I missed this the other day, but Keith Hernandez was quoted in the USA Today saying that if baseball really wants to speed up the game it needs to stop pussyfooting around with the rules and simply axe four teams, thereby eliminating the worst 45-50 pitchers in the game. You know, the ones who can’t throw strikes.
Notably, Mex doesn’t say which teams he’d contract, probably because that would be hard and controversial. You find this sort of lack of specificity with anyone who talks big about hard issues, be it contraction, the collective bargaining agreement, drug policy and the like. It has its analog in politics with people who talk big about reducing the deficit but never say what, exactly, they’d cut.
But I’ll cut Hernandez some slack here because he actually goes on more about how long games are a function of pitcher usage rather than pitcher quality, saying that the real problem is when a starter who is cruising is lifted due to a pitch count and the bullpen takes over. I’ll join in with that complaint. Less so on pitch count grounds — you have to be careful with young guys — than on the grounds that La Russian hyper-substitution and specialization are just total game-stoppers that lead to more innings being thrown by worse pitchers.
I’d still like to hear who he’d contract, though. Or you too, by the way, if you agree with a contraction scheme. Put your contraction arguments in the comments. But let’s keep it pragmatic. Everyone can name the four worst teams in baseball. But it’s not like you can just contract anyone. Most teams have new ballparks that make contraction a political impossibility. Many of the usual suspects — the Marlins, the Pirates, etc. — also tend to be quite profitable, meaning that their owners would likely fight tooth and nail against such a thing.
Really — and I’m not advocating this at all, so don’t jump all over me — the only teams that seem like they could even arguably be contracted, politically speaking, are the Athletics, Blue Jays and Rays. The A’s and Rays each have stadium problems, and messing with the Jays wouldn’t have U.S. political repercussions. At least not those as immediate and severe as those arising out of attempts to contract any of the other 29 teams. The A’s, Rays and Jays also have the added benefit of rhyming, and that might make the media cut a contraction plan more slack because we like little rhyming headlines and stuff.
Ultimately I don’t think you could do it, even if there was a will on the part of baseball to try. Which there is not. But I would love to hear your arguments.