Long ago there was a singer, Jim Croce, who (supposedly) wrote and (actually) performed some catchy tunes – this was in an era when melody was important, and jacking up the background noise in recordings was not yet being done. Here is one that is fairly typical of his output, Time in a Bottle:
That type of music actually played and sold as “rock and roll” even as it is a classic ballad. He was not a terribly good singer, that is, lacked vocal range.
I never thought much about Croce. Here is what is interesting: In reading about his death on September 20, 1973, it appears to have been real! The only spook markers are 9/20 (=11) and the aircraft being a Beech 18 (=9=3*3). I have not seen 9/20 used in that fashion before, but have not looked for it either. He and four others were taking off from Natchitoches Regional Airport in Louisiana when their plane hit a tree. All were killed. I could look into the matter further, but in 2019 I am not going to mess around with Jim.
This reminds me – I was watching a baseball game last week, Reds versus Mets. The Mets’ pitcher, Noah Snydergaard, pitched a beautiful game, but the umpire was giving him every close pitch. Knowing that he could play with the edges of the plate like that, batters were forced to swing at pitches they otherwise would not have. In the end, the Reds’ Jesse Winker and David Bell, player and manager, were ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes. They had each built up a head of steam seeing one bad call after another. They boiled over.
This is one of many problems with baseball – too fine a line on the edges of the plate, allowing any pitcher with good control to own the opposition. Snydergaard is good, granted, but watching him pitch is boring, maybe even for Mets fans. Baseball could do us all a favor by allowing a pitch to be called a ball unless, say, a third of the ball is actually in the strike zone. Right now only the outer portion of the circle that forms the baseball has to touch any part of the strike zone.That’s too fine, and umpires miss too often, just going by the box on the TV screen.
In fact, we have the technology now to allow electronic monitoring of balls and strikes. This would then relegate umpires to safe versus out calls, where they just as often get it wrong and are overturned by replay technology.
Other suggested rule changes:
- Designated hitter for everyone. This is controversial, as traditionalists don’t want any changes in the game, ever. The American League has built stronger teams due to it, as pitchers do not get a break, facing real hitters throughout the lineup. Like many others, I do not care to see a pitcher bunt or to see 9/10ths of them bat.
- Relievers must face a minimum of three batters. Another problem in baseball is the interval between pitchers, where one is removed, and the action is paused while a new one takes his warmups. This is usually not a big deal, but some managers (Tony LaRussa comes to mind) would make two or three changes in an inning, each pitcher facing one batter. It’s tedious to watch, and leads to the roster spot given to a LOOGY, or left-handed one-out guy. Forcing every pitcher to either end the inning or face three batters will put LOOGY’s out of work. That’s OK, as most of them are not very good pitchers.
- Extra innings: Many baseball games are played to empty stadiums and absent TV viewers as they go on and on and on into the 13th, 14th, even 18th inning. Rosters are used up. pitching staffs depleted. Most often the home team wins anyway. A proposed rule change is that beginning with the top of the tenth inning, the visiting team places a man on second base. If that player scores, it does not affect his personal statistics or eligibility to play again later in the game. The same with the home team in the bottom of the inning. The idea is, as with football, to end the damned game in a reasonable time.
- The shift: We now see four-man outfields, infielders all on one side of the diamond. Again, this makes hitting, already difficult, even harder. Fans like hitting. Another proposed rule would draw a line from home plate across second base to the center field fence. There are eight defensive players. Four would have to be on one side of that line, four on the other. That would give a slight advantage to the hitter.
- Move the pitching mound back. This would surely advantage the hitter, but would stress all existing pitchers who spent their lives building arms and pitches designed for sixty feet six inches. It might lead to chaos.
- Pitching clock – forcing the pitcher to set up for his next pitch within 20 seconds of receiving the ball back from the previous one.
I support all of these changes except moving the mound and the pitching clock. As I understand, some are under experimentation in the Atlantic Coast League, an independent league where teams are not affiliated with major league teams. Of course, the rule of conservatism is to change slowly and carefully, and that is what is going on. However, something ought to be done with this game to produce a little more hitting and to speed it up.