D.A.: Baseball Needs Something Old and Something New

Should MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred make changes to America's pastime or keep things on the present course? The answer is a little of both

Damon Amendolara
February 27, 2018 - 2:06 pm
MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

USA Today Images

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" has been a time-honored wedding slogan for more than a century. This is also the best guideline for baseball at an interesting juncture for the sport. Today attention spans are dwindling and television ratings are too. Should Rob Manfred make fundamental changes to our oldest American sports league, or stay the course that has guided them for 150 years? The answer is a little of both. 

Something old: Encourage the stolen base to return. You can't change organizational philosophies of drawing walks, and then swinging for the fences. And defensive shifts now gobble up potential base hits. So how to create more offensive action? Harken back to Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman dazzling on the basepaths. Watching Ricky single, then swipe second and third, like a cat burglar taunting law enforcement was incredible. Find a way to incentivize teams and players to take chances again. Maybe that's financially, like mandatory bonuses for every bag theft or automatic All-Star selection for the stolen base leader. Perhaps the league can cap pickoff throws (while still allowing throws to the base ahead of the runner to avoid 80-foot leads). 

Something new: Pitch clock. Creating drama is the key to all entertainment. There are so many options, and a new generation of fans has been reared on only highlights via their social media feeds. So how to make more of the game feel like a highlight? You force pitchers to make quicker decisions, and batters to be ready faster, hopefully leading to moments of the unexpected. The frantic final seconds of an NCAA tournament game when the shot clock is winding down, or a football team has no timeouts left is exhilarating. 

Something borrowed: Limit substitutions. In soccer, a coach does not have unlimited use of his roster. This makes for strategic decisions in the heat of the battle. The same should happen for pitching changes. The game already limits substitutions since a pitcher in ineligible to return once he's removed. This doesn't happen in football, basketball or hockey. If Tom Brady gets taken out for a play, he can come back at any time. In baseball, to stem the tide of specialty relievers coming in to get one out, he should have to face a minimum of two batters unless the game ends. This would mean an end to a never-ending parade of one-out relievers, and the ensuing stoppages. Those howitzers throwing 100 mph on 3 pitchers and then departing? Sorry, expand your repertoire.  

Something blue: The sky. There's so much to be said for endless blue overhead, those beautiful days at the ballpark. Football season means most of the country is bracing for increasingly bad weather and darkened skies. Basketball and hockey is played indoors. But the Grand Old Game can conjure happiness and optimism simply by bringing us outside. Mandate that all retractable roofs are open unless it's raining out. We don't grow up playing baseball in a garage. Remind everyone that soaking in some rays and enjoying gorgeous sunsets is a unique experience to baseball. We're less active and locked onto our phones more than ever. Bring people outside and let them squint at that bright golden orb on the horizon they haven't seen since last month. 

Baseball is still in a good place. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Kris Bryant are must-watch plate appearances. Hard-throwing young starters are bringing a bigger bag of tricks to their arsenal as hitters adjust to the heat. Ballparks are more intimate than anytime since the '50s. Tickets are still the cheapest of the four major professional sports. But there's ways to improve at a crossroads of the sport, as modern must meet memorable to push it into the future. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.