I have enjoyed a lifelong love affair with baseball. Some of my fondest
childhood memories are of collecting baseball cards (with the pink bubble gum), getting autographs of countless players during Spring Training (I still have every one), pouring through the pages of Hy Turkin's old Baseball Encyclopedia and playing simulated baseball board games like APBA for hours on end. Later in life I even co-authored a series of popular baseball books. To echo the words of the immortal Babe Ruth: "Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world."
But as passionate as I am about our national pastime, there are some things that need to be changed. Here then is what I hate most about the game I truly Iove:
1. The Hall Of Fame's 5-Year Waiting Period: Why make a great player like Derek Jeter wait for half a decade before he is eligible for Cooperstown? Are the Lords of Baseball concerned that a player will un-retire after his induction? How cool would that be? Now batting... Hall of Famer Derek Jeter! Don't like that scenario? Then the Hallowed Hall could pass a new rule: Once inducted you are no longer eligible to play Major League Baseball. Either way, let's honor those who deserve to be immortalized while the memory of their outstanding career is still fresh in our minds and hearts.
2. All World Series Games Played At Night: Baseball is desperately trying to reach younger fans. Then why are all the Fall Classic games broadcast so late that many kids can't stay up to watch them? It's high time to make at least one of the weekend games a day game. Better to sacrifice some prime-time TV revenue now for the longer term benefit of attracting a younger demographic to an aging game.
3. Players Who Don't Tip Their Cap To The Fans: The home town pitcher has hurled a terrific game but he starts to struggle and the manager needs to give him the hook. The fans are on their feet saluting the pitcher's outstanding performance as he walks off the mound toward the dugout. A few players in this situation will tip their cap. Once in a while they'll even doff it. But most players don't even bother to look up at their adoring fans. Tip Your Cap, Guys! It's a simple thing to do and it will endear you to your fan base, especially the kids, forever.
4. The Sacrifice Fly Rule: Why isn't a batter charged with an official at bat when he hits a sacrifice fly? And why is it even called a sacrifice? It is not the same as a sacrifice bunt where it's obvious that a batter is deliberately giving himself up to move a base runner. As it stands now, if a batter swings away and happens to hit a fly ball that happens to be deep enough to score a runner who happens to be on third, he is credited with a sacrifice fly and no official time at bat. But if the batter hits a fly ball to that very same spot and the base runner is on second and advances to third, the batter is charged with an official 0-for-1 at bat. Time to change this nonsensical rule. Charge the batter with an out, give him an RBI and stop calling the play a sacrifice when it clearly is not.
5. The Wave: It's the eighth inning. The game is on the line, growing tenser by the moment. So what do the fans do? They start popping up out of their seats, waving their hands in the air and ignoring the drama unfolding right in front of them on the field! Here's a novel idea: Watch the game! If you feel compelled to perform this hackneyed tradition, why not do it between innings?
6. Showboat Relievers: In football, players are penalized for excessive celebrations. So why does baseball allow showboat relief pitchers who close
out games to perform celebratory rituals on the mound that stick it in the face of the losing team? Fernando Rodney pretending to shoot an imaginary arrow into the sky after saving a game is the poster boy for this offensive behavior. The Commissioner should fine any pitcher who resorts to such bush league theatrics. Take a lesson from Mariano Rivera, who walked off the mound after every one of his record saves with grace and dignity.
7. Video Challenges: What could be more boring than a manager calling time and then trudging ever so slowly onto the field to give his guy in the dugout enough time to review a controversial call and let him know if it's worth challenging? This slows down the game and, more importantly, robs it of its controversy and excitement. I miss managers rushing out to protest a call, engaging in a nose-to-nose shouting match with the umpire and then getting the old heave-ho. Imagine what the game would have been like with a more docile Bobby Cox or Lou Piniella cooling their jets while some unseen arbiters in New York watched a video replay of a close call and issued their final ruling. I understand the value of technology but baseball is an imperfect game. Players make errors and so do umpires. Dump video challenges and let the brouhahas resume!
8. The All-Star Game Played For World Series Home Field Advantage: Starting players in the Mid-Season Classic rarely if ever play an entire game because managers want to give everyone a chance. So when the game -- and home field advantage in the World Series -- hang in the balance in the late innings, it's the reserves who are playing, not the best players who were elected by the fans. How then can this exhibition game's result be allowed to possibly influence the outcome of games that count the most -- in the World Series? It can't. The team with the best record in baseball during the regular season should enjoy home field advantage in October... period. The All-Star Game used to be special because it was the only time that players from the National and American Leagues competed on the same field. Now with inter-league play, this is commonplace. Maybe inter-league play should be abandoned to make the All-Star Game more significant again. But that's an argument for another day.
9. The MLB Policy Of Not Selling Alcohol After The 7th Inning: It's a terrific policy but then why allow the stadium's premium clubs to continue selling alcohol long after the game is over? The fans in the cheaper seats are encouraged to sober up before the drive home while those in the luxury clubs continue to ply themselves with booze and leave the stadium inebriated! The Commissioner needs to clamp down on every stadium in the game: No selling alcohol after the seventh inning to anyone -- from the worst seat in the house to the best.
10. Hitters Stepping Out Of The Batter's Box After Every Pitch To Adjust Something That Doesn't Need Adjusting: Baseball is trying to speed up the game. Sending a batter to first with an intentional walk without any pitches being thrown is just a band-aid. The best way to accelerate the action is simple: Keep the batter in the batter's box! Don't let him step out to adjust his gloves (or pretend to be doing it), take a practice swing or satisfy any of the neurotic superstitions that many players possess. A batter should only be able to step out of the box when he is hurt or impaired in some way. No more Nomar Garciaparra rituals!
Long live the national pastime -- warts and all!
(Bruce Nash is the President of Nash Entertainment, a Hollywood television production company. He is also the co-author of the popular Baseball Hall of Shame book series.)