BY KEN MORSE
It began innocently enough with the purpose of shortening the time it takes to play a Major League Baseball game. Proponents felt that watching paint dry faster than it took to play a baseball game was driving away fans in droves over sheer boredom.
As with most changes we make in life, not a whole lot of thought went into it, and why would I state such an inappropriate remark? Because in my opinion starting an extra inning game by placing a runner at second base brings me back to the days of the imaginary runner in my backyard during a Wiffle ball game.
This is professional sports for crying out loud and you are going to start an extra inning game with an imaginary runner, really? That was only the beginning. This year they unleashed a few more eyebrow-raising changes that left you with the imagery of a Head & Shoulders shampoo commercial leaving you scratching your head.
“I think at first we saw an adjustment period as players got acclimated to the changes,” said Naugatuck head coach Joe Iannotti. “The season is a grind and I can understand them trying to shorten the time of a game, but it will get interesting when the postseason comes around and we see calls that will be controversial affecting the outcome of a game.”
Not too sure what adding three inches to the bases is doing for the integrity of the game, but I’m sure it’s added to the injury list with players tripping over the newfound real estate.
We are all on a tight schedule and time is of the essence, at least that’s how the saying goes. So yes, shortening the game of baseball by any means would seem like a reasonable conclusion, but the time clock on pitches has led to some controversial endings of games this season.
“I’m not opposed to the pitch clock and it has made the game quicker,” said Woodland head coach Steve Bainer. “The bigger bases means more offense and when you get right down to it, this is all geared to increase TV ratings.”
One rule that has sparked much debate is the pickoff rule, allowing the pitcher to throw over to first base to hold the runner only twice per at bat. Again, time management of the game is the ultimate goal, but in the same token it doesn’t allow a team to hide the deficiency of a catcher’s arm in throwing out potential base stealers.
“The game has definitely changed, so I’m not surprised that the rules are changing right along with it,” said Iannotti. “Now you have launch angles and exit velocity, things that were never considered when I grew up with the game. But I am a big fan of getting rid of the shift. We are seeing more base hits and guys moving runners along. I think it’s creating more offense and that’s exciting to see.”
Based on recent feedback, the only rule that everyone seems to be a fan of is eliminating the shift. It was really taking on the look of a beer softball game with five players camping out in right field. Having players play their respective positions the way the game was meant to be played doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request trying to maintain the integrity of the game.
“From a coaching standpoint I don’t agree with the pickoff rule,” said Bainer. “It takes away some of the strategy of the game, but I’m sure these million dollar salaries making these decisions didn’t bother to consider the opinion of a high school coach. One thing they really need to consider is how to make this game fun for Little Leaguers.
“We are losing the next generation of baseball fans, the 6-7-8 year-old Little League kids, because the game is not fun anymore for them. We need to figure out how we can reverse that trend and make this game exciting for them instead of worrying about making the game exciting for Aaron Judge.”
BY KEN MORSE