By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL/Designated Columnist
Major League Baseball is discussing, though how seriously might be in question, about some ways to modernize its game. Make it more appealing to those who have the attention span of a gnat.
A great part of these discussions involve making the game faster. A couple of things about this: (1) I’ll be honest with you — I don’t care if baseball games last six hours and (2) Nobody seems to mind these four-hour college football games or the NBA games in which the final two minutes of clock time take about 45 minutes to actually play.
I love baseball’s tradition but I am not a traditionalist. If a change makes sense, let’s do it.
So I found the proposed changes to be rather predictable and interesting. In no particular order:
**A three-batter minimum for pitchers. I lead all of the United States in hating one-batter left-handed pitchers enter the game. This is a speed-up rule because there would be less situational substitutions. Not a good idea. Too radical and changes the fabric of the game.
**A universal designated hitter. Only one league in all of baseball — that includes every level in every country — does not have the DH. That’s the National League. Look, the DH is here and is not going anywhere. I know how these quasi-strategists love it, but does anybody really look forward to an inning in which your team had 7-8-9 coming up? Do it, but how about this idea — let the home team decide whether or not to use the DH.
**A single trade deadline before the All-Star break. Much better idea than the current deadline of July 31. Teams would be less inclined to dump the season if the deadline were earlier. Most teams would still think they have a chance. Well, except for the Marlins. Sure, do it. Don’t make me no never mind.
**A 20-second pitch clock. It’s not as complicated as you think. If you haven’t been paying attention, minor leagues are using it. College baseball is using it. And it rarely comes into play. Everyone adjusts and it is automatically a faster game. Trust me on this one. I’ve been a minor league game and it works. You’ll be astounded at the change in tempo of the game. Nobody is missing out on anything. Implement this tomorrow.
**The expansion of rosters to 26 men, with a 12-pitcher maximum. This is actually a bigger deal than you might think. The 26-man roster is only one more than teams currently have, so that wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but with 12 pitchers max, you’d really have only seven in the bullpen. It wasn’t that long ago that teams only had five, but this also adds to the non-pitcher bench. Some teams actually keep only four bench players; with this, you’d have at least six. All for it. It would add to offense, help with situational substitutions, plus I wouldn’t have to pay for the 26th salary, so what do I care?
**Draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams. Uh, Astros, are you paying attention? Yes, the Astros won a World Series two years ago, but it was the way they went about building their team that has brought about this change. If this rule had been in effect, it wouldn’t have been as easy. Nobody would have had to suffer through watching a team that was not major league quality during those building years. I’d study this a little bit more, but it’s worth looking into. Fans get cheated when you have too many have-nots in baseball these days.
**A study to lower the mound. It’s a move to try to increase offense. It certainly worked after the 1968 season. Doesn’t get me worked up either way. Keep studying.
**A rule that would allow two-sport amateurs to sign major league contracts. You can go ahead and change this to the Kyler Murray rule. I’m all for whatever will get better players in major league stadiums.
Rest assured there are other potential changes out there that aren’t on this list. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the ridiculous put-a-runner-on-second-base-in-extra-innings thing has gone away and you’ll see more experimenting with that.
And these proposed changes aren’t going to be unilaterally implemented immediately. But at least it’s open for discussion between the league and the players. It’s good to know somebody is at least trying.
Except when it comes to signing Bryce Harper.