Is “The Fix” Really In?

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Tom Boswell reported that Bud Selig has put together a group of the game’s best and brightest to, in Boswell’s words, “fix” the game.  Boswell seems to think the game is broken: I don’t.  He seems to think surgery is required; I think the patient just needs a trip to the chiropractor for an adjustment. But Boswell’s was a good piece and very well received by this baseball fan who hit his “Skins fatigue threshold” two months ago — and has ceased to be fascinated by Tiger’s woes.  It was a good not-yet-winter article to take my mind off the cold.

Despite my belief that the game isn’t as bad off as some believe, I love the managers who comprise the on-field contingent of the 14-man committee: La Russa, Leyland, Torre and Scioscia. Future Hall of Famers every one. The Wise Men of Baseball.  Who doesn’t like those guys? 

La Russa is a vegetarian lawyer — who just so happens to have also won a World Series and Manager of the Year award in both leagues. But he should also be admired for how he responded to his 2007 DUI arrest. He said he was embarrassed, then pleaded guilty and said “I accept full responsibility for my conduct, and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again.” In other words, unlike so many sport folk these days, he didn’t hire a crisis management team to carefully craft a statement. He manned-up and did the right thing. Leyland (on the other hand) is the crusty old baseball guy who takes crap from no one, smokes Marlboros in the clubhouse ramp between innings and does more with his teams than one would expect.  Did the Florida Marlins really win the ’97 Series?  Really?!  And, you gotta love a guy who gets thrown out before the first pitch.

Torre is Torre. It’s hard to say much that would add anything to his record in New York. He’s a class act who wins.  And his dugout persona makes La Russa look excitable.  Buddha in a ball cap. Scioscia (like Leyland) is a fiery type who knows the game. He won a World Series in his third year with the Angels and has won the division in five of the last six years. If he were an every day player he’d be considered “a gamer.”

But, to the point of Boswell’s article: he recommends that the committee take a look at the pace of the game, at the issue of awarding the World Series home field advantage to the winner of the All Star game, is opposed to playing the World Series in November and thinks the way to do this is to cut back on the 162 game season.

I’m in full agreement with no November baseball. It should never happen; end of story. Cutting back on 162 games?  No. Sorry. One of the great things about baseball are the stats and being able to make comparisons between the greatest players of all time. We had to get over the switch from 154 games, no reason to go through that again. Plus, its a non-starter from a revenue point of view. Ain’t gonna happen. Then too, I actually like the All Star game counting for something. Boswell seems to think these things go in streaks and one league dominates the All Star game for years at a time giving an unfair advantage for years in a row to one league at Series time.  Maybe, but my reaction would be for the “weaker” league to get better.  But I’d also be happy with awarding home field to the team with the most regular season wins as Boswell suggests.

And the pace of the game? It can be speeded up, but it was my perception that it had gotten much better in the last couple of years — especially in the American League. One of my idiosyncrasies is to look at game times at the bottom of the box score. I don’t know why but I just do. And I thought that the problem had been fixed. But let’s go with Boswell’s contention that the game still has much to do in this area and address his five ideas for speeding it up:

1) Ban mound visits: I assume Boswell is joking so I’ll just say that if Jim Leyland thinks it’s okay to use a Blackberry to calm a kid pitcher down with runners on second and third (with one out in a one-run game in the seventh) then it’s okay with me.

2) Limit the time to make a pitching change. Yup. Shouldn’t a reliever be be loose by the time he gets to the mound? 

3) End the singing of “God Bless America” during the Stretch. Yes again. Enough already.

4) Wave the hitter to first when an intentional walk is indicated. Nope. You never know when that kid pitcher will hit the backstop.

5) Requiring relief pitchers to face at least two batters to eliminate pitching changes. I go back and forth on this one; so I’ll waffle and say “perhaps.”

Agree with Boswell or not, it was a great exercise to think this through in mid December. The only thing better was to realize that pitchers and catchers report in 60 days.

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