Thursday, February 25, 2016

Major League Baseball's new dumb rule(s)

On the surface it sounded like a good idea. Runners going into second base to break up a double-play have to at least slide where they can touch the bag. No more of those guys going way out of the baseline to wipe out a shortstop or second baseman trying to complete a play. Many injuries have resulted, some quite serious, as a result of this practice over the years.

True, it's always been "a part of the game". Every kid, even in little league, is taught to break up the double play if he can. As those kids get older, bigger, faster, and stronger, the collisions around second base get more violent. Also true is that second sackers and shortstops have long accepted this as, again, just part of the game. It goes with the territory, as they say.

[Years ago, yours truly played in a slo-pitch softball league. As a shortstop, I got clocked and spiked lots of times. No hard feelings, but when I was attempting to turn the double play, if a guy's head got in the way of my throw to first, shame on him. He should have went down (slid). Even in that low-class environment, guys took the game seriously.]

In today's politically correct world of sports, few would doubt that player safety tops the list. And that's probably a good thing, within limits. But the powers that be can only mandate so much "safety" before they start destroying the essence of the games themselves. Football, by it's very nature, was meant to be violent. You can't have guys crashing into each other at high speeds on every play and not expect injuries to happen. Same with hockey. Boxing has always been one pugilist trying to knock out the other. And lord knows, mixed martial arts in an eight sided cage, the UFC if you will, is the blood thirstiest sport since the gladiators of ancient Rome. Guys, and gals, are going to get hurt.

But hey, if this is what they want to do for possible fame and fortune while an adoring rabid fan base ponies up big bucks to see the spectacles -- then who is anybody to say it's wrong?

Thing is, MLB's new anti-take-out rule quietly came with another at the same time. And they would seem to be mutually exclusive. Either one might be good, but both together just won't work. If equally enforced, they would actually make matters far worse.

The second rule change mandates that any second baseman or shortstop will no longer be able to do the "phantom" touch the bag play. We've seen it thousands of times. A 2nd baseman/SS catches the ball for a force out, but not at the same time his foot is on the bag. Technically, that is not an out. Never has been. But they've been given leeway -- more and more so over the years -- to be in the "vicinity" of the bag while trying to avoid the on-coming baserunner who's trying to take them out.

In short, one new rule says the baserunner has to slide directly at the bag. The other new rule says the fielder must be ON the bag.

So combine the two and what do you have? In effect, it's a mandate for even MORE wipe-outs. This is progress?

It was comical to see John Kruk saying he loves this rule. Anything for player safety. Yet one must remember the good Mr. Kruk was a pudgy first baseman that could hit some. He didn't know anything about collisions at second base. While on base himself, his first to second time could be measured with a sundial. Sure, he went to post-career talking head school -- what ex-jock doesn't these days? -- but Kruk was never exactly known as a deep thinker. An argument could be made that whatever little brains he had in the first place leaked out his ears when Randy Johnson threw a 100 MPH heater close behind his head several years ago. He was never the same afterwards. Nor was the underwear he was wearing at the time. Some stains just won't come out.

It just seems like every time MLB tries to tinker with its game, they screw it up even worse. It was just fine as is for well over 100 years and the public loved it. Now they want to make even more new stupid rules, which directly conflict with each other. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Here's a novel idea. Just let the dudes play ball like they always have. You haven't heard the players and fans ever complaining about it. Well OK, maybe 8 bucks for a leathery hot dog or 10 for a watered down beer isn't exactly the optimum scenario -- but such rip-offs have nothing to do with the game itself.

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