Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/17/15

Happy St. Mick's Patrick's Day, but no, I am not going to do a Patrick-themed Ten, nor an Irish-themed one. Instead, I am sticking to a sports-related posting. Tonight's Ten consists of ten things in sports that I would love to see changed (or change if I were the ruler of the world). Some might be considered common sense; others, no doubt, will be...controversial. Ah well, such is the nature of blogging. -- J.L.

1. The Elimination of the Designated Hitter

Baseball was meant to be played with nine positions and nine spots in the batting order corresponding to said positions. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that the elephant in the room of the rule changes to allegedly speed up the game has to do with American League pitching changes. The changes happen because there is no need to worry about pinch-hitting and such. The parade of pitchers do more to slow down the game than any issue of hitters stepping out of the box and adjusting their hat/gloves/cups.

The solution is to play the game the way it is meant to be played: with pitchers hitting. If Rob Manfred is serious about speeding up the game, eliminate the DH. It is a travesty, and is nothing but an attempt to be an artificial piggy bank. My fear, of course, in this day of offensive "suppresion" (in other words, regressing to the mean rather than like the juiced 90's) is that MLB will force the National League to adopt artificial rules like the junior circuit.

2. Contraction in MLB

MLB is a bit unwieldy; there are too many teams in places that shouldn't have them. I detailed my fantasy with regard to that here (which also includes thoughts about the DH), and part of what motivates my thinking on this subject is that the game is diluted. Part of why we are seeing some of the issues lately in baseball is that the talent is stretched too thinly. The plan linked describes which teams ought to be eliminated (and that includes the Nationals!) and how they ought to re-align the divisions, along with the implications for the schedule and the postseason. A man can dream, right?

3. Laser Strike Zones

For all the talk about instant replay in baseball and what can and cannot be reviewed, the most fundamental aspect of officiating is essentially...a judgment call. And yes, many calls are of that nature in sports, but how many other sports have their players prepare for games by studying the umpires? The strike zone is an objective area, after all. The following is from the 1988 edition of the MLB rulebook:
"The Strike Zone is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the top of the knees. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."
The width is static, and the height changes based on the height of the hitter, so why can't we have rigged laser readers that adjust for height? Honestly, if we can program a video game to do so, and we have the Gameday feature on MLB.com that shows the path of the ball, then I have no idea why they can't do this. The umpires won't be out of jobs; home plate still needs one to judge foul balls and tips and plays there. It would merely take the judgment out of the most common element of the sport.

4. A Minor League for the NFL

This will never happen, because the NFL has a continued vested interest in promoting college football as the de facto minor league. I'm not the first to bring this up, but the NFL could (and should) use a developmental feeder league that is dedicated to all of the student athletes who have no interest whatsoever in wasting their scholarship money at [fill in the blank] factory. The wildcard in this, of course, is the NCAA, which would then have to compete with said minor league. Too much money to be made, but remember, it's always in the best interests of our wonderful and amazing college student-athletes!

5. The Moving of the Two-Point Conversion To the One Yard Line

Currently, the two-point conversion is at the two yard line and the extra point is at the three, although I notice it seemed to creeped up to the two lately. Much like #7 below, this is about percentages. The odds of picking up the two pointer increase exponentially when it is only from a yard out. Instead of stupid gimmicky nonsense such as 35 yard extra points or narrowing the goalposts to Arena-width, just put the option of going for two from the one-yard line. At least put the enticement there. If a team is successful even 51% of the time going for two, they will score more points than with a 100% kicking rate. 

6. A True College Football Playoff

This is a simple concept - every conference in Division 1-A (or whatever they are calling themselves now) has an auto-bid and however many spots there are left to fill until there are 16 teams (or 18) can be filled via using a BCS-like formula for non-conference winners. First round games can be played at home stadiums, and then they move on to neutral sites, utilizing the names and sponsorships of bowls along the way. I saw the generally positive momentum of this past year's "playoff" and think a full four-round playoff system would generate a hell of a lot more interest and intrigue than what we just witnessed with Ohio State. 

7. The (Considered) Elimination of the Three Point Line

The NBA has undergone a little bit of a renaissance lately, but that may not be long for this world. A big problem over the past couple of decades is that very few fundamental shooters are left; there are too many people chucking up shots, and the three-pointer is part of that issue. As above, this is a percentage issue.  Consider the following: a team takes eighty shots in a game, forty from inside the arc and forty outside. If they shoot 35% outside, that makes them 14-40. If they shoot 50% inside, that makes them 20-40, and so they still get more points (42) outside than inside (40). Eliminating the three would force better shot selection because it wouldn't pay to hover 20-25 feet away setting up for one extra point. This one is more of a thought experiment than anything else.

8. The NCAA Basketball Tournament Expanded to 128 Teams

My thought it, the infrastructure is already in place for one extra round of games (witness the "First Four" occurring on Tru-TV currently), so why not just begin the tournament on Tuesday and expand the field? This is all about gambling anyway, so it would give more people the opportunity to blow their money and skip work watching 492 games simultaneously on 78 TV's and tablets. But you want to know the real reason why they don't expand the field?

128 teams can't fit on a single sheet of paper. 

9. The Elimination of the Five-Second Hand Count

When the NCAA went to a shot clock in the 80's, it was 45 seconds, so keeping the five-second hand count made some sense. Now that it's 35 seconds and there is talk of shortening it again, it's time to get rid of the hand count. Ditto high school leagues that employ a shot clock (like the hometown WCAC). Pardon the semi-controversial comparison. The hand count is a lot like most labor unions: it had its place at one time and served a noble purpose, but now its obsolete and it's time to move on.

10. The Elimination of the WNBA

Bonus. The Elimination of Restrictor Plates in NASCAR

Quite frankly, I want to see high speeds. Risk is part of the deal, and cars and drivers are a lot safer now than they were nearly 30 years ago when they went to restrictor plates on superspeedways (i.e. Daytona and Talledega). The issue is that NASCAR wants it both ways at those tracks: high speeds and pack racing (cars drafting very closely to one another). Pick one, please, although because the France family is even tighter than the Colombos or Gambinos, I think there'd have to be a bleeding carburetor in Brian France's bed to get them to consider this. 

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