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DISPATCHES FROM THE FIELD

Some of you might be disturbed by St Louis moving out of the Central, no longer division rivals with the Cubs. I get that. It was a tough call. So let’s take this further. Wanna go crazy? Do you want to imagine what Major League Baseball could be? Alright then, let’s get nutty. Let’s take this to the quantum level. As a summer bonus, I present Addendum 1b:

Addendum 2

AL East                                                                                                     NL East

Baltimore Orioles                                                                                       Montreal Expos
Boston Red Sox                                                                                         New York Mets
New York Yankees                                                                                     Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays                                                                                      Washington Nationals
Buffalo Bisons                                                                                            Pittsburgh Pirates

AL North                                                                                                   NL North

Chicago White Sox                                                                                    Chicago Cubs
Cleveland Americans (Tribe)                                                                     Cincinnati Reds
Detroit Tigers                                                                                             Milwaukee Brewers
Kansas City Royals                                                                                   St Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins                                                                                        Indianapolis Mustangs

AL South                                                                                                   NL South

Dallas Rangers                                                                                           Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays                                                                                        Houston Astros
New Orleans Pelicans                                                                                Miami Marlins
Nashville Sounds                                                                                       Charlotte Knights
Jacksonville Suns                                                                                       San Antonio Missions

AL West                                                                                                     NL West

Anaheim/OC Angels                                                                                  Los Angeles Dodgers
Denver Zephyrs                                                                                         Phoenix Diamondbacks
Oakland Athletics                                                                                      San Diego Padres
Seattle Mariners                                                                                        San Francisco Giants

Portland Pioneers                                                                                      Salt Lake City Bees

IDEALSPORTS.NET

AL East                                                                                                       NL East

Baltimore Orioles                                                                                         Montreal Expos
Boston Red Sox                                                                                          New York Mets
New York Yankees                                                                                      Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays                                                                                        Washington Nationals

AL North                                                                                                     NL North

Chicago White Sox                                                                                      Chicago Cubs
Cleveland Indians                                                                                        Cincinnati Reds
Detroit Tigers                                                                                               Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins                                                                                          Pittsburgh Pirates

AL South                                                                                                    NL South

Dallas Rangers                                                                                            Atlanta Braves
Kansas City Royals                                                                                     Houston Astros
New Orleans Pelicans                                                                                 Miami Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays                                                                                         St Louis Cardinals

AL West                                                                                                      NL West

Anaheim/OC Angels                                                                                    Los Angeles Dodgers
Denver Zephyrs                                                                                           Phoenix Diamondbacks
Oakland Athletics                                                                                        San Diego Padres

Seattle Mariners                                                                                          San Francisco Giants

  1. Pitch clock, with a ball added to the count for violation: yes, although I’d make it 12 seconds; 20 seconds is still nap time.
  2. Five trips to mound per game by various entities, otherwise ejections: yes, these are such a time-waster.
  3. Hitters must stay in box, otherwise strike added to count: yes.
  4. 12th inning begins with runner on 2nd base, 13th inning with runner on 3rd base: yes, although we may end up with linescores that look like this:


                                           12           13           14           15           16           17

                                            1             1             2             1             2             1

                                            1             1             2             1             2             2

         So, y’know, this may need some deeper thinking/tweaking.  Consequently, hitter’s and pitcher’s stats for these extra              innings are going to be different than traditional stats, so we may need to asterisk them, or have a general knowledge            that in the Year xxxx the extra innings rules changed.  Comparing players from before this rule to after are going                    to affect how we view lifetime/situational abilities.
     5. All parks equipped with retractable roofs and in-ground tarp technology: yes. Let’s cut down on rain delays and                      rainouts playing havoc with the schedule.

     6. Sabermetrics coaches in the dugout during games, with electronic devices: yes. Technology is here, so let’s even the            playing field for all teams.

     7. Defensive shifts to remain legal: yes. Adaptation is inherent in all sports, so let’s see hitters adapt; this is one of those            cyclical strategy things that will even out over time, and does not need to be regulated.
     8. Protective netting at all stadiums, foul pole to foul pole: yes. In addition to protecting fans, we will rid ourselves of the            ubiquitous annoyance of idiots reaching over the boundary to interfere with a live play. This is one of my pet peeves in          baseball, similar to the overzealous wanna-be's who feel a need to run alongside the riders in the Tour de France.                  These players train for a lifetime to hone their craft, and you’re going to stick your fat hand out to catch a ball                          that is in play?  Get a life.
     9. All pitchers wear protective caps: yes, for obvious safety reasons (although we need to make them look more like                  baseball caps and less like Soviet military helmets). Tacky balls, pine tar rag on mound: wouldn’t this lead to outlawed           pitches? If not, this seems like the kind of change that could have far-reaching effects on the pitcher-batter                             dynamic. No until it is studied further in live game simulations.
    10. Players’ biometrics monitored during games: yes, for obvious safety reasons, and because technology is here to stay,           so let’s use it for purposes of extending players’ careers.
    11. Increased fines and penalties for takeout slides and plunking batters: yes. Because baseball is not rugby…or                         wrasslin’…or medieval throwin’-rocks-at-peoples’-heads. "Hey laddie, stand over yonder and I'll see if I can split your             'ead with this 'ere pebble." This is baseball, a game of skill. It is plenty rugged without the shenanigans. Still,                           this is an area where I could see some fans disagreeing with me, but – c’mon fellas – we’re attempting to evolve,                   aren’t we? Go outside and smash each other’s knees and faces if you need to see blood.
    12. Home plate ump stands behind pitcher to call balls & strikes: okay, something needs to be done about automating                 balls & strikes, and computer/laser technology is undoubtedly the way forward on this issue. If standing behind                       the pitcher is the best way to call pitches, then let’s study it in simulated games. If using technology can be                             incorporated, then let’s study it, as well. I’ll say this, an umpire standing behind the pitcher is going to change                         the dynamics dramatically, so this gets a maybe until studied further.
    13. Rosters expand from 25 to 27: this seems inevitable with all of the injuries players are experiencing, so yes; plus, it                could cut down on the number of DL transactions.
    14. Universal DH: YES! Is that emphatic enough? Pitchers should not bat. There, I said it. Disagree with me all you                     want. Pitchers should not bat. If you’re in love with #pitcherswhorake, then convince your manager to bat your                       pitcher instead of a DH. Y’know how many of them will do so? Zero. Because. Pitchers Should Not Bat. There are                 actually fewer strategic options when a pitcher is in the batting order. The choice is obvious: designated hitter in both             leagues.
    15. No divisions or leagues, no A’s or Rays, every team plays every other team six times: no. Where to begin. First, there           will be no contraction. No teams are going away. In fact, we will go in the opposite direction and add teams. Second,             divisions, leagues and conferences are inherent in all team sports. It’s how we group teams by region and/or ability,               so that rivalries develop and are nourished. Should we have the Yankees play the Padres as often as they play the               Red Sox? The Giants play the Twins as often as they play the Dodgers? The Cubs play the Mariners as often as they            play the Cardinals? Of course not, and it makes no sense whatsoever to propose that the schedules be set up like                this. However, there are things we can do to augment the divisions and scheduling. Since this is a big issue, I’ll                      present it in full in an addendum below the main text of this article.
     16. All uniforms and parks will be corporate advertisements: No. Just No. Does this even need an explanation?
     17. Player salaries will continue to rise, making games even harder to attend for the average fan: I’m not sure this is a                yes/no query, it’s an observation. And sure, it’s probably going to happen. The law of supply & demand is real, so as              long as fans clamor after their favorite teams and players, the demand will cause the price to increase. Something                tells me there is a correction coming on this issue, one that could be huge in the context of Enormous Team Sports in            America.
     18. Players will continue using PEDs: as with the previous item, this is more of an observation than a yes/no                                dichotomy. As long as the stakes (and salaries) remain high, and the media spotlight glares, players will be tempted              to gain an edge on their competitors by turning to chemical enhancements. Some will get caught, some                                  won’t. Ultimately, the outcome of this issue rests on fans’ ease or unease with players doping.
    19. There will be a work stoppage, and it will be nasty: again, an opinion, not a yes/no conundrum. If it were, every                       baseball fan would vote ‘no’, obviously. So long as the current paradigm of individuals owning teams is dominant,                   there will be the threat of work stoppages. We can solve this, and it will be absolutely monumental for the leagues and           the fan experience. Since this is also a large issue, I’ll take it up in another addendum at the bottom of this article.

    20. Fewer teams, games, innings, pitches, pitchers et al: to be fair, this is not a single issue, but a wrap-up of the original             article. Fewer teams ain’t gonna happen, so let’s dispense with that right away. Fewer innings and pitches and                       pitching changes, quicker games, more accurate pitch calling…these are things that can occur without diminishing the           fans’ experience. Baseball will still be baseball, and the best teams will still reach the playoffs, and we’ll still have                   exciting regular seasons and epic postseasons that produce deserving World Series champions. None of this need               change the awesomeness of the game of baseball, the quirks and intricacies and sheer drama of the regular and                   postseasons. Speeding up games, making them safer and more accurate, is all part of the evolution of                                   sports. Some of this is due to technology, and some is due to our evolution as a species, in wanting to see talent                   over brute force in a game that requires exceptional skill and extensive training.

We don’t live in a contracting universe, so why should we contract teams, especially when there are loyal fanbases involved?  We’re going to expand.  Here is how the divisional alignment could look much sooner than 2037:

By the Year 2037, but hopefully sooner, all teams will be owned by the actual supporters of the teams, a la Green Bay Packers. The Packers play in the smallest market in major American professional sports leagues. Hands down. And they will never move. Because the fans own the team. No development could be more beneficial to fans of all professional sports than to ditch the notion of the ‘wealthy individual/consortium’, and put ownership in the hands of the people. No more unfit owners whose only interest in possessing a professional franchise is ego and/or greed extorting cities (read: fans) for hundreds of millions of dollars with the threat of relocating their team. In 1940’s gangster film noir voice: “Gimme your money, see, or your team will be swimmin’ wit’ de fishies….or moved to Las Vegas, got it, bub?” Those days are going buh-bye. No more Jeffrey Lorias, no more Donald Sterlings, no more Stan Kroenkes or Bob Irsays or Al Davises. We can add many other names to this list, can’t we? Fans build a relationship with their teams, and one inadequate fool who is only a hundred millionaire rather than a billionaire looks at his P&L sheet and decides he doesn’t have as many marbles as the other kids in the sandbox, and he’d better do something about that. Community-owned professional sports franchises are the direction of the future.Perhaps no other development will singularly do as much for the fan experience as when the fans own the teams. Egalitarianism, here we come.

Addendum 1a

In the National League, the Pirates move to the East, reuniting with the Phillies. The Cardinals slide back to the North, reuniting with the Cubs and their other traditional rivals. In the American League, the Royals also slide back to the North, meaning that the Show Me interleague series will be played every season. As for the inevitable expansion, we’re bringing some of the top minor league cities to the Major Leagues. These are cities that have proven they can support one or more of the other major team sports in America. I have taken a bit of artistic license with the nicknames. What is life without whimsy? And we can still fit a 162-game slate, to wit: every team plays each of their division rivals 14 times (56); there will be 4-5 games against every other team in their league (66); every division plays the corresponding division in the other league, as above, six games each (30); every division plays one other division in the other league twice each (10). Mathematics 2.0 yields 56 + 66 + 30 + 10 = 162. Eight squads from each league make the playoffs, with no byes. Wild card rounds are best of five, division and championship series remain best of seven, the World Series is now best of nine. Because we can.

Keeping the schedule length at 162 games is what we’re shooting for, and this is attainable with the above divisional alignment. Here’s how it will look: every team plays each of their division rivals 18 times (54); there will be six games against every other team in their league (72); every division plays the corresponding division in the other league (East vs East, North vs North, etc) every season at six games each (24); every division plays one other division in the other league three games each (12). 54 + 72 + 24 + 12 = 162. You can check my math. Six teams from each league qualify for the playoffs, the four division winners and two wild cards. The top two teams in each league, based on overall record, receive first-round byes. Wild card rounds are best of five, division and championship series are best of seven.

We add a South Division to each league. The Rays, Rangers and Royals immediately move into the AL South, joined by the expansion Pelicans. The Braves and Marlins take up residence in the NL South, joined by the Cardinals. Houston returns to the National League. The Rockies move to the American League and are known as….the Denver Zephyrs, or the Z’s. The Rangers are known as Dallas. The Diamondbacks are known as Phoenix. And the return of the Expos will be the feel-good story of the year, in whichever year it occurs.

On June 19 2017, Tim Kurkjian published an article on ESPN which made public the results of his interviews with Major League Baseball (MLB) managers, general managers, umpires and players. The topic: What they think the game will look like in 2037; not necessarily what it should look like, but based on current trends what they think it will look like. Here is a summation of their thoughts:

So this is what the people directly involved in Major League Baseball think the game will look like 20 years from now.  It’s not an unreasonable list, in that there are no items that we would immediately kick off the table as being too outlandish.  However, not all of them would seem to be in baseball’s best interests, which is to say, in baseball fans’ best interests.  After all, professional sports are about the fans, without whom there would be no revenue to feed the voracious appetites of owners, players and corporate advertisers.  What is needed is a set of improvements that benefits the fans.  We are (gradually) moving to a more egalitarian society, so let’s make our sporting experience more egalitarian, as well.  I’m going to take these issues one at a time, with a response that a typical fan might endorse.  Granted, projecting my mind onto all of fandom is a dangerous enterprise, but as a fairly typical, somewhat knowledgeable fan, I’ve undoubtedly got my finger on the pulse of the game more often than not, and certainly more than the owners.  So, let’s give this a shot.

Baseball in 20 Years: A Reply to Tim Kurkjian

  1. Pitch clock at 20 seconds, a ball added to the count for violations
  2. Five trips to the mound per game by manager, pitching coach, catcher or infielder; ejections to result if over the limit
  3. Hitters must stay in box, a strike added to the count for violations
  4. 12th inning will begin with a runner on 2nd base, 13th inning will begin with a runner on 3rd base
  5. All ballparks with retractable roof and in-ground tarp technology to prevent rain delays / rainouts
  6. Every team with sabermetric coach in uniform in dugout during games, with a portable electronic device
  7. Defensive shifts will remain legal, hitters will adapt by learning to use the whole field
  8. Protective netting at all stadiums, foul pole to foul pole
  9. All pitchers wear protective caps, balls will be tackier, pine tar rag on mound
  10. All players’ biometrics monitored to increase safety
  11. Penalties increased for takeout slides and plunking batters
  12. Home plate umpire stands behind pitcher to call balls & strikes, with technology to help
  13. Rosters expand from 25 to 27
  14. Designated hitter to be universal
  15. Season length stays at 162 games, but no divisions or leagues, every team plays every other team six times, 10 teams reach the postseason, no A’s or Rays
  16. All uniforms and parks will be corporate advertisements
  17. Salaries will continue to rise, attending games will be even more difficult
  18. Players will continue using PEDs
  19. There will be a work stoppage, and it will be nasty
  20. Fewer teams, fewer games, fewer innings, fewer pitches/pitchers, less human involvement…but will the game be better?