I never thought I would see the day where I would say that Major League Baseball could learn a thing from the NBA, let alone two. However, today is that day. I consider myself a huge baseball fan and a quasi traditionalist, which is to say, I don’t want TOO many changes to the game, just ones that truly benefit it. The following are two such examples.
As a Red Sox fan, who hates the Yankees, this may be blasphemy, but I believe the time has come to put an end to bench clearing brawls. They are completely ridiculous. Guys running onto the field from all corners of the building, all because someone got hit with a baseball. Inevitably, some jackass middle reliever, who ran 100 yards to get there, jumps into the pile, and throws a bomb on some guy he has an old beef with. This, of course goes unseen by the umpires but not the replay, and 2 days later, he’s suspended for 10 games. In addition to the aforementioned jackass, other players do stuff that DOES get them tossed from the game, and naturally the managers are gone too. More suspensions follow and in the end, the pitcher and the hitter never actually settle their dispute, so it’s all for nothing. Like I said, completely ridiculous.
So, this begs the question, “what do we do?” Here’s where the NBA rule applies perfectly. First: If you leave the dugout or bullpen, then you are automatically suspended for 25 games. This officially eliminates 39 of the 50 players in the game, 36 if the bases are loaded. Although, it’s unlikely anyone is getting hit intentionally with the bases loaded. Anyway, those guys have now been saved from themselves. No injuries, no suspensions. Just a momentary delay in the game. Second: If you are on the field and you involve yourself in any way with the pitcher or hitter, you’re suspended for 10 games. WOW. Look at this. We’ve narrowed all this drama down to 2 players. Now all you have to do is let the 4 umpires break up this fight, which will likely be easy, because even though the fight will draw a 5 game suspension, harming an umpire will get you 25 games, too. The other great part about this rule change is that it will actually reduce the amount of guys who get thrown at, as most pitchers know that they would likely have to knuckle up if the player charges the mound, because the umpires will NEVER get there faster than the batter. Let’s see Mr. Chamberlain hit Mr. Youkilis after this rule is put into effect! Next subject.
The home run derby needs to adopt the same philosophy as the slam dunk contest. Let the young guys of the league do it, and let the established veterans off the hook. Just like the NBA, this would allow guys, that many people don’t know, the ability to get noticed and in turn, create more buzz. The NBA is great at promoting their young stars. Sometimes those players fail to live up to the billing, but at least they try. In 2007, the HR derby could have used all 1st and 2nd year players and had Ryan Braun, Chris Young, Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Hamilton, Dan Uggla, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Prince Fielder. However, Fielder was the only one that season that participated. This needs to be addressed, to help expose the young fan to the future stars.
Another reason this change should be made is a little more selfish. The numbers show that a large portion of the players who participate in the derby, see a decline in their stats in the second half. As of today, everyone (except Matt Kemp, with a better avg) who was in this years HR derby has a lower average AND slugging percentage, since the all star break. Last year, only Matt Holliday had a better slugging percentage in the 2nd half. In ’09, 3 players did, and in ’08 just 1. These are your veterans, that you need for the stretch run, and they are screwing up their swings, competing in this exhibition. This is the one part of the all star game that the fans don’t get to vote on, so why is MLB making the same poor choices they do?