Five Ways to Spice Up Baseball

Baseball. The American Pastime. Romance. Legend. Americana. Ruth. Gehrig. Jackie. Mickey. Rose. Jeter. Koufax. Reggie. There’s something vaguely elegant and nostalgic about baseball.

Which might be why it’s dying. Baseball needs to evolve. Not “change,” not get a “makeover,” not “revolutionize.” It needs to evolve. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred somewhat famously came out with a plan to “improve” baseball several years ago. The plan included strategies to speed things up more than anything, and resulted in an enforced pitch clock, limited trips to the mound, and other small tweaks that have, indeed, led to a slightly faster game.

But that’s not enough. Other sports have evolved. The NFL really began to encourage the long pass in the 1970s, and the game has been better ever since. Long passes and exciting battles between wide receivers and defensive backs have made football more exciting. This came at the expense of the running position, which went from the most important offensive position to second at best but more likely third or fourth. But then running backs evolved to be able to run routes, catch passes, and move in open space.

Basketball has likewise evolved. There aren’t really any true centers anymore. You’ve got seven-foot guys out there shooting threes and crossing people over. You’ve got smaller guys shooting casual thirty-footers—and hitting them—consistently. On any given possession you might see someone who is 6’11” make an entry pass to a 6’4″ guy posting his man up. It’s wild. But it’s exciting.

So what are a few things baseball can do to really spice up the game? Let’s take a look. As a warning, these ideas are not necessarily an effort to improve baseball, but just make it more exciting. Additionally, some of these ideas are pretty radical, but bear with me.

Limit Pinch Hitting and Pitching Changes

The first thing MLB could do to make the game more exciting is limit pinch hitting and pitching changes. Especially in the National League, where pitchers still bat. These late-game chess moves where one manager pinch hits and the other makes a pitching change before each at-bat takes forever. So, here’s my suggestion: From the seventh inning on teams can only pinch hit (or change pitchers) once per inning, unless the score differential is more than four runs, in which case they cannot pinch hit at all. There would have to be an exception for injuries, too. Obviously if someone is hurt they shouldn’t be forced to have an at-bat.

This prevents needless delay. Professional baseball players should be able to handle themselves in any situation, including a lefty-on-lefty matchup in the eighth inning of a one-run game. Let the players play. I went to a Rangers game over the summer where one team (I don’t even remember whether it was the Rangers or their opponents because the Rangers were so bad I’ve tried to block out this whole season) started making a bunch of pitching changes late. Everyone in the stands waits for five minutes while some guy comes in, throws his warm-up pitches, pitches to exactly one batsman, then gets replaced. Needless. Limit pinch hitting and pitching changes and the game will get faster and more exciting.

Henderson, Rickey | Baseball Hall of Fame

Expand Replay

Baseball was late to the game on replay anyhow, and now they need to expand it. It won’t require much expansion because luckily MLB seems to have embraced replay at least a little, but it needs some tweaking. For one thing, baseball should allow managers to challenge called strike threes and ball fours. At no other point should managers be able to challenge balls and strikes, but if it ends the at-bat or puts a man on base, then they should be able to.

For another, MLB should allow delayed calls like hockey. In hockey, if a team commits a penalty while playing defense, play continues until that team recovers possession of the puck or the “victim” team scores. This means if the “victim” team scores (i.e. is unaffected by the alleged penalty), the penalty is moot and not called. Baseball should do something similar. If there is a close play and an umpire doesn’t immediately see enough to make a call, the umpire should make a call but also do something to indicate the play will be automatically reviewed. This will allow play to continue until the ball is dead, at which point the umpires can review and make a final call. This will save managers from having to delay the game while they talk to their review expert, and will force umpires to be more honest about whether they didn’t necessarily see a whole play.

MLB replay review: How can baseball fix challenge system? - Sports  Illustrated

Designated Baserunners

We’ve all seen this in a baseball game: crucial moment, and some big, slow, lumbering oaf (maybe a pitcher or an aging designated hitter) makes it to first base. It’s a perfect time to steal or maybe put on a hit and run, but the sasquatch at first base can’t even make it to second without stopping for a snack, so you have to pinch run and lose your DH or a pitcher who still has juice in the tank. Solution? The designated baserunner.

This rule states that from the seventh inning on in a game where the run differential is less than four runs, a team can use a designated baserunner for exactly one batsman. This means that you designate your baserunner and they are tied to the person in that batting slot. So, if you have Bartolo Colon due up in the seventh inning, you can use your designated baserunner, but once Bartolo is out of the game, so is the designated baserunner. The designated baserunner cannot otherwise be playing, so you can’t take a very fast second baseman and have them run for their own at-bats and that of the slow person. The baserunner cannot come in defensively at all, even after the person their running for has been taken out of the game. This keeps fat pitchers and beer-gutted DHs from having to be nimble-footed in close games.

Bartolocolon Homerun GIF - Bartolocolon Bartolo Colon - Discover & Share  GIFs

Bonus Run

This is the simplest rule proposal I have: Each stadium adds a line no less than 450 feet from home plate in each field. If a home run ball goes past that line, the home run is worth an extra run. Think about it. If Mike Trout absolutely torques on an inside fastball and takes some poor middle reliever deep to the tune of 480 feet, why shouldn’t he get an extra run? The run isn’t even for the distance of the home run, but mainly for the terrible pitch that led to it. This rule isn’t pro-hitter; it’s anti-pitcher.

Field with weird dimensions don’t get to participate in whatever field doesn’t meet the requirements. This means shots that exit Fenway over the Green Monster are still only worth one run because even the topmost part of the Monster isn’t 450 feet away. And only one extra run is added, no matter how many people are on base. Still, at some point someone is going to hit the first five-run grand slam in baseball history, and that will be something to see for sure.

Stanton Home Run GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Isolated Fighting

The final suggestion I have is for baseball to treat fighting like hockey does, to a point. You know why fighting in hockey is so compelling? Because it’s one-on-one. Mano a mano. It’s against the rules to join in a fight, which prevents guys from getting stomped or beaten in some sort of weird gangland style. The two combatants fight, get it out of their system, go to the box, sit their five minutes, and then go back in.

Now, in baseball I think the rules should be tweaked a bit. If, for example, a pitcher hits a batsman and the batsman wants to fight, then let him run out there and fight. But we need some extra rules. First, if any player doesn’t want to fight back, they can signal that and it immediately becomes illegal to fight them, but that player also has to make a $10,000 donation to charity every time they don’t fight. Additionally, if two players do fight, then they can continue playing in that game but will automatically miss the next game. The penalty for ganging up on people? A 100 game suspension.

Rougned Odor GIF - Rougned Odor Punch - Discover & Share GIFs


There are a few other things that could be done to improve baseball rather than simply spicing it up. I wanted to mention just a few of these ideas, too, because they might provide some improvement and intrigue.

  1. No one on the Houston Astros roster (including coaches and executives) for the 2017 or 2018 seasons can be eligible for the Hall of Fame until ten years after they die. This prevents them from reaping those honorific benefits of cheating but acknowledges that players like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are Hall of Fame players, regardless of them cheating to win a World Series.
  2. Induct Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame.
  3. The only food and drink available to players is the stuff available at concession stands during games. No more players eating designer granola bars and drinking proprietary supplement drinks in the dugout. If they want a little snack, they can have a hot dog and a Dr Pepper like the rest of us.
  4. Coaching staff no longer wears uniforms. Why? Why do they wear uniforms? What, are we gonna see Joe Maddon step in and pinch hit in a playoff game? Can you imagine if other sports did that? It’d be foolish.
  5. All playoff games are night games. No more of this having playoff games with 2:05 first pitches on a Tuesday. Most people are at work and won’t be able to watch that game. Just put it at night. If that means you have to subscribe to the local affiliate to watch it, then so be it.
  6. Roofs can only be closed if it’s raining/snowing/sleeting/icing, below 50°F, or over 95°F outside. Otherwise the roof stays open. Baseball is an outdoor sport.
  7. Umpires can be suspended for initiating arguments with players and coaches, or having a game where they have been found to have missed an unacceptable number of calls. This means Angel Hernandez might never work another game, and that’s something we should all be happy for.
  8. Nelson Cruz has to pay every Rangers fan who was watching Game 6 of the 2011 World Series $1,000 for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

We’re just a few weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, and surely the Rangers can’t possibly be any worse than they were last year, so bring on the baseball!

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