The pitchers have become too good. The hitters have become too patient—all too willing to strike out or take walks in pursuit of the perfect home run pitch. Meanwhile, the fast-paced athleticism required in football continues to present a formidable challenge to baseball’s distinction as the national pastime.
It is high time baseball hit back, so to speak. It is time to increase the action and make the game manlier and more entertaining to a wider range of fans.
It is time to let hitters hit off tees and eliminate the effeminate motions of modern pitchers’ deliveries.
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci danced around the solution in a recent essay:
“…we are missing an essential part of the game’s allure and romance: the crack of the bat. You hear it less and less in today’s game. Hitting and pitching have evolved in ways that mean the baseball is put into play less frequently than ever before.”
Sure, the league could legislate that young players must be instructed to be less selective at the plate, thus eliminating what Verducci calls the modern hitter’s maddening “passive/aggressive pursuit” during “a game of attrition.”
Basically, today’s ballplayers are a bunch of contact lens-wearing dandies overly concerned with exercising plate discipline, making pitchers tired and winning a bunch of baseball games.
Verducci points to Red Sox hitters as some of the worst offenders of Mark Bellhorn’s disease:
Some teams, such as the particularly influential Yankees and Red Sox, are especially patient. The Red Sox, for instance, in April chose not to swing at 41 percent of pitches that actually were in the strike zone.
Pitchers could be forbidden from throwing the Devil’s fastballs otherwise known as the “cutter,” a pitch that some of Verducci’s sources (the Yankees hitting coach) have blamed for the decrease in balls put in play and thus the pleasing crack-of-the-bat sound in ballparks. However, the rule would be difficult to police due to the large room for interpretation and potential grip modifications that could be employed to get around any newly implemented rules.
A tee is really the only way to make the game more interesting while also keeping it fair. On top of all that, cumbersome statistics such as pitch counts and pitch F/X data would be a thing of the past.
For their part, players asked about the debate in the clubhouse prior to Tuesday night’s game at Fenway Park were skeptical.
“I’d stare at it for a few minutes to see if it fell off the tee, but I guess eventually I’d swing at a baseball if it were set on a tee,” said Marco Scutaro, who was 13th in the American League in pitches per plate appearance in 2009 (4.07).
“Other guys on this team might be a bit more stubborn, though. Do you really think J.D. Drew or Kevin Youkilis would swing at a ball just because it happened to be placed on a tee in front of him? Those dudes are so stubborn I bet they wouldn’t swing the bat for a month just on general principle.”