I see that a lot of people were talking about the ‘Fly’ episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ because of the fly at the debate last night, and I have to say I was surprised at how negative the discourse has been. Yes, I get that the episode was very different than the others at that time in the show, and didn’t “move the story forward.” But to me, that episode revealed so much more about Walter and really cemented some other things. I felt like it was pretty darn important in the context of where the show had been and was going.
• Thanks to the pandemic, a lot of the storylines we still needed to talk about when it comes to the sport of baseball kinda fell by the wayside this year. Perfectly reasonable. But just as the weird season afforded the league an opportunity to experiment with things like the universal DH, seven-inning doubleheaders, and runners on base to start extra innings, I think there are many other rules changes that need to be considered going forward. Specifically, as the game gets EVEN MORE three-true-outcome-oriented (walks, strikeouts, homers), we are getting less and less action on the field. The current style means less moment to moment excitement, and means – long-term to broader audiences – a less entertaining product. And even if you don’t mind the current pace and presentation of baseball, you can recognize that more action on the field will help sustain the sport for the decades to come.
• To me, the way you address a lot of these concerns is to gear any rules changes on the “pace of play” front toward “more balls in play.” Yes, shortening the length of games could wind up being a byproduct of the rules changes, but that shouldn’t be the goal. In my view, the goal should be stemming the tide of three-true-outcomes a bit. More balls in play, more action in the field. I think that winds up going a long way to accomplishing a lot of what baseball needs in its coming evolution.
• To that end, Cubs broadcaster Jim Deshaies – who isn’t a guy that is just tossing out bonkers things on the regular – has a seemingly crazy suggestion that I actually think starts a great conversation:
Here’s the plan. Move rubber back six inches. Outfield walls 20 feet tall. Hitters get more time- pitchers give up fewer Home Runs. Fans get triples and crazy bounces off the wall.
— Jim Deshaies (@JimDeshaies) October 7, 2020
• Note that Deshaies has specifically contemplated the beefs that might be lodged by hitters or pitchers by giving each side a boost. I could see his version getting really fun at times, and I’m not sure there’s a more fun “regular” baseball play than when a ball is in the outfield and runners are flying around the bases.
• That said, humans respond to incentives. Right now, batters have tremendous incentives to see a lot of pitches and swing aggressively for home runs (with walks being a nice side effect). Pitchers are incentivized to work for strikeouts, because home runs have become so prevalent (and are so damaging). Do the changes Deshaies proposes change those incentives? Maybe a little bit, but probably not enough. Some of the RESULTS might look good, but I think we’ve got dig a little more under the surface if we really want to change pitcher and batter behavior. We have to make simply “putting the ball in play” a much more valuable thing than it is currently. I think Deshaies’ ideas could help slightly, but I also think we need to at least talk about even wilder things like banning the shift, five balls for a walk, a second home run ends an inning, etc. Yup, I know, these are extremely wild things. But my point is less about the specifics, and more about the way you have to the about the issue: changing human incentives.
• Related note for the game’s biggest stage:
So looks like we are at 64% of runs scored via the HR this postseason.
In the regular season that number was just 44%.
Interested to see how MLB tries to address this. Bc it’s definitely not a coincidence
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) October 7, 2020
• Even setting aside pace-of-play and action-on-the-field considerations, there’s a separate argument to be made that “home runs are good, but too many home runs is bad.” Home runs are like scented candles. I like ’em. I like a LOT of them. I’m not ashamed of it. Give me tons and tons of wonderful scented candles. I can NEVER HAVE TOO MANY SCENTED CANDLLLLESSSSSS!!! … and then suddenly it’s too many scented candles, and I wonder what I’ve done.
• Having shared the Javy and Schwarber homer videos yesterday for the anniversaries, I’m reminded just what a difference having fans at the games can make. Whether you are there are just watching on TV, having other humans in a large group together acting as the emotional proxy for the game … it just makes the whole thing so much better. So hopefully we can get into a much better place with the virus by next year, including a vaccine that is safe and has widespread adoption.
• Just in case you missed Cody Bellinger’s ridiculous, game-changing catch:
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 8, 2020
• Or the celebrating/beefing that followed:
I did not see Manny make a gesture or say anything to Graterol prior to the blown kiss. If he did, that was also out of line. Machado should have tipped his cap and went back into the dugout.
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) October 8, 2020
• There’s a big sale right now at Fanatics, so jump on it:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 8, 2020