Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Now that Rob Neyer is waving red flags at the BBWAA bulls in the aftermath of the HOF elections (imagine Robert Conrad with the battery on his shoulder from those old commericals, saying: "Come on! I dare you to knock it off!!"), we can envision the writers' ultimate revenge on all of us with a numbers bent: nobody gets in but Jack Morris next year, not even Greg Maddux, followed by six inductees in 2015. Yes, revenge is a dish served ice cold...

But enough of that. Let's talk about something wacky. Let's remind all of you just how wacky we really are when it comes to baseball.

Let's revisit that pet idea of pet ideas, that delirious (but effective) partial solution to baseball's encroaching two-dimensionality. (In case you aren't picking up on the cadences we are aping here as we wind up to make our big pitch, look to your right and peruse the face you see there...that man is William Conrad, and among his many credits in film and television, he was the narrator of the show featuring the obscure character below at your left, always encouraged to go "faster, faster!" by his legendary, downright nutty producer, cartoon genius Jay Ward.)

So, OK, we'll go faster, faster ourselves...this is the new rule that creates two half-innings of mayhem in the midst of a game sliding into a TTO lethargy (that's "three true outcomes," for those of you who haven't encountered it--for more info, see J. Quackenbush McPivot's epic, Sabermetric Cults of the Fin de Siecle and Associated Delusions of Grandeur, available in a self-immolating kindle edition at

Sorry, sorry, faster!! The new rule:

a. A Line shall be affixed to each playing field at 195 feet from home spanning from the left field line to the right field line.

The 195-ft. line, as drawn by
Bullwinkle J, Moose.
b. Prior to each game, a half-inning between the the third and sixth innings shall be chosen at random for both home team and visiting team.

c. During the designated inning, the center fielder for the team on defense will be required to take a position at or inside the 195-foot line.

d. No shifting of infielders to distances beyond the 195-foot line will be permitted during this designated half-inning. 

OK, now. So what does this do? It means that in one of nine innings while your team is on defense, it plays with a short center fielder and there are no Joe Maddon-style shifts that allow you to compensate; you are opening up outfield territory to provide a way to add triples and doubles.

The estimate is that we'll add a triple a game to the current frequency. That would quintuple the number of triples per game. That means that lumbering Mike Sweeney, the long-suffering point of light on so many benighted Royals franchises, could have at least tripled his lifetime triples totals (five in just under six thousand PAs) thanks to this rule change--all, as Bullwinkle's flighty pal would say, on this itty-bitty card.

It's a wacky idea, but it would produce semi-profound results (no overstatement here, and contrary to what many of you suspect, we are not listed as one of the examples in McPivot's cautionary tome).

So what do the critics say about this? Most of them are just too stunned by this wackiness to speak, which is why those flies are buzzing around in their head--close those slackened jaws already!! They would say that it's akin to a carnival side show. It's something that Charlie Finley would have thought up if he wasn't hung up on his orange baseball, or becoming just a bit too emotionally attached to his Mule.

You might suggest, after rolling your eyes in both directions at once, that something like this should be achieved more, er, "organically." Brock Hanke (after he stopped laughing...) suggested using ground rules to create triples. Interesting, but psychologically tricky, we replied. Hitters aren't going to take kindly to hitting balls out of the park, only to find that they're not homers. Others suggest altering field dimensions--but post-modern ballparks are predominantly optimized for the home run game, and employ architectural strategies that don't leave much room for moving fences out, or creating unorthodox configurations.

So, when we discard those ideas, and we grant that more triples is still a worthy goal, we are left with this idea. Shake up the game and add a wrinkle in the middle innings, give the offense an opportunity to create more long hits that don't go over the fence, and add a new feature to the game that doesn't involve playing "God Bless America" or putting perky stadium announcers in the stands to treacle up the between-innings with their medicated goo.

We'll leave it to the math whizzes to project the overall increase in offense that would occur as a result of this rule...our guess is maybe a fifth of a run per team per game. But there will be more excitement at the park, more variety in the type of hits, more intrigue in each game as the random selection of the half-inning comes into play, more strategy employed--all as a result of constraining the location of the center fielder for one inning.

And--a lot more triples.

We urge baseball to test out the idea in the minors somewhere. But give it at least a full short-season somewhere. Rather than dismiss it out of hand, give it a chance to see how it actually works and how people respond. Think outside the box and test out some unorthodox ideas. There is nothing to lose except your inhibitions.