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OC Register: Alexander: OK, readers, how would you fix baseball?

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If it’s August, it must be time for us to crowdsource ideas for fixing baseball.

It has become a tradition here as the regular season moves into its final months, seeking your email and social media suggestions for changes to improve the game. We skipped over it in 2020 – partly because that early August was closer to the first month of the season than the last, partly because there was a lot more with which to concern ourselves amid a pandemic … and partly because Rob Manfred and the other deep thinkers in the commissioner’s office already had considered the 60-game sprint a made-to-order rules experiment.

We never got to banning shifts, but it’s clear the idea was discussed, as it will be again (and should be). Nor did we see pitch clocks on the major-league level, despite the commissioner’s threats, but that’s likely to be negotiated in collective bargaining.

We did see the universal DH, allowing National League fans to ponder whether they preferred an extra hitter in the lineup or the art of the double-switch. The view here: Not only was the DH painless but it’s become almost a must in the era of 12- and 13-man pitching staffs. And let’s face it, it was a shame we weren’t able to see the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani for four at-bats a night as a DH last weekend at Dodger Stadium instead of three pinch-hitting appearances, though Saturday night’s duel between Ohtani and Brusdar Graterol was an instant classic.

We’ve gotten the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, which was implemented before the pandemic but hasn’t had as much of an impact on the pace of games as was advertised. Average time of game in 2020 was 3:06; according to Baseball-Reference, it’s back up to 3:10 this year, the same as it was in 2019.

We now have seven-inning games in doubleheaders, another pandemic change held over for another year that may have had a slight influence on last year’s time-of-game figure. They were a jolt to some traditionalist fans but a breath of fresh air to others, and it’s reasonable to ask if seven innings for all games might help solve the issue of long games and wandering attention spans.

The runner-on-second extra-innings format, originally an international baseball rule and then adopted as an experiment in the minor leagues, is another holdover this year, though the sentiment for making it permanent is uncertain. But I can guarantee you Dodger fans would welcome anything else in light of their team’s 1-12 record in bonus panels.

In fact, they might be happiest if baseball scrapped extra innings altogether and allowed ties. Under those conditions the Dodgers (at 67-33-13) would have had the equivalent of a 2 1/2-game lead over the Giants (64-35-14) in the NL West going into Wednesday’s games, rather than being four games behind.

The minors this year have again been a breeding ground for further experimentation. The independent Atlantic League utilized automated ball-strike calls a couple of years ago and the league we once knew as the Florida State League – now awkwardly known as “Low A Southeast” – is doing so on a trial basis this year. Given the inconsistency of big-league umpiring, it’s only a matter of time before it gets to The Show.

Other minor leagues are experimenting with pitch clocks (as in the case of what used to be the California League) and limits on pickoff throws. The Pioneer League, a former short-season Rookie classification league turned independent in MLB’s purge of the minors last winter, instituted designated pinch-hitters and pinch-runners and a home run derby to decide tied games instead of extra innings.

Does that solution interest you, Dodger fans? Or is the obsession with home runs part of the problem?

This year, the Atlantic League implemented a 61-foot, 6-inch distance from the pitching rubber to home plate at midseason, one foot longer than is traditional, with the goal of increasing offense. We’re curious what the orthopedic specialists will think. Meanwhile, outlawing Spider Tack and the other sticky stuff in June may have helped restore some balance between pitching and hitting, as well as adding some comic relief in the early days of those contraband searches).

Beyond the rules, we have the usual cosmetic attempts to lure an audience that probably isn’t there in the first place, as in Nike’s attempts (urged by MLB’s marketing arm) to “improve” on classic uniforms. The Dodgers’ “City Connect” jerseys are supposed to come out this month, and would anyone like to put money on the likelihood that in the true spirit of intellectual laziness, they’ll include either (a) something in purple and gold or (b) something related to the Hollywood sign?

(The view from here? If they must go along with the charade, why not just take the classic white home jersey, change the “Dodgers” blue cursive to “Los Angeles” and leave the rest alone?)

There does seem to be less crankiness from the “play the right way” crowd this season, although White Sox manager Tony La Russa had his own moment earlier this season when he ripped his own player, Yermin Mercedes, for homering off a position player on a 3-0 pitch with a big lead. It’s fair to say public opinion backed the player.

And here’s something to ponder: Is homerism on TV and radio broadcasts more widespread and blatant than it used to be? Is it acceptable in a way it wasn’t years ago, or does it damage a broadcaster’s credibility? (And seriously, what would Vin think?) 

As is usually the case, I’m guessing your suggestions and opinions – about rules, fundamentals, telecasts and uniforms and the rest – will be more entertaining than mine, so please send them to the email address or Twitter handle below. They’ll be the basis of a follow-up column.

But a reminder: The proprietor of This Space is still the only one allowed to shoo the kids off the lawn, and I rarely exercise that privilege. (The kids couldn’t hear me over our yappy dogs, anyway.)


@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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