The Latest Idea to Make Baseball More Exciting Could Be the Dumbest Yet
Should managers get to pick who bats in the ninth?
Some baseball people think the game is struggling to find new fans becuase it’s not exciting enough. Let’s accept for moment that the argument is true (it’s not) and let’s accept that the game should be tweaked in small ways to change that.
Now let’s listen to one idea being proposed by a team executive, as relayed by Rich Eisen.
One #MLB executive told @richeisen about an idea to improve excitement in the game by allowing managers to put anyone up to bat in the 9th inning if trailing. Good idea or crazy? pic.twitter.com/IgM6Zrofer
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) February 20, 2018
To explain: Currently, the players who hit in the bottom of the ninth inning are those due to come up in the bottom of the ninth inning. Under this proposal, a manager would choose the spot in the lineup that starts the inning, allowing him to ensure that his best hitters are at the plate in crunch time.
Is there smoke coming out of your ears? Are you booing your screen? You should be.
There’s a lot wrong with this idea, but let’s just pick apart one part for now. In the video above, Eisen reads a text from a baseball exec, who says: “Best argument is no other sport has the best players sitting on the bench in the final minutes of the games. Imagine LeBron or Tom Brady or Sidney Crosby or Ronaldo watching on the sideline.”
That’s just not true. Every time the Patriots opponent has the ball in the waning seconds of a game, Tom Brady is on the sideline. And it’s not as if Ronaldo, LeBron or Crosby take every shot with the game on the line. Instead, they’re a part of the team’s effort to score.
Same goes for a batter who’s not one of the first three up in the bottom of the ninth. In Eisen’s hypothetical, where the guys at 7, 8 and 9 in the batting order are up in the bottom of the ninth, the best hitters are still looming. If one of those weak hitters works a walk, suddenly the leadoff guy gets a chance. If he battles for a single, your two-hole hitter comes to the plate with runners on. The suggestion that batters are a non-factor if they aren’t one of the first three up in an inning is just wrong.
What makes this idea worse is that it’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist. Since when is the bottom of the ninth not an exciting part of a baseball game?
If baseball executives want to tweak the game to make it faster and more exciting, they should reduce the number and length of commercial breaks, give pitchers and managers ear pieces so there are no more mound visits, and bring in robots to serve as umpires.