Too easy. They talk about speeding the game up. This is the biggest way right here. There is no reason for any staff, even in the National League, to carry more than 12 pitchers. I know Tony LaRussa is looking forward to the day when he can carry 8 position players and 17 pitchers, but we need to stop it now. The interminable pitching changes are what drag the game out. It’s a simple formula:
If you’re starting staff is so bad that they can’t go six innings on a regular basis, or you don’t trust them to, the answer is not more pitchers in the bullpen. It is to get different pitchers. If a starter is routinely throwing 100 pitches by the 5th inning and has to be removed, he shouldn’t be starting. He isn’t effective enough.
I’m not talking about changing the roster limit. That will stay at 25. There is no reason the union should be complaining about this. The ones this is hurting are the middle relief-type guys (yeah, I’m talking about you, Kyle Farnsworth) who bounce around for years, but aren’t really effective. Someone always wants to sign them, and use them, and all it does is lead to longer games, few position players available, and more irritation to the fan.
And, with 13 spots available to the manager, maybe they can carry that 3rd catcher they need. Yeah, you, Ron Gardenhire. If you’re going to DH your regular catcher, you need to make sure you have 2 backups ready to go in case of injury, no ability to hit, or ejection.
In a recent game, Tony LaRussa brought in a reliever to pitch the 9th inning. Not only did he warm up in the bullpen, but he got 8 pitches before the inning started. That reliever got one out. Then he made a pitching change and brought in another reliever who had been throwing in the bullpen, and he got 8 warm-up pitches. The second reliever got one out. Then he brought in a 3rd reliever who had been warming up in the bullpen and he got 8 warm-up pitches. And a single runner never reached base. Does anyone detect a pattern here?
That kind of thinking is ridiculous. And it just drags games out longer than anyone ever intended. I don’t mind a long game if there is action on the field, but when the majority of the game is spent on pitching changes, there is no enjoyment there. If there was a poll done, this would probably be the biggest complaint about the game most people have. And it doesn’t change the game at all. Having the DH in the American League doesn’t change the game, because every manager does it under the same rules. Having the pitcher hit in the National League doesn’t change anything because every manager uses the same rule.
So the fix is simple. If a pitcher starts an inning, he cannot be relieved if there are no runners on base. This does not count for injuries. I don’t want to make a mockery of the game with a lot of crazy rules, but this situation has gotten out of hand. I would like to take it farther and say that if the batter is not the tying run, then the change can’t be made. It might be extreme, but someone has to stop the insanity. That probably wouldn’t fly, but no pitching change without a runner on base is perfectly acceptable.
If that suggestion is to extreme, then let’s try this. If a pitching change is made in the middle of an inning, then the reliever gets no warm-up pitches. He’s been in the pen, the manger knows he’s coming in, and it isn’t necessary. I would say the only exception would be for the starting pitcher. We can work on this one, but I make one of those rules and stick with it.
Pitch counts are here to stay, and young pitchers will have their innings closely watched. Let’s take it a step farther. Sometimes pitchers get tired. Sometimes a rookie has thrown too many innings, or a work horse threw too many pitches in back-to-back starts. We do want to protect the arms, and this is one way to do it.
Once a season, every pitcher can go on a 10-day rest, without it affecting anything. It’s not the DL, but the team can call up a young pitcher for that time. It has to be a pitcher for a pitcher. During these 10 days, the pitcher rests his arm. If there is any other injury, he must go on the regular disabled list. There are no rehabs starts in the minors allowed. If he’s okay to throw a game, he needs to do it in the majors.
After the 10-day rule, if the pitcher needs to rest again, he will have to go on the regular DL. Also, the pitcher must be activated back from the rest period before any other move can be made. That prevents a team from hiding him from 10 days, then switching him retroactively to the DL for another few days. 10 days only. No more, no less. If he spends less than 10 days on the rest period, the only way he can come off of it is if the pitcher who replaced him goes on the DL. And the pitcher who takes his slot for the 10 days has to be sent down to the minors, traded, or released. It’s a one-for-one exchange.
Much like the pitcher rest rule, sometimes a player has a minor injury or a nagging injury that just needs a few days. A full 15 or 21 days might hurt the team more than keeping him on the roster without playing. So same rules as the pitchers rest rule. This is for position players only. One trip a year. Any second trip is an automatic 21 days. The player who came up for him must be returned, released or traded. No rehab assignments. This is to heal, not get your timing back. All other rules for the disabled list apply.
The Japanese leagues want to keep their league going and viable. I understand that, but by limiting each club to a certain amount of foreigners a season, they are effectively practicing discrimination. That would never work in the states. At least not anymore. If the Japanese Leagues don’t want to play by our rules, why should we play by theirs?
Japan is the only country in the world that charges major league teams for the rights to negotiate with one of their players. When they are a free agent!!! And that’s millions of dollars just to negotiate. It doesn’t include the actual contract agreed upon. So we’re doing away with the posting system. Any Japanese player who wants to play will have to do two things. One is to register for the amateur draft, as discussed in the first part of this article. He will then be drafted and developed by a major league team.
If he doesn’t want to do that, or isn’t drafted at the time, then he has to wait the requisite 5 years. After that, he is an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team anywhere. However, the player cannot be under contract to any team in any league at that time. Contracts will be honored, but free agents will be free agents, regardless of the country.
Some people might think this will hurt Japanese baseball. It won’t. They have strong, viable leagues, and the product is immensely popular in Japan. A lot of players will stay there because they want to, and mostly because they have to be good enough to play in the states. Do you think if the Dominican Republic had a summer league where the players were making millions of dollars a year, some of the Dominicans wouldn’t stay there and play? This will help the Japanese league, as there will be more players available for everyone. All they have to do is increase the limit on foreigners to 3 per season, and they will sign some top talent from other countries. That will improve the level of play in Japan without cutting into the cultural influences that have brought this about.