Traditions that hinder game aren’t worth savingWritten by Norm Wamer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tradition for tradition’s sake is quite possibly the biggest impediment to progress. When I hear a baseball fan say, “I’m a traditionalist,” I wonder if they still ride their horse to work. With a myriad of blown home run calls by umpires and American League pitchers getting hurt running the bases or swinging a bat, if they swing at all, it’s time baseball made some changes.
Don’t get me wrong, the tradition of baseball is one of the things that makes the game so special. But here’s a little nugget of information that will send baseball traditionalists running to the door screaming with their hands over their ears: baseball evolves.
In reality, baseball traditionalists don’t want baseball to go back to the way it used to be; they want baseball to go back to the way they remember it as children. To be a true baseball traditionalist, you would have to be in favor of things like: Moving the pitcher’s mound 15 feet closer to home, throwing the ball at a runner to get him out, increasing a walk to nine balls, extending the World Series to a best of nine and legalizing the spitball.
Traditionalists were wrong about the Wild Card and they are wrong about instant replay and the designated hitter.
Can someone explain what is noble about getting a home run call wrong when 12 camera angles show an entire nation that it was a grand slam and not a foul ball? We all want umpires to get a call right, including the umpires! Spare me the argument that instant replay would slow down the game. Ever seen how long the argument on the field lasts after a blown call? By the time one manager argues, then the umpires get together to discuss the call, then the other manager argues and gets tossed, instant replay would probably make the game quicker. Hockey only uses instant replay for goal calls and basketball only uses it to see if a shot was released before the buzzer. Baseball could use instant replay for only home run calls. Home run calls are too important not to get them right. Besides, traditionalists would never allow instant replay for anything else without a hunger strike.
Also, let’s put to death the National League rule that pitchers should try to swing a bat. Only two pitchers with 50 plate appearances have hit .300 in two different seasons over the last 35 years (Mike Hampton 1999, 2002; Rick Rhoden 1976, 1984). Most pitchers at the plate look like a 5-year-old chasing a fly with a rolled up newspaper. Pitchers like Bartolo Colon get hurt just swinging the bat and if they do reach base, they sometimes end up like Chien-Ming Wang, who may be out for the season with a torn tendon in his foot. At least Tigers manager Jim Leyland is smart enough to tell some of his pitchers to not swing the bat.
Sorry traditionalists, baseball is still entertainment, and a sport without entertainment is soccer. Once we actually push baseball into the 21st century, we can next work on geographic realignment so teams in the same city can actually be in the same division.
Norm Wamer is program director of Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM and co-hosts “The Front Row” weekday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.