“I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: They slow the game down and our relievers have become so dominant at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game.” – MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred.
Manfred went on to say that baseball might consider a rule limiting the number of pitchers a manger could use in an inning. Thanks to the NY Daily News for the source. No. No I do not read the Daily News. A writer I follow on social media posted the link.
I’ll come back to Mr. Manfred in a second…
A way back in the 19th century, many among the powers that be liked and encouraged a game of small ball. Yes, it meant the same thing then as it does now – bunt, steal, hit and run, etc. Henry Chadwick, an enormous influence and innovator of statistics and tracking stats, went so far as to make walks and sacrifice bunts official statistics. (Previously, walks were considered pitchers’ errors and sacrifice bunts counted as an at bat for the batter.) This way, so the theory went, players would be recognized for being “team players”. Taking a walk and moving a guy over wouldn’t result in a penalty to your statistics.
This mostly came on the heels of players like Cap Anson, who said “This is dumb. Why don’t we just hit the ball really far over everybody’s head and score? That’s easier than all this bunting and running around nonsense.” (Admittedly, I’m not sure if that was a direct quote – I’m taking liberties for entertainment purposes. But that was his gist…)
So an innovator who was smart enough to adapt and better himself and his team was shut down essentially. Players were discouraged from simply doing better. It wasn’t until the early 1920’s when MLB had this little problem of criminals and players being on trial for fixing games that it was decided that someone hitting 50 or 60 home runs was a good distraction, for business purposes.
Back to Rob Manfred: I’ll never understand why in baseball, when smart people innovate and improve, not only themselves but anyone who wishes to follow, they are met with derision and rule changes to stop the improvements. This willful need to stagnate seems unique to baseball.
Smart people, also armed with the courage to be different, learned that in most cases a guy who throws 95mph plus, who the batters haven’t seen before, will do better than the guy they’ve seen 2-4 times already. If you implement this information, you’re increasing the likelihood of winning games.
It’s not clear to me what the problem is here.
I don’t remember 3rd down backs and nickel defensive backs necessitating rule changes in football.
I don’t remember players who were pretty much only 3 point shooters forcing the basketball commissioner to re-think the rules of roster usage in the NBA.
It’s just more of the same: MLB can’t stop itself from crapping on its own product. It’s been going on for well over a century and with this and the pace of play nonsense, there’s no end in sight.
How about this, on a micro-level: Stop calling unhittable pitches strikes. This will result in more balls in play. (Again, from the 18th century: the point of the strike zone is to force contact.)
Also, if relievers becoming a bigger part of the game is a real concern for you, you can make sure you get better relief pitchers than your competition. You can also come up with an offensive adaptation. In other words, maybe just suck less at your job. A crazy notion, I know.
On a macro level, just stop crapping on advancements. Relief pitchers aren’t new to baseball but the way they’re being used is. This is a good thing. Smart teams will be rewarded, teams slow to adapt will get beaten. See also; defensive shifting.
This is what we want in baseball and outside of it. Stop lowering the bar and catering to the lowest common denominator. Both the business and the game of baseball are fine.