How long till baseball goes to penalty kicks?
Let's count the ways baseball has tortured us in recent years:
The Houston Astros, banging on trash cans and wearing more wires than mob informants, cheated their way to a championship — with nary a player punished. (And don't think I won't have my popcorn ready the first time that little fraud Altuve faces Aroldis Chapman this year.)
Esoteric techno-babble — WAR, BABIP, launch angle, spin rate — rains on us like hailstones, yet with few contextual explanations as to their significance. Rather than educate us cattle, the game's management and storytellers toss their technicalities around like horseshoes at the picnic, perhaps trying to appear smarter than they really are. I can't imagine watching a game at the Birdseye and turning to, say, my pal (and huge Met fan) Rick Beaney going, "geez, Beans, Syndergaard's spin rate seems a few revolutions down from last week."
ESPN just gave us two hours on Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa last week, grudgingly offering that, yeah, they were on Roids, but gee, wasn't 1998 a swell summer anyway?
The players and owners, despite a pandemic and half the country out of work, only last week figured out how to split millions and millions of dollars. Makes you want to belt out a few choruses of "Everybody Plays the Fool," although baseball seems to have the market cornered at the moment.
Now comes the latest foray: Extra innings in 2020 will be modified so that each half-inning will begin with a runner on second base until a team wins. The runner placed on second base will be the player who made the last out of the previous inning.
See, now a more cynical fellow might wonder when baseball just goes straight to penalty kicks. But that's a more cynical fellow. A practical guy, such as yours truly, has it deciphered. Rather than point out the new rule's abject stupidity, I'll go for the more constructive, "thank you, sir, may I have another?"
In this spirit, I think the Yankees should sign Usain Bolt. What, it's not brilliant? You get a player pool of 60 this year anyway. Why not sign the world's fastest human who could probably steal third before the ball makes it to the catcher? He'd be able to advance on virtually any kind of out. The one negative: I'm sure some front-office Dartmouth grad with glasses thicker than a bus windshield will give us a differential equation telling us Bolt isn't as fast as our eyes tell us.
I will never, ever, ever understand the theory behind speeding up the game. Baseball was meant to be played a particular pace. No, it does not harmonize with a generation that's too busy to watch television. But legislating game speed is forced — and frankly an insult to those of us who appreciate the game the way it used to be.
Moreover, don't we go to the ballpark to forget our daily problems? Is staying an extra 20 minutes in the bleachers guzzling a Bud Light (a craft beer, if you must) such a bad thing? Plus, we all have free will. If you perceive the game is dragging, get up and leave. Change the channel. Go to bed. Turn on football or basketball. It's working for me, I must say.
But if they're going to hijack the game, I hope our teams — or at least mine — play along. The concept of the pinch runner has become all but forgotten, perhaps because it's hard to find an applicable quadratic equation that measures a pinch runner's worth. But this year? I want a fast guy at second base at all times. Seems an advantage, at least until George Will tells us otherwise.
Usain Bolt to the Yankees, I say.
Sure beats penalty kicks.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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