He even said he'd consider a rule limiting the number of pitching changes per game, which potentially would speed up and create more action late in games, perhaps reducing the current dominance by all the high-velocity relievers. It's a forward ...
â€‹Commissioner Rob Manfred was out and about last week, making it clear he is open to changes that could make games faster-paced and more entertaining; in other words, more appealing to younger fans.
â€‹He even said heâ€™d consider a rule limiting the number of pitching changes per game, which potentially would speed up and create more action late in games, perhaps reducing the current dominance by all the high-velocity relievers.
Itâ€™s a forward-thinking approach, and good for Manfred for recognizing that baseball could use some new ideas to keep the younger generation engaged.
But if he is willing to consider such dramatic change, Iâ€™d be more inclined to try an idea I heard from Steve Phillips, the former Metsâ€™ GM and current MLB Radio Network host.
Phillips proposes a change that would speed up games and also get to the heart of baseballâ€™s most pressing concern these days -- protecting pitching arms.
Rather than four balls and three strikes, his format would have three balls for a walk and two strikes for a strikeout.
The idea sounds a bit too radical at first blush, but when you think about it, in todayâ€™s game it would be like starting every at-bat with a count of 1-1 on the batter. Would that really be such a bad thing?
The worst games, after all, are the ones that seem to have endless 3-2 counts, with hitters taking pitches trying to work counts and pitchers nibbling at the corners, trying to make the perfect pitch when ahead in the count.
â€‹Playing by the Phillips rules, 2-1 would be the new 3-2.
â€‹â€œNothing would really change as far as the outcome," Phillips said by phone on Friday. â€œYouâ€™d just get there more quickly.â€™â€™
â€‹Phillips speaks from some experience on the subject. As a high school player in Michigan, his Catholic School League played its games by those rules. And he recalls it feeling quite normal, with nothing out of the ordinary about the numbers of either walks or strikeouts.
â€œIt worked," he said. â€œIt shortens games but itâ€™s more about pace of game than time of game: how quickly a form of action follow the previous action. With shorter counts, thereâ€™s a lot less time between the action."
Thatâ€™s part of the appeal, but Phillips says the biggest incentive is how it would reduce workloads for starting pitchers while still allowing them to go deeper in games. Importantly, then, the highest-paid players, starting pitchers, could pitch longer and be bigger factors in determining outcomes, the way they were before pitch counts ruled the game.
â€œIt would protect young pitchers, which is what everyone is looking to do now,â€™â€™ Phillips said. â€œBecause it would take fewer pitches for a starter to get through each inning, he might be able to go deeper.
â€œAnd if youâ€™re spending $30 million a year on a starter, thatâ€™s what you want from him.â€™â€™
Indeed, itâ€™s likely that on many a night, a starter could throw a complete game, or at least hand the ball directly to the closer for the ninth inning, without approaching the 100-pitch mark.
To me, thatâ€™s a better way of eliminating some of the down time than making new rules limiting the number of pitching changes per game, which affects a managerâ€™s strategy in a completely contrived way.
So Phillipsâ€™ idea is intriguing, though he admits itâ€™s unlikely Major League Baseball is anywhere near being ready for it.
â€œI canâ€™t see Tony La Russa or Jim Leyland saying, â€˜yeah, letâ€™s do that,â€™ â€˜â€™ Phillips said with a laugh. â€œBut at the very least, why not try it in the minor leagues.
â€œTo me itâ€™s really more about protecting pitchers than anything else. In the minor leagues it would give pitchers the repetitions of facing more batters, which is what you want, without asking them to throw too many pitches.
â€œAnd from the offensive side, youâ€™re not messing with the numbers players can put up. Maybe guys who never swing at the first pitch would have to change their approach, but that wouldnâ€™t take much adjusting.
â€‹â€œEverybody talks about how the 1-1 pitch is so critical in an at-bat, one way or the other, so now youâ€™d be starting at that 1-1 pitch.â€™â€™
â€‹If dramatic changes are coming, as Manfred seems to be hinting, the Phillips Plan is at least worth considering.
â€‹â€‹Whatever Mike Piazza says during his Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday, it probably wonâ€™t be as revealing as what he wrote in his 2013 autobiography, when he admitted he was practically consumed with making it to Cooperstown. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
A lot of it had to do with carrying a chip on his shoulder, as he admitted he did, over the doubts that surrounded his rise from 62nd round draft pick to the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history _ including so much speculation that he used steroids.
â€œElection to the Hall of Fame would, for me, validate everything,â€™â€™ Piazza wrote. â€œIâ€™d be less than truthful if I didnâ€™t admit that my legacy is something I ponder quite a bit. Mostly, it bewilders me.
â€œI honestly donâ€™t know why it is, exactly, that, from start to finish, Iâ€™ve been the object of so much controversy, resentment, skepticism, scrutiny, rumor, and doubt. Iâ€™ve thought about it quite a bit. Maybe itâ€™s because my dad was rich. Maybe itâ€™s because Tommy Lasorda looked after me. Maybe itâ€™s because I was a jerk from time to time.
â€‹â€œWhatever the reason, I suppose I might be a little oversensitive about it all, except that I feel Iâ€™m defending more than just my reputation. Iâ€™m standing up for what I consider to be _ deeply wish to be _ a fundamentally and triumphantly American story.â€™â€™
CENTER OF ATTENTION
The Mets arenâ€™t really going to go through with this idea of putting Michael Conforto in center field, are they?
It seems like too much to ask, especially with Conforto just being recalled from the minors, trying to re-establish himself at the plate in the big leagues.
The Mets desperately need him to be that No. 3 hitter he was in April before hitting the skids. With that in mind, putting Conforto in center, where he hasnâ€™t played since high school, and doesnâ€™t have the required speed for the position, seems counter-productive.
At age 35, Curtis Granderson isnâ€™t a good solution there either, having lost speed and range, but at least he has a lot of experience in center.
Obviously Juan Lagares makes it a non-issue when heâ€™s in the lineup against left-handed pitching, but this looms as a major issue for the Mets.
It makes sense to keep Yoenis Cespedes in left while heâ€™s dealing with a quad strain, but his comments last week make it sound as if heâ€™d rather not play there the rest of the season.
Well, then itâ€™s up to Terry Collins to convince him otherwise, especially since Cespedes told the Mets when he re-signed that he was willing to play center. Keeping his bat in the lineup is the top priority, but if heâ€™s healthy, the Cuban star needs to do whatâ€™s right for this team as well.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
When Aroldis Chapmanâ€™s two-strike fastball to Brandon Belt, clocked at 103 mph, barely missed off the outside corner in the ninth inning Friday night, Yankeesâ€™ announcer Michael Kay reacted incredulously:
â€œHow can you take that pitch?"
To which Paul Oâ€™Neill quickly replied: â€œBecause you canâ€™t even see itâ€¦or hit it."
Spoken like an old lefthanded hitter whoâ€™s grateful Chapman came along after he retired.
THEREâ€™S A CATCH
Spoke to Tim McCarver last week for a story that you can read in our Piazza special section Sunday.
Interesting to hear him say that after all these years, he still considers Jerry Grote, Tom Seaverâ€™s old batterymate, the best defensive catcher he has ever seen. This despite the fact that Grote, a hard-boiled Texas, agitated opponents to the point where, McCarver says, â€œfor years we didnâ€™t even talk to each other at Old Timers Games."
As always, McCarver, once so popular as a Metsâ€™ broadcaster, was insightful and engaging, still busy at age 74 calling some Cardinalsâ€™ game on TV, including the next few days at Citi Field.
But he admits he is feeling the effects of 21 years in the big leagues as a catcher.
â€œIt speeds the process of aging,â€™â€™ McCarver said. â€œThe hands really take a beating. Donâ€™t get me wrong, Iâ€™m in good shape and doing fine overall but Iâ€™ve had a lot of problems with my hands the last few years."
Then he laughed and said, â€œOn my tombstone itâ€™s going to read: Pitchers Did This."
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