Baseball as we know it will never look or sound the same.
This is the last year we will be rooting for the Cleveland Indians. Next year, the team will be called something yet to be determined.
And the ballclub just announced that this year fans are no longer allowed to wear Native American headdresses to Progressive Field or wear face paint to reflect American Indian traditions, customs or culture.
The team last wore the Chief Wahoo logo when it lost to the “Houston Cheaters” (aka Astros) on Oct. 8, 2018 in the 2018 American League Division Series.
How fitting that Wahoo waved goodbye on Indigenous Peoples’ Day (aka Columbus Day).
The team is looking for a new name, one that isn’t offensive to Native Americans. Many want The Spiders. I’m still rooting for The Guardians.
As for no more red face paint, good. We wouldn’t allow fans to wear black face paint would we? Of course not. People, not mascots, people.
There’s also talk of speeding up the games, and I’m not talking faster fast balls.
People are giving up on the game, in droves. Attendance is down and that was before COVID-19 hit. Pitchers aim for strikeouts, batters aim for the fence and fans aim to get to bed before midnight.
That’s what I’ve always loved about baseball. It’s one of the few leisurely sports left.
Watching baseball is like going fishing, without the worms and fish. You enjoy a few hours in the sun, chat with the people next to you, enjoy long extended periods of quiet, then call it a great day, no matter whether you caught anything or not.
You simply enjoyed your time.
It’s called leisure.
Me, I try to slow baseball down even more. I keep score by pencil, recording every swing on a scorecard. It’s a way to savor the game.
If you get bored and fall asleep, so what? Who doesn’t need a nap?
Lately, I’ve been seeing more articles about how to save baseball. Does it need saving? Everyone thinks so, except me.
Baseball has been called the Monopoly of sports because it takes so long to finish a game. An average of three hours, to be exact. Even Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly got bored watching playoff games on TV and said, “There was nothing going on. Strikeout, strikeout, home run. It was hard to watch.”
Major League Baseball did make some rules changes: Doubleheaders will be two seven-inning games. And when it comes to playing extra innings, the team gets a runner on second to start every extra inning.
If we do have to speed up the game, here are some ideas people have suggested:
• Give teams that are ahead in the game only two outs instead of three. If the game is tied, each side gets three outs. If one team is ahead, that team only gets two outs.
• Limit trips to the mound. The game is one big timeout. Are they out there sharing barbecue tips or dating advice? It’s not an office water cooler, guys, it’s a mound of dirt.
• If you need to change pitchers, do it fast. No more making it a counseling session to ease the exiting pitcher’s feelings.
• No batter is allowed to step out of the batter’s box. Step out to adjust your batting glove, that’s a strike.
• Make the bases bigger. Add 3 inches to each one and you’ll see more runners make it to first and more players willing to steal, which is always exciting.
• Put pitchers on a timer. They’ve got to release the ball faster. What are they doing, praying out there?
• Give batters four chances to strike out instead of three. Heck, why not give them six? It’s not easy hitting a tiny ball going faster than we’re allowed to drive.
• Limit the length of a game. It ends when you hit six hours. OK, so I’m joking. It only feels like six.
And while we’re fixing baseball, let’s make cheating wrong.
Make the Astros give back those World Series rings and wipe that “win” from the record books.
The Houston Astros got away with stealing. They watched a live game feed on a monitor, decoded pitching signs from opposing catchers, then banged on a trash can to tell their hitters what kind of pitch was coming.
Sure, they apologized (barely), but they kept those victory rings and put up a “2017 WORLD CHAMPIONS” banner.
Go ahead and speed up baseball if you must, but first, let’s give the game some integrity.