Saturday, August 22: There are four games of the Little league World Series that will be televised today on ESPN and ABC. I am sure that it will be a very exciting thing for the players, their friends and relatives but I will add to my curmudgeon resume by stating that this is a very bad idea. I’m not certain that there even should be such a thing as a Little League World Series, especially when it is taken as seriously as it is and has been, increasingly, over the years. Sure, if you are twelve years old, what could be cooler than to be televised playing ball with the best of your age group? I will not cite any psychological studies about trauma to adolescent souls but I just know that it is wrong to make such a big deal about super competition at an age where the concentration ought to be on teaching and learning whatever game you are playing rather than going for the glory. Also, it is bad enough to have so many nettlesome adults involved in the first place, but it tends to get out of hand when the honor of your town, your state, your region, your country is considered to be at stake. It leads to that most American of pastimes, cheating, for one thing. The other day the coach of one team protested that an opponent wasn’t trying to win a tournament game hard enough because they were trying to manipulate their way out of having to play a team that was feared to be stronger in the next game. Were you paying attention to that, little Cody? At the same time that those parents who can afford to are usually being over protective, so-called helicopter guardians of young ones we have some being thrust into high pressure contests that mean too much. Of course, for the vast majority of 8 to 12 year old boys and girls, the fact that you or your team wasn’t good enough to make it that far, where John Kruk might be describing your throwing arm, it might suggest that it is time to hang up those spikes you’ve been growing out of before next season. It’s a bit sick, in my opinion.
You don’t hear much about “pace of play” or “speeding up the game” anymore, but, just in case the rulers of MLB were not kidding, here is an idea that would probably help the cause. With 25 player roster limits, let’s limit the number of pitchers per roster to ten. Most teams carry 12 or even 13 pitchers nowadays. This insures that we all get enough toilet and refrigerator breaks while a game is in progress as manager after manager deals with the stresses and bothersome physical ailments of middle age by walking out to the mound five or six times a day to change pitchers. It’s great for the television ad sales because you can squeeze three or four quickies that we’ve all seen hundreds of times already into the time it takes the next mediocre hurler to replace the last one. “Well, Jack, Bochy wants to use the lefty Lopez here to face Alvarez, who’s batting .142 against lefties, but it looks like Hurdle is going to send up Sean Rodriguez, who hits lefties well, instead.” Yeah. Look, it might be a better way to increase scoring, if that is our wish, than the made for slow pitch softball designated hitter rule. Starters might have to stay in the game longer. “You know, Curt, so far 29 per cent of the starting pitchers have thrown over 105 pitches this year and only one of them has been rushed to the emergency room…” Additionally, righties might have to figure out how to get lefties out, but it’s been done before. Best of all, we would no doubt have fewer 18 inning marathons because there would be such things as pinch hitters, pinch runners, and defensive replacements available to actually use. The idea of four position players on the bench is ludicrous.
One final thought from the calcified noggin of an old school baseball fan: Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field as we knew them are gone. Okay, the advertising signs all over the place at least have a bit of a tradition going back to the days of the first outfield fence. However, the extremely loud public address systems that have made so many other places unpleasant to be around are now present in these two old and once dignified ball yards. At least, fans should be offered a civilized alternative, such as a headset that only plays Vin Scully.