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  • Posted on
  • By Carl Lemelin
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Even if we love baseball with our whole hearts, the sport must continue to evolve and adapt to the current reality. And you, what bothers you about baseball?


For people like us, baseball isn’t just a game. It has become a lifelong companion, like a best friend or even a family member.

As such, it is always present. Much like the soundtrack in a movie, it livens up our daily routine with welcome intermittent thoughts: “Can’t wait for the game tonight!”, “I’ve got to stay back on the ball, front shoulder closed.”, or “What should I work on next at practice?”

Big games and big tournaments fill us with a sense of anticipation, just like kids on Christmas Eve, or young couples the day before their wedding. When we let our minds wander, daydreaming about the next stadium tour trip, or last night’s 5-hit game, we feel that tickling in the pit of our stomach, and goose bumps start popping up on our arms.

Yes, baseball has an undeniable hold on us, but just like all relationships, there can be kinks, some aspects of the loved one that rub us the wrong way. Relationship experts always put the emphasis on constant communication when talking about the recipe to healthy relationships.

Part of that is making a pros and cons list – things we appreciate and aspects that bother us about the other person. I just listed many of the pros of our love affair with baseball, but what about the cons?

Here are my baseball pet peeves, things I would love for the game to work on to make me love it even more that I already do, if that’s even possible…



Of all major North American team sports, baseball is the one most steeped in its traditions. On the one hand, that explains all the romanticization and melancholy surrounding America’s national pastime that we all appreciate.

But this unique quality has also often been a hinderance to its evolution. Athletes get better, new technologies change our perspectives, and mentalities that may have made sense decades ago just don’t stand the test of time, such as these nonsensical unwritten rules of baseball. As I like to say, there’s a reason they are unwritten.

“No stealing when the run differential reaches 6 or more”: So, you’re telling me that in a sport that isn’t regulated by time (save the new pitch clock), because one side was good enough to build up a hefty lead, they should stop trying to score runs because the opponents’ feelings could be hurt? That sounds ridiculous to me. Not more than a few years ago, I witnessed an MLB game that saw a team down 10-0 in going into the ninth inning come back and score 11 to win. No lead is truly safe in baseball. Things haven’t gone your way to start the game? Pick yourself up and play the game harder and smarter. Don’t ask or expect the opponent to take pity on you and stop playing the game.

“Don’t show-up the opponent by celebrating a homerun or a strikeout”: What, are we 5 years old? Here’s another rule they like to call “old school”, but that is all but that. To me, “old school” is being tough, able to take it on the chin, get back up and keep fighting, being all-business in your approach to winning. Why would any of your opponent’s antics affect you this much that you feel the need to get off your game and exact revenge? If you are that hypersensitive, that is the opposite of being old-school in my books! I also find it funny that it seems fine to celebrate walk-off hits or a great defensive play, but a key strike-out or pimping a homerun? No way!

“Don’t steal our signs!”: Here’s yet another example of putting the onus on your opponent for your own failures. Of course, what the Astros did using the center field camera and monitors in the clubhouse was wrong. MLB had mandated that stealing signs through electronic means was considered cheating. But gathering intelligence on signs simply by observing the sequence from the opposing third base coach, that’s been a part of the game forever. So why are you so flustered by that, when all you need to do is find a better way to conceal your sign sequences? It’s just another layer of the strategic part of the game we appreciate so much, isn’t it? At least, PitchCom has now eliminated the possibility of stealing signs from the catcher.

“You hit my star player, I’ll hit yours!”: Aside from being obviously quite dangerous to players’ health, this unwritten rule is so obviously counter-productive to the only objective that counts: winning the ballgame. No manager in his right mind would suggest that giving a free bag to a hitter is a sound strategical move unless the situation calls for an intentional walk. So, doing it to settle a score has never made sense to me. I prefer the “take one for the team” motto in this case. You get hit? Suck it up and go beat them on the scoreboard!



This is a subject I touched on a last year on this blog, and the situation hasn’t changed. MLB home plate umpiring just simply isn’t good enough with the technology that is currently available to us.

If you watch a lot of baseball on television, whether you are a big fan of a certain team or just an objective observer, you must agree with me that the frustration at bad pitch calls from home plate umps can reach unbearable levels.

That’s mainly because we have had the strike zone box (K-zone) superimposed over home plate for a few years now on all telecasts. This should have taken all the subjectivity away from calling balls and strikes. The strike zone is well defined in the rulebook, and it has now been perfectly represented graphically for all to see at home.

Why are pitches still being called by flawed humans? In many cases, VERY flawed humans!

I’ve seen playoff games be almost ruined by a clearly incompetent balls and strikes caller, and these are supposed to be the best umpires in the business at that stage. Some have been so bad that their pitiful performances eclipses game highlights as water-cooler talk the next day.

The robot-ump technology has been tested in the minors for the past few years, yielding promising results. MLB says that a few kinks need to be worked out before promoting the system to the Bigs, but at least, it does sound inevitable.

In my view, it can’t come soon enough.



The art of pitching revolves around three axioms: velocity, location, and movement. Debates on which of the three is the most important have raged on since the game was invented.

Lately however, the analytics community has determined – through ample empirical research – that it is high velocity that most negatively affects a hitter’s chances of success. I tend to agree with such a premise, since wherever the ball is located, or however it may change directions, the less time a hitter has to make his decision to swing or not, the less likely he is to succeed in avoiding an out.

But by no means does this suggest that the two other components of pitching do not also matter. They matter a lot, actually.

You’ve heard the saying: “Pros can time a jet!” The recent emphasis on velocity has forced pro hitters to train for it. Velocity is more effective if it is contrasted by the possibility of less velocity. Pitches that are not high velocity will inevitably change planes, forcing hitters to adjust mid-swing. Enter movement.

Most pro hitters are also too good at pitch selection to be fooled by fastballs out of the strike zone. Pitchers who can’t hit the strike zone consistently, no matter how hard they can throw, never stick in pro ball very long. Conversely, pitchers who can work the edges of the strike zone consistently are the ones who enjoy the longest pro careers. Enter location.

So, while I agree that velocity may be the leading pitching axiom, the current obsession with it in MLB front offices borders on addiction. Any addiction will skew perceptions, and I’m convinced that many potential diamonds in the rough are being ignored by modern scouting simply because they can’t throw the ball 95 mph.

Think about it, Would Greg Maddux have even gotten a second look from scouts in the present context? I sure don’t believe so. Yet I know he would still be a dominant pitcher in today’s game.

But scouting philosophy isn’t the only reason we rarely see artists on the mound these days. Elite coaching and development programs also adapt to what they know scouts look for, so command and movement are not being taught enough at the lower levels of elite baseball, and that may lead to the sorriest extinction the game has ever seen – that of the craftsman pitcher.



Another subject I spoke of in a recent blog post, MLB’s competitive balance issues have always been evident, but they are presently being exacerbated by a wealth redistribution system that is frankly ineffective.

I agree with the premise of the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) as the right mechanism of revenue sharing among MLB’s 30 teams, but it must be given the teeth necessary to achieve its objective: give every franchise an opportunity to contend for a World Series title.

Sadly, for the reasons I expose in my blog MLB Competitive Balance At A Breaking Point, we are very far from that being the case right now.

The detrimental deferred contract payments CBT loophole I condemn in the article isn’t only unfair to the bottom dwellers for financial reasons, it also discriminates for purely geographical reasons. Players will only accept to differ money if it beneficial to their bottom line in the long run – i.e. accept a low salary for the intended term of the contract at a higher tax rate and move to a lower tax rate state (or country) at the end of the contract, where the bulk of the owed money will be paid.

That means that this scheme is only available to teams in higher taxed states, like California. Shohei Ohtani would never have accepted differed payments if he had signed in Florida, where there is no state income tax.

When would you put the over/under line for the Oakland A’s, Kansas City Royals, or Pittsburgh Pirates winning their next WS title?

Meanwhile, the Dodgers keep signing every major superstar that hits free agency, and the baseball world is supposed to be OK with that?

I certainly am not!



Of the three major North American sports that pull a significant number of their players from outside the continent, MLB is the only one where internationals are not eligible to be drafted.

Instead, MLB holds international signing periods for Asian and Latin American players. This system also contributes to inequities, as the less wealthy organizations don’t use their allocated international pool money nearly as much as the richest franchises.

As for Asian stars in their prime that make the jump to MLB, aside from looking for the best financial deal available to them, what incentive do they have to sign with a perpetual losing organization?

Asia being a different ballgame – since most who post for MLB eligibility are pro veterans – I am in favor of Latin American prospects being included in the draft from age 18, and not eligible to be signed as free agents before that same age. That would give the weakest teams – who draft first – a shot at the top international prospects, the reverse of what we are currently seeing happen.



Why are the NFL and NBA considered cool, but not MLB?

Let’s be real. We love baseball, but we are the unconditional. When we think about how the game is being sold to the next generation of fans, we are forced to admit that baseball has a lot of catching up to do!

How can baseball shake that image of a slow moving, low action, non-athletic sport that only uncles and grandfathers appreciate?

The good news is I believe baseball is already moving in the right direction.

MLB’s RBI programs and inner-city initiatives are offering kids an opportunity to experience the game that ordinarily wouldn’t have. It’s difficult to fall in love with a sport you’ve never played, so getting as many young kids involved in baseball as possible is the first step to changing negative perceptions. Investments have also been made to get more girls into baseball, instead of having them shift to fastpitch as teenagers.

All efforts are now being made at the pro level to make the game more watchable for the casual fan. Last season’s inception of the pitch clock has taken off close to a half-hour of non-action dead time from each game. Bigger bases have triggered the return of the stolen base as a legitimate offensive strategy. Outlawing the defensive shift has injected more athletic plays into the game.

By all measures, all these rule changes have been well received by fans and players alike, and hit on their intended purpose, which is to make the game more dynamic and appealing to a generation with the shortest attention span in the history of humanity.

It seems that baseball’s stars are also getting more involved in their communities. Despite the astronomical salaries, they seem more relatable than the past generation of players.

MLB now needs to attack social media by inundating the web with its most athletic plays and show off more of its stars’ personalities off the field to appeal to an even wider audience.

There is no doubt in my mind that baseball is moving in the right direction to shed its image of the dinosaur sport on the North American scene, but because that reputation is so ingrained in the public psyche, MLB must persist and constantly be on its toes, abreast of the target audience’s watching habits.

It must keep investing in inner city infrastructure and grassroots programs to ensure young people are going outside and hitting the ballpark instead of the local playground, or the mall.

We didn’t need all that to develop our passion for the game in the 70’s and 80’s. Let’s get baseball back to those days when a warm sunny Saturday afternoon meant getting the boys together for a double-header at the park behind the school yard.


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