By now, you've likely heard about the casual proposal thrown out by new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred about banning defensive shifts to help inject some more offense into the game. Seemingly everyone has an opinion over his announcement and they've been overwhelmingly against the idea. Baseball fans (at least the most vocal) recognize that shifts are mainly preventing groundball singles, not extra base hits, and after all, we only care about dingers.
My original intent was to write an article chastising Manfred for such a ridiculous decision, but I had an interesting thought permeate my brain instead: If the goal of eliminating shifts was to make the game more exciting, why don't we propose other changes to the game of baseball that will also make it more entertaining?
I saw this suggestion somewhere in a comment thread (FanGraphs?) and I cannot like this idea any more. If we're going to ban the shift, why bother with putting Xs on the field to designate where a fielder can stand? It's far more entertaining if the player is given a little pedestal to mount, Hunger Games-style, surrounded by water. However, you're not blown to smithereens if you step off early, but instead will have to fend off a team of starving, crazed alligators. Come on, tell me you wouldn't pay to see a live reenactment of The Princess Bride. Would Andrelton Simmons rather charge back on that shallow fly ball to left field or risk suffering a career-ending amputation of an appendage?
It's no secret that baseball needs to reach out to the younger crowd. I heard that "Wrecking Ball" was fairly popular back in the day, so why not take a page from that song and apply it to baseball? No, not the whole naked-Miley-riding-a-chain thing, we don't need more Mike Redmonds sharing their birthday suit with the world.
But what if fielders could swing their way across the playing field while the ball was in play? All ballparks should have catwalks or other structures erected above the field so ropes can be hung like it's Ninja Warrior. That hot smash destined to one-hop the right field fence? Speared by Giancarlo Stanton after launching himself off the foul pole. Bunted pop-ups will be snatched from thin air as Evan Gattis takes a running start from off the roof of the Astros' dugout.
Plus, think of the marketing possibilities. The most daring players could start from all the way in the upper deck on one side of the field, only to end the play on the other end with a baseball in his glove. Who needs front-row seats anymore when every seat is a front row seat thanks to Torii Hunter fixing his range problem from the aisle of Section 204?
Roulette With Exploding Baseballs
A defining moment for baseball from the naughts was when Randy Johnson threw a pitch that managed to put a bird out of its misery of having to watch Rod Barajas attempt to catch a baseball game. We should use that as a starting point to introduce the concept of exploding baseballs to the sport.
Every game, a random number of exploding baseballs will be mixed in with the regular balls. No one, the pitcher, catcher, batter, umpire, no one will know the difference between the two baseballs or when the TNT ball enters the game. It will detonate after a significant impact such as meeting a bat or glove. Let's say a runner is on base and the pitcher is holding one of the loaded balls. The batter takes the pitch and just as the catcher receives the throw, the ball blows up. Now Salvador Perez is holding a pile of dust in his glove and Michael Bourn was able to swipe second base standing up.
Hey Jose Bautista, you think you just launched a big fly in the Rogers Centre? Think again as wood meets leather meets C4 and all you're left with is an additional strike to your count. But hey, you can always take solace in knowing that Brett Gardner was going to swoop in on his rope swing from one of the center field hotel rooms to rob your home run anyway.
We can't make all of our rule changes favor our defense, the American government already takes care of that. Therefore, I'm going to add in one change to help out our offenses. We won't adopt the DH in both leagues as that would make too much sense. Instead, we're going to remove the dirt from our basepaths and replace them with trampolines.
Imagine Nick Punto barreling home as Devin Mesoraco sets up to receive a throw. Mesoraco has the ball and turns to tag out Punto but POOF, where'd he go? The crowd oohs and aahs as Punto divebombs out of the sky, eclipsing the sun as he crashes back to earth behind Mesoraco, swiping the plate with his hand.
Tag plays become significantly more difficult as the fielders must determine if the player will continue bounding 10 feet in the air to second base or if he'll put on the brakes and merrily go on his way as the shortstop goes flying into the outfield. Hell, remember the rope swings from earlier? The trampolines now allow the runners access to those as well. Good luck tagging out Kennys Vargas while he happily swings the day away as the other runners circle the bases.
Oh, and if you happen to miss tagging out ol' Kennys as he recounts days of growing up in Puerto Rico with his dear abuela, you might accidentally end up in one of those alligator moats.