Screwing up the Grand Old Game for TV, Profit, and Gambling Lucre: The Commissioner’s 3-batter minimum Suggestion and Pitch Clock Proposal.

The Ghost of Old Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg, Florida where we join Bull Allen, Harry and the Ol’ Redhead reminiscing about Spring Training which opens this week.

WPCNR VIEW FROM THE UPPER DECK By “Bull” Allen with Harry and Red from St. Petersburg Florida. February 9, 2019 UPDATED WITH CORRECTION:

Now for something really important:

Hello there, everybody, this is Bull Allen, coming to you from 1957 the Voice of Seasons Past.

I’m all alone in the gondola pressbox at legendary Al Lang Field on the shores of Tampa, waiting for spring training to start.

The field is a rich green. You need your sunglasses if you’re shagging flies. You’ll break a sweat doing wind sprints, and the blue  smoke from my White Owl Wallop is drifting gently in the warm breeze from the bay. Sailboats are out there, and some of the players are reporting early.

But as I was having breakfast today  at the Gulf Paradise hotel, reading the New York Times, I noted the new Commissioner of Baseball is promoting two changes in our game. Harry Carey, Red and I were debating this new whippersnapper of a Commissioner not only for his inviting gambling into the game, but for his fundamental lack of understanding of the game.

It is too slow, the television networks say. Doesn’t keep viewers glued to their sets with excitement. Ratings are down. The games are too long. We need the games to speed up.

According to the Times, the new Commissioner Rob Manfred, wants to force relief pitchers to throw to at least three batters before being replaced; force a pitcher to throw the ball within 20 seconds (to speed up the game), and God knows what kind of bets and wagers will be made on in-game situations via the scoreboard.

 Red even suggested they could bring back the subway race video between the subway lines running to Yankee Stadium back, fans could place bets on who wins and would win money if they had the winning train.

I dropped my cigar out of my mouth on the weathered press box table beside the PIX mike.

I imagined games this coming season when fans could bet during the game on whether a pitcher carrying a no-hitter would keep it or lose it, or what inning he would lose it.

Fans could bet on whether a slugger could win the game in extra innings on a homer, and what inning.

The management could arrange bets on whether or not a closer would close or blow the lead like the old Vulture, Phil Regan. In addition to snack bars, cafes and restaurants, management could set up “Stadium Bets” where current in-game bets could ne placed.

We play-by-play announcers would have in addition to the action would announce “The Bet of the Inning” brought to you by MGM, and fans could phone in from wherever, or text in their bet. Suzyn Waldman the best color analyst in baseball could announce the “Yankee Bet of the Game.”

Then announcers would when the competitive situation being wagered on was over, would announce the result. This could bring a whole new legion of “fans” to the game. It would add to the color commentary.

Heaven forbid, goes the apology for bringing betting into baseball.

The last time gamblers got into baseball, eight White Sox threw the World Series in 1919. How about betting on batting titles, whether a pitcher would win 20 games. Break Dimaggio’s streak. Break Pete Rose’s hits record. The opportunities for compromising the integrity of the game are unlimited. Gambling will cheapen the games.

Now regarding the Commissioner’s suggestions for speeding up the game.

The game is not too slow for fans at the game. The pauses in the game allow strategy to be discussed, challenges of the late innings when there is a slim lead, defensive changes. I will not forget the Met playoff game with the Diamondbacks in 1999, when the Arizonas had a 1-run lead on the Mets in the bottom of the 8th.

Going into the last of the 8th, the manager, Buck Showalter replaced his pitcher, but pulled a double switch, moving his all-star shortstop into right and batting the pitcher in the former rightfielder’s spot.

As luck would have it a Met sliced a twisty high fly ball down the rightfield line at the former shortstop, not used to playing rightfield. He misjudges it! The Mets get the tying run in on and get a run in the 10th to win.Discussing strategy, thinking about the danger of double-switches which weaken defense, it’s part of the mystique of the game.

The Commissioiner wants to tinker with pitching rules, beginning in 2021 according to The Times.

He wants relief pitchers to throw a minimum of 3 batters when brought in to pitch to a batter. This is a distinct advantage to the hitting team. Nowadays the style is to go lefty-righty-lefty-righty in a batting order.

The manager can now lift a pitcher he brings in to face a lefty, and go to a righty to get the right hand hitter, and then bring in another lefthander to get the higher percentage matchup. Commissioner Manfred’s suggestion blows this defensive advantage up.

It may save three pitching changes, but sometimes this works. Of course this gives the hitting team manager the ability to pinch hit a lefty to face a righty on the first batter.

The three batter minimum loads the dice for the hitting team manager.

He can pinch hit 3 straight lefty hitters against a righty, or pinch hit three righty- hitters to face a lefty. It will really cut down pitching changes and proceed to institute changes in the middle of an inning instead of the beginning of the inning, or in the middle of a rally.

This will mean a whole different mindset for pitching changes. And more talented relief specialists.

We no longer will see the “Hold” pitcher, the second “Hold” pitcher and the “Closer” start the 7th, 8th and 9th innings to hold a lead. You’ll have a starter go 6 if the defensive team is lucky, maybe push him to the 7th…to see if you can squeeze another inning.

It is back to the 50s and the 60s again. But…But…But… BACK IN THE 50’S AND 60’S, you had to have pitchers who could “put out the fire” with runners on the bases. Pitchers who could throw strikes!

The relievers today, used to coming in with bases empty are not good with ducks on the pond. Management style popularized by Sparky Anderson in the mid-70s, is going 5 innings with a starter , if that, then, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th with different pitchers. The art of getting out of a jam is lost.

With the three batter minimum rule as the Commissioner suggests, you’re going to see more implosions, and see more incidents of “throwing gasoline on the fire.”

Pitching coaches in the minors are going to have to teach the art of “putting out the fire.” Throw out pitch counts. Teach them pitching strategies with runners on.

You’ll have to bring in a fireballer (like Ryne Duren, or Dick Raditz, to go after the pinch batter if the offensive manager decides to make a lefty right switch.

This is the subtlety of baseball substitution. Today, an aggressive pinch hitter  like the great Gates Brown or Smokey Burgess against a left hander or a right hander respectively, move can be countered by a pitcher who throws from the same side as the hitter bats, especially if the hitter is weak against right-handers or lefties.

If the Commissioner 3-batter minimum is adopted,  the opposite side batter can stay in the game and feast on the pitcher who will be coming into him instead of pitching him away– a distinct offensive advantage.

The hitter is also given an advantage by the Commissioner’s 20-second pitch clock. Hitters will love this because the can be primed to hit as soon as the stretch of the pitcher comes to the belt, relaxing until the pitcher comes to a full stop. A good pitcher who works quickly keeps a hitter off balance. Atlanta’s pitchers worked quickly and their four-man rotation was adept at not giving hitters time to adjust.

If a pitcher has to pitch within 20 seconds, it will enhance the running game, because you can only throw over to first once within 20 seconds without rushing the actual delivery.

There has to be an adjustment to the 20 second pitch rule with a fleet runner at first. If not, a walk or a single is a sure double for the fast runner who gets to first .

The 20-second rule for a pitcher to deliver will not speed up the game it will make for much bigger innings and more runs and a lot more pitchers. The baseball men in the Commissioner’s office should tell him this. I do not want baseball to become the NBA.

I also want the Designated hitter done away with. The players want universal designated hitter in both leagues.

If you let the pitcher hit, there is more strategy, and the offensive manager has to think more, how long he stays with his starter. That the Commissioner does not want to change the DH rule back to pitcher hitting in both leagues shows his lack of appreciation for the subtleties of the game.

Baseball attendance was down last season at the ballparks. That was primarily due to a very rainy summer, and a preponderance of lousy ballgames due to diluted pitching and pitching by committee, and slavish devotion to pitch count restrictions.

As my favorite pitcher, Warren Spahn, said arm strength is built by throwing every 3rd day before starting on the fourth day. Spahn could pitch 10 innings in a start, when he was in his late 30s. He also won the most games as a lefthander.

So let’s pay attention to what this new commissioner wants to do. We have to educate him about the beauty of the game and the depth of it. Baseball is absolute. It cannot be tweaked like the law or interpreted like the law because when you change baseball, you take away from the natural balance of the game that depends on performance.

After this thinking and thinking how the 20 second rule and the 3-pitch minimum rule can be manipulated for advantage, I need a Ballantine Ale.

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