Home plate

It’s time to shrink home plate, apparently

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I don’t think so, but what do I know? Someone no less well-known and respected than Frank Deford feels differently, however:

It’s time to make home plate smaller. I know: That’s heresy; that’s sacrilegious. But there are simply too many strikeouts in baseball now, and that hurts the game, because if the ball isn’t in play, it’s boring . . .That’s too broad for the pitchers today, especially when so many strikes are on the corners, or even “on the black,” the small fringe that frames the plate. If you cut, say, an inch and a half off each side, pitchers would have a 14-inch target. Batters would have a more reasonable chance to try to connect. They’d swing more, put more balls in play. It’d be more fun, a better game both to play and to watch.

He explains it more in the audio version, to which you can listen at the link. Somehow he doesn’t acknowledge that making the plate smaller would lead to more walks which also don’t have the ball in play, but never mind that.

Never mind it because Deford knows better and this is not to be taken seriously. Evidence that he knows better is contained in his own essay, as he notes that, in the past, offense and pitching have fluctuated historically. That baseball has, in the past, made rules changes such as lowering the mound or — though they don’t admit it — juicing the ball in order to juice offense. There are ways to deal with this if baseball wanted to that fall short of shrinking the plate, and if baseball chose to do something they’d do any number of them before shrinking the plate. And, really, they’ll probably do nothing because this is just cyclical stuff the sort of which has always happened in baseball.

But Deford is getting my attention with this and now yours, so it’s not worthless. And he has given me a blueprint for my next essay about how we should legalize steroids in order to cut down on the strikeouts. Maybe that’s controversial, but it’s far less of a radical change than shrinking the plate. I mean, heck, we had such an environment a mere decade or two ago and baseball survived. Even thrived!

Honestly. It’s the more conservative approach to the problem.

Video: Undercover David Ortiz drives a Lyft in Boston

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David Ortiz did one of those “Undercover Lyft” spots for, well, Lyft, in which famous people disguise themselves while driving passengers around. Yes, they’re ads, but they’re still pretty funny. At least this one was.

Best parts: (1) the woman who says she has two David Ortiz shirts to which Undercover Ortiz responds, “actually, all my shirts are his shirts”; and (2) when Ortiz agrees with someone that baseball games are “so loooong.” Oh, and at one point he tells a woman who said she was going to the Red Sox game that night that he was too. After he unmasked himself, she explains his own joke to him. Which, ooohhkay.

In other news, people who take Lyfts in Boston either don’t watch much baseball, because Ortiz’s costume is NOT very concealing, or else they simply don’t look at their Lyft driver while in the car, at all.

Scouting in Venezuela: “Someone is going to get killed. It’s just a matter of time”

MIAMI - MARCH 14:  Venezuela fans cheer with a country flag while taking on the Netherlands during round 2 of the World Baseball Classic at Dolphin Stadium on March 14, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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Ben Badler of Baseball America has a story about how major league scouts who cover Venezuela are unhappy with the rules imposed upon them by the league. Rules, they say, which unreasonably prohibit them from scouting Venezuelan players in centralized, team-controlled locations or, alternatively, flying them to team facilities in the Dominican Republic or elsewhere.

The result: international scouts are forced to travel all over Venezuela to evaluate prospect. And, given how destabilized and dangerous Venezuela has become, they believe their safety is at risk:

“MLB’s rules that limit our ability to travel a Venezuelan guy to the Dominican Republic, that limit our ability to get them in a complex at different ages, all these rules are solely contributing to the risks that all of us are taking traveling from complex to complex, facility to facility in the streets,” said one international director. “Someone is going to get killed. It’s just a matter of time, and it’s on MLB when it happens, because they’re the ones who created these rules.”

As Badler notes, Major League Baseball itself has moved its annual national showcase out of the country due to safety concerns. It will not, however, relax scouting rules — which seem arbitrary on their surface in the first place — in order to make the job of international scouts safer.

It seems that Rob Manfred and the league owe their employees better than this. Or at the very least owe them an explanation why they don’t think they do.