone by the book, you won't see as many 3-and-1 and 3-and-2 counts on batters. Hitters, in other words, will gear themselves to be more aggressive on pitches coming in at chest level. Fewer walks mean more action and shorter games.

    Therefore, MLB should return to the use of outside protectors. Additionally, the use of computerized technology called QuesTec should be installed in all stadiums to grade and rate umpires’ compliance with baseball’s book definition of the strike zone.

  • Plank # 3: Restore the level of the pitching mound to 15 inches over the level of home plate. After the 1968 season it was lowered five inches to the detriment of drama of baseball. Now, with batters crowding the plate with all kinds of body armor, the balance of power must be restored with a more unlevel playing field.

  • Plank # 4: Adopt the aluminum bat. Somebody has published statistics about the amount of wood that goes into the construction of wooden bats, which is a highly consumable commodity, unique to major league baseball. It's an environmental and economic disaster. Aluminum bats are virtually indestructible.

  • Plank #5: Re-engineer the construction of baseballs to deaden them. This is a consequence of the previous innovation. As a matter of safety for pitchers and infielders some changes to the ball will be required to accommodate aluminum bats which are definitely more lively than wood.

  • Plank #6: Re-align divisions to emphasize regional rivalries and re-establish symmetry to league schedules. Back when we had two eight-team leagues we had perfect symmetry: during the season each team played every other team in its league 22 times, 11 home game and 11 on the road for a total of 154 games in the season. Perfect. The only negative was the lack of inter-league play. What if we could combine inter-league play, still retain perfect symmetry and build in a higher degree of drama as the season unfolds? Assume the following league alignment:
    • WESTERN LEAGUE: Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Denver & Phoenix
    • SOUTHERN LEAGUE: Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami, Cincinnati & Tampa Bay
    • CENTRAL LEAGUE: Chicago (WS), Chicago (C), Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, & Indianapolis
    • EASTERN LEAGUE: New York (Y), New York (M) Montreal, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia Toronto & Washington DC
    Two teams have been added to bring each league up to eight teams. Assume the season schedule starts with inter-league play on 1 April. Each team would play every other team outside its league four times, two at home, and two on the road. That would come to 96 games bringing the calendar up to about the second week in July, just in time for mid-season all-star game. I think that works out pretty nicely, leaving details to be ironed out using days off for travel on one side of the equation and inserting a few double headers as necessary. After the All-Star game, assume the season resumes on 14 July (Bastille Day!). From this point on to the end of the season, only intra-league games are played. Each team plays every other team in its own league 10 times, five at home and five on the road. If the schedule ends on 30 September, there will ample time to get 70 intra league games in to make a total of 166 games in the season. Too bad it doesn’t work out to be somewhere between 154 and 162. It does mean the schedule contains more games than ever before in MLB history. But so what, really? Look what we get: after spring training, we get 96 games which certainly count in league standings; starting in mid July we get heightened competition within each league for the league championships. When the second half of the season starts, each team knows what it has to do vis-à-vis the other teams in its league, mano-a-mano. No alibis on extra-league competition. Plus, with my geographical alignments, the competition is regionalized, even localized! Hot!

  • Plank #7: Re-establish symmetry to league post-season play-offs. There hasn’t been symmetry since eight team National & American league champions faced off against each other in the World Series. End intra-league divisions. No more wild cards. Establish four leagues with an equal number of teams in each league. The first team to clinch a league championship plays host in a seven game series to the last team to clinch a championship; the second team to clinch its league similarly plays host to the third team to clinch. The winner of each series plays each other in the World Series. Perfect Symmetry!

  • Plank #8: No Reinstatement of liars, cheaters, gamblers and scumbags! Pete Rose should be reinstated into baseball, but only posthumously, and then inducted into the Hall of Fame. What he has done between the chalk lines is too big to permanently exclude his record from the Hall of Fame, and it would sure be incomplete without his records. But what he has done to Baseball outside the lines has been so potentially fatal, that he cannot be permitted to enjoy Hall of Fame status in his life time.

  • Plank #9: Legislate or dictate (using my “best interests of baseball” powers), over the protests of the Union, a policy of zero-tolerance of performance–enhancing drugs. This 3 strikes & you’re out policy shall not be retroactively enforced.
There you have it: Perfection is only a 9-step program.

5 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

There it is: 8 simple ideas. That's all that it would take to fix baseball.

However, I think I will hold off on the fund raising for my campaign until I can come up with an acronym with more zing!

4/05/2006 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Allan said...

How does your PLASBL handle out-sourcing?

27.4 percent of Major League Baseball players born outside the U.S.

Overall, 223 of the 813 players (747 active, 25-man roster players and 66 players on disabled lists) on April 2 rosters were born outside the 50 United States, representing 15 different countries and territories. The 2006 figure of 27.4 percent is the third highest total on record, with last year's record high of 29.2 percent (242 out of 829 players) leading the way.

The Dominican Republic, with 85 players, produced the most Major Leaguers born outside the U.S., while Venezuela had the next highest total with 43 players and Puerto Rico follows with 33.

Among the Major League Clubs, the New York Mets have the most foreign-born players with 15, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers (14) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (13). Players on the Dodgers' roster represented a Major League-high eight areas outside the United States (Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Panama, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and Venezuela).

4/05/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Actually (1) I think the employment implications of immigration are considered to be in-sourcing; (2) you provide interesting and stimulating statistics; and (3) the internationalization of baseball can only improve the game, IMHO, and therefore not something that has to be 'fixed'.

4/15/2006 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger Malfrat said...

Keep your day job, Vigil.

Don't think MLB is broken as badly as you want to fix it.

4/25/2006 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Mitchell said...

Hey Vigilante, I like your idea even better than I like my own. :-)

11/03/2006 05:30:00 AM  

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