Baseball’s new instant replay rule is probably the most substantial rule change since the DH. It changes the roles of the umpires and the rhythm of the game. And in its current form (though I wouldn’t be surprised if this changes) managers are no longer allowed to come out and quixotically, dirt-kicking-ly argue with umps. While we’re throwing that time-honored tradition out, maybe it’s time to get more radical. Here are some rule changes I’ve been tinkering with to make the game a little more fun, fair, and funky and to help get things back to the spirit of the sandlot.
1. HAT TRICK: Currently, it is against the rules to catch the ball in your hat, or anywhere but your glove. That is why there are no baseball-playing Harlem Globetrotter teams anymore. (There used to be a bunch of them.) This is probably why Deion Sanders kept going back to football. You would be a dick if you caught a ball in your hat, but dickishness should not be outlawed. Plus, it’s harder than catching it in a mitt!
2. THE SAN DIEGO CHICKEN EXEMPTION: Obviously it makes sense that team mascots are not allowed on the field during play. However, if a baserunner falls victim to the Hidden Ball Trick during a major league game the team mascot should be allowed to run out and pants the trickery victim. Sad trombone sound effects are optional. For teams without mascots, keeping a clown on staff for such an occurrence is allowed.
3. ALL-STAR LAME: Commissioner Bud Selig’s embarrassment over a tie in the 2002 All-Star Game resulted in the winning league earning home field advantage in the World Series. This was the diametric opposite of the correct solution. Instead of making this glorified pick up/exhibition game more serious, ties should be decided by throwing a bat in the air, one team captain catching it, and then he and his counterpart doing that hand-over-hand thing until someone palms the knob. Then the winner gets to choose the deciding contest, either a one-on-one homerun derby between each league’s top slugger, a footrace between the two fastest dudes, or ideally, a winner-take-all game of running bases. Why not remind America’s children that baseball is fun?
4. THE EEPH-WORD: An eephus pitch that arcs over 20 feet and is swung upon and missed or lands in the strike zone counts for 1.5 strikes. However, if it misses the zone it’s 1.5 balls.
5: BONDS BAILS, MAN: The current punishment Barry Bonds is receiving for his presumed steroid abuses is appropriate and should be made official: MLB should declare that his records stand and he is the single season and all-time Home Run King, but nobody should ever mention it, think about it, or remember how many dingers he hit. His numerical achievements have been, and in perpetuity shall be, denied the historicity of 715, 755, and 61. However, if A-Rod surpasses him, that guy gets erased from the record books. There ain’t enough asterisks in the library to acknowledge that chump as King.
6. ULTIMATE SACRIFICE FLIES: Rule 2.0 indicates that a caught ball only counts as an out if the “release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.” Therefore, if you catch a fly ball and cannot take it out of your glove under your own power it is not an out. (I once saw Andre Dawson get an inside the park homer after Dave Martinez severely injured himself making a diving catch that he could not remove the ball from his glove.) This means that if you die making the third out it’s not the third out! I am not advocating that baseball is worth dying for (that’s what the NFL is for!) but c’mon, if it does happen are you gonna let that guy die in vain? Give a stiff a break (or a second one, if a cracked neckbone was the cause of death).
7. GARTERLESS GARNISHMENTS: There has to be some way to reward players for wearing high socks and stirrups! While a team could certainly impose a dress code I feel a player should have a choice, but should also be genuinely compensated for making baseball look like baseball. Since sabermetric wonks would sizzle if the reward actually gave each player a free point on their batting average or off their ERA, it should be an across the board/all team financial bonus written into every contract, thus not forcing the useless faux-garters upon those one who find it an affront to their personal style, but making such players pay for their vanity.
8: WHAT PART OF “COMPLETE GAME” DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?: Longtime Zisk readers will recall my disgust with Major League Baseball negating all no-hitters pitched by either losing pitchers on the road (which would mean only eight innings pitched) or hurlers in rain-shortened games, seemingly declaring that a minimum nine-innings constitutes a complete game (even though I assume hundreds of pitchers have been awarded complete games for losing road games). This implies that a rain-shortened official game that is done and counts in not complete, which demonstrates a poor working knowledge of the dictionary. No-hitters change the fabric of baseball reality. Only counting no-hitters of a certain length is a rule crafted by people who profoundly do not understand baseball.
9. NO INSTANT REPLAY! Ever! Unless it benefits my team.
BONUS: Not so much a rule, but a rule of thumb, that is one of my most deeply held baseball beliefs:
THE EIGHT GAME RULE: Because of pitching quirks, everyone on the field being a major league player, baseball’s weirdness, and the On Any Given Day maxim, any team, no matter how good or awful, can win or lose eight consecutive games without it standing as a testament to true greatness or awfulness. But if you win or lose nine games in arrow, get ready to celebrate/rebuild!
Jake Austen is editor of Roctober magazine and co-author Playground, his forthcoming collaboration with Paul Zone of the Fast, a coffee table book of photographs and stories from New York’s early 70s pre-punk scene that comes out in February. As of 9/4/13 he still has not given up on the 2013 White Sox. (24 games out with 25 games left...but only 20 out of the Wild Card!)