By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred wants his sport to curtail the growing problem with the overall pace of play. Speeding up the actual game action would be great for viewers and the overall product, but major league owners have billions of reasons to keep games at their current average length of three hours, if not longer.
How could baseball make games faster and more exciting, but still keep total game times at three, four, even five hours? Certainly that wouldn’t an unreasonable request from owners. But to achieve such a unique dichotomy, you need to think juuust a bit outside the box.
My comedic idol is George Carlin, and one big reason was because a lot of his ideas were ahead of their time. He knew thirty years ago that baseball needed to be sped up. But it’s unlikely that owners would be on board with things like landmines in the outfield, so let’s try to keep these changes violence-free.
So, let’s assume there is a five-second pitch clock and 20-second warmup time between innings. No more lollygagging for pitchers and batters. How do you fill the extra time you’ve gained? Here are five ways baseball games could speed up and still keep fans engaged for three-plus hours…
1. Unlimited celebrations
Nationals superstar right fielder Bryce Harper wants to make baseball fun again. Celebrations are one of the most fun parts of the game, so why not flood the field with champagne and shake the ground with celebratory pig-piles more often?
Teams should be allowed to go all-out with their celebrations every time someone goes deep or the team wins a game. Just hit a leadoff home run in the first inning?
What if you just hit a solo home run down ten runs in the eighth inning?
“Hey guys, we just passed the 42-win milestone!”
Things would, of course, get a little silly with champagne constantly spraying all over the place. But tell me you wouldn’t want to see a wobbly David Ortiz stagger to the plate and smack the first-ever home run with a BAC of .25?
2. Cornhole rules: If you score more than four runs in a given inning, you lose all runs scored that inning.
One popular rule of the backyard bag-toss classic Cornhole is that you need to score exactly 21 points. If you go over 21, you lose points. The same rule would apply in baseball for each individual inning: you score more than four runs in an inning, your run total for that inning resets to zero.
You’d have lots of fascinating strategy at work…If a team scores a run then there’s a fly ball with the bases loaded, maybe do a header like Jose Canseco, only on purpose. Catch a guy in a run-down and force him to score a run. Intentional walks with the bases loaded would skyrocket – and you’d have guys swinging at every pitch trying to get a base hit like Miguel Cabrera did. Would that NOT be must-see TV?
Just imagine all the ingenious tactics Joe Maddon would come up with in this scenario.
3. Time limits on home run trots
David Ortiz is notorious for taking some of the longest home run trots in the majors. Why not put a clock on Big Papi and other big sluggers? Twenty seconds to round the bases, GO!
The real fun part? If you don’t make it all the way around in under 20 seconds, it doesn’t count and you start your at-bat over. You’d see some riveting run from guys like Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and the like. Every home run would feel like an inside-the-park home run. And if anything it will only result in MORE longballs, and what fan wouldn’t want to see that?
4. All pitchers must throw minimum one inning – no mid-inning pitching changes allowed
You come out to start an inning, you must finish it. No questions asked. None of this insufferable commercial -> at-bat -> commercial crap.
Removing mid-inning pitching changes from games would certainly slash a lot of down time and move things along. Sure, actual innings may last hours if a guy struggles, but it could also make relievers focus harder and pitch better. They would HAVE to.
5. Ping-Pong Rules: You must win by at least two runs
Take a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth? It ain’t over. The pitches keep slinging, the home runs keep flying, and the games keep rolling right along. The game doesn’t stop until you’re up at least two. It leads to some exhilarating ping-pong showdowns, and you’d see some epic back-and-forths in extra innings.
Surely the MLB offices would go over these ideas and implement them in the minors before trying them at the major league level. I mean, you can’t move too quickly with these. What do you think about these new rule changes? Share some ideas of your own.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.