Everyone has a hot take or controversial opinion to dispense. With a baseball lens, SI's MLB staff is here to air its dirty laundry. Below are a handful of takes that are undoubtedly, 100% good for Major League Baseball.
Do you want a faster-paced game that is decided strictly by the skill and on-the-fly know-how of major league players? Then you want American Legion baseball. It’s time for Unplugged Baseball.
The Houston Astros (and the many other clubs that weren’t outed by an old teammate) proved you cannot trust teams to deploy rapidly emerging technology only through responsible means.
Be they the 2017 Astros, 1961 Reds, 1950s White Sox, 1951 Giants, 1948 Cubs or 1900 Phillies–the first to steal signs by electronic means, courtesy of an underground buzzer beneath the foot of the third base coach–teams have proved for more than a hundred years they will find and exploit edges by any means necessary. Rapid advances in technology have made this a bad problem about to get worse, not too dissimilar to designer drugs in the steroid era.
The answer: once the first pitch is thrown, all electronics must be turned off–with one exception: the replay monitor that is monitored by MLB security personnel. That means all video rooms are shut and locked. Those are for your homework, not the actual test.
And no, you don’t need to go back and look at your last at-bat, nor go back and see that pitch the umpire called a strike so you can come back and bark at him.
How about we actually keep the players on the bench during games? If you can see a pitcher tipping pitches with your own eyes, great. More power to you. And how about we let players decide games on their own, and not the growing legions of computer-savvy analysts who can break down video (and sign sequencing) in the course of a game?
Just play baseball on your own. Unplugged. And faster. Like American Legion ball.
This is hard for me, because I only have good takes, but the worst of my good takes is that baseball coaches are the only ones who dress correctly: in uniform. I’d like to see Jim Boylen calling timeout in a Bulls jersey and Bill Belichick going for fourth down in pads.
Most home runs are boring. Are some home runs cool? Obviously. Are most? No. This take may be partially driven by recency bias (too many homers out there... brand dilution!), but I think, at its core, it's just true. The average home run is fine! But it's not particularly interesting, and it's definitely not any more so than any other type of hit. (It's arguably even less interesting, given the lack of drama over what could come next, though it's fair to say that's canceled out over the actual run(s) scored.)
Editor's note: The home run below is not boring.
The best home runs are the best because of features other than their home run-ness—the circumstance or the hitter or the swing or whatever. A small handful are cool because of their distance. That's it. Picture a typical home run: It's back, it's gone, it's cleared the wall by a distance that is comfortable but not remarkable. The trot is uneventful. The pitcher is a little frustrated. The hitter gets a round of high-fives. You will probably see another one in a few innings. Nice. Cool? Ehhhhh.
Here are some of the biggest problems with modern baseball: too few balls in play, too many home runs, too few young aces able to stay healthy, too many fungible late-inning flamethrowers who wash out of the game before we get to know them. Here is a solution by way of a new edict: any taken pitch over 97 mph is a ball; any one at which a batter swings is no pitch.
Pitchers shouldn’t even bother learning to throw them. Too radical! you may say. But does extreme velocity really make the game more enjoyable to watch? Has it bred superior pitching, or just superior throwing? We would of course grandfather your Syndergaards and your Chapmans while the game waits for age to catch them, and we would command MLB to de-juice the ball to make up for the split-second hitters gain. Logistical hurdles aside, this is the shortest path to creating a game that looks like the one we loved.
Every team should make the postseason. How will this work, you ask? Admittedly I'm not 100% clear on it either. But imagine an epic, annual postseason tournament in which even the worst teams have a chance (albeit an extremely small one) to run the table and win it all. Teams would be seeded 1-30, with the bottom 20 set to duke it out a series of one-game playoffs before eventually transitioning into three-, five- and seven-game series for the better teams. The best regular-season clubs would get significant byes while the worst beat each other up and endure grueling travel turnarounds. But everyone plays meaningful "postseason" baseball. Every year. Sign me up.
Day games are better than night games, and baseball should change its schedule accordingly. Think of the excitement on Opening Day, when games are in the afternoon. That should be every day. Kids at the ballparks with hotdogs and ice cream, without their parents worrying about the game running past their bed times. All games but one should be played between 1 and 2 p.m. local time, with one national game each night. And the teams that play the national game should rotate, so it's not just the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers and Cardinals playing in that slot. Want to grow the game and get kids to the ballpark? Day games.
I like pitcher wins. There it is. Sue me. Is it not particularly tied to a starter's performance? Yes. Does it occasionally obscure a pitcher's season? Also yes. But wins remain a valuable benchmark for the casual fan, one easily traced on a back-page box score or Baseball Reference page. The age of analytics is a positive direction for the game. But we don't have to completely disregard a key metric of previous eras.