The World Series. The Fall Classic. The pinnacle of the baseball season when the best of the best fight it out for supremacy and a champion is crowned.
It’s also the time when every sports writer empties out their notebook full of complaints about the game and decides to, for the 1,000,000th time, try to fix that which is not really broken.
The big one today comes from the Wall Street Journal, the same outlet that brought us “The Catch-Up Rule” a few weeks back. Apparently that did not inspire enough people to fix baseball, so they’re at it again. This time, proposing “strike four”:
Here’s why baseball needs a fourth strike: Batters have never been worse at making contact. Sure, they hit tons of homers—but they’re striking out more than ever, which means you can wait in line to get beer and never miss the ball even going in play. Three strikes just isn’t enough anymore. Four strikes means fewer strikeouts.
This plan also will reduce pitching changes: four strikes only gets implemented when a team brings in a second pitcher during an inning. The pitcher who begins an inning gets the normal three strikes. Someone who comes in mid-inning, well, he has to deal with four. Is it worth bringing in a reliever to get one out midway through the fifth inning if he has to deal with four strikes?
That’s only one idea. There’s also one about having tie games decided, not by extra innings, but by just one extra inning the writer calls “stoppage time” in which each team gets once last chance, choosing any batters it wants to use, to break the tie. If they don’t, it’s a tie.
There’s also this:
Baseball needs a “Wheel of Fortune” rule.
At the three-hour mark of games—the league average was 3:01 this season according to Stats LLC—a bell would indicate that the next full inning is the last. If the Yankees and Red Sox take three hours to complete four innings, then the game would become a five-inning affair. You wouldn’t even need Vanna White
There are two separate entries from two separate writers asking for a “hustle rule” in which players are penalized for admiring hits, flipping bats and the like. One of the people who wrote those likewise complains about the sport being “unbearable” and boring, so obviously the correct solution is to take away the fun.
I’ve spent over ten years reading columns like this and highlighting the idiocy behind the ideas proposed and, frankly, I’m tired of doing it. I leave the proper dissection of these proposals to the commenters here.
I will, however, make an observation.
The Wall Street Journal made a point to publish a feature like this on the off-day of the World Series. It was a planned thing, too, as the piece no doubt took some time to put together. It was almost certainly planned for this day in particular to hit the sweet spot of (a) an increased interest in baseball among news readers and the outlets and platforms upon which news is shared; while (b) not interfering with the actual baseball coverage that is occasioned by game days, as that would likely crowd pieces like this out.
It strikes me that if baseball is so sad and unbearable — if it is bleeding on death’s door like this article implies — it wouldn’t be worth the effort and there would be no upside to running it now. Or, perhaps, no upside to running it all.
Which makes me wonder: does baseball need the Wall Street Journal’s ideas anywhere near as much as the Wall Street Journal needs baseball?