Friday, February 10, 2017

Mr. Manfred, A Moment Of Your Time

I beg of you not to do this thing. 
- George Bailey

Dear Mr. Manfred: 

You and I have never met, for which you are most likely very thankful.  Trust me, I take no offense if you feel that way.  I have that effect on quite a lot of people.  In your position as Commissioner of Major League Baseball, you occupy an important position in the social fabric of these United States for as long as you hold your present office, America's Pastime is in your hands.  You are, as I know you know, a fiduciary.  In your present office, your fiduciary duty is owed to the great game of baseball, those who play it, and those of us who are fans of it.  

It is a duty that is not restricted by either geography or rooting interest.  It is owed, equally, to those of us (such as my siblings, Jimmy Fabricatore, Dave Rubino, and me) who root for the Yankees; to Schiff, Cesar, Dave/Christine Joy, and Tom Swales (Mets fans all); and to Phil, Diego, Jim Monaghan, Ed Seaver, and Q, who are members of Red Sox Nation.  Hell, it is even owed to those crazy fans among us, such as Jerry Della Torre and Chris Pelesky, who persist in rooting for the Phillies, and to Gracie, whose baseball passion is the Baltimore Orioles.   

We are on the cusp of one of the most wonderful times of the year:  the opening of Spring Training. Hope really does spring eternal this time of year, does it not?  Irrespective of whether one roots for the Cubs or the Padres, for the Indians or the Twins, this is the time of the year when countless, wonderful conversations begin to take place in which phrases such as "this could be our year" and "if our pitching holds up" pop up with a frequency found only in the lexicon of the pie-eyed optimist.  Or in the lexicon of a baseball fan.  This time of year, we might well be one and the same.

For me, who has been a fan of the game for as long as I can remember, the magic of baseball is found in its inexactness.  Certainly, the structure of the game - divided as it is into nine innings - suggests order and conformity.  However, the fact that an inning may last five minutes or eighty-five minutes - and still count as merely one inning, is part of what makes baseball baseball.  For me, at least.  

This year's Super Bowl, which turned out to be an exceptionally entertaining game, notwithstanding, the recently-concluded NFL playoffs were a bore.  But for the Divisional Playoff Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, the games leading up to the Super Bowl were one-sided affairs almost wholly devoid of drama or excitement.  Now think back for a moment to the 2016 MLB playoffs.  An entirely different image emerges, right? With all respect to you and the other Lords of Baseball, its emergence is not coincidental or the result of happenstance but, rather, of deliberate design.  

As it exists presently, baseball is a laboratory in which drama and excitement are produced naturally and organically.  It is for precisely that reason that this idea - of placing a runner on 2nd base to begin each half of every extra inning - is so dreadfully misguided.  Might it end extra-inning games more quickly than they presently end?  I suppose it could.  In that vein, it might speed things up even more quickly if a team was not required to send a player out to 2nd base but, instead, could rely upon the "invisible runner"who served many of so faithfully when we were kids and did not have enough players to field a full team.  Captain Invisible never calls time and never does anything to delay the outcome of the game.   

I am just spit-balling here but off of the top of my head, I can think of a number of other ideas that might speed the pace of game play, such as allowing a fielder to record an out simply by hitting a base runner with a thrown ball - as in dodge ball.  Or, allowing a third strike to be recorded on the first ball a batter hits foul after he already has two strikes?  I played slow-pitch softball for a number of years and that rule really kept games moving at a brisk pace.  In a similar vein, put in a mercy rule so that if one team is trailing by 5+ runs after 6 1/2 innings if the visiting team and 7 innings if the home team, then the game is over.  Everyone knows how terribly long rallies in the bottom of the 9th inning can sometimes take to be completed, right?   

Respectfully, if the question that you are asking is "How do we make the game faster", then you are asking the wrong question.  

The question that should be asked is, "Will this idea make the game better?"  The answer, of course, is that it shall not.  It shall add a layer of "made-for-TV" artifice to a game that does not need it. Whether it expedites the process, frankly, I care not.  It cheapens the outcome.  And that is something I cannot abide.   

You, as the fiduciary of millions of fans, should not abide it either.  

Best regards, 

-AK 



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