MLB: Move Like A Glacier

Updated: April 25, 2014

While most businesses pride themselves on being nimble and able to react to dynamic market forces, Major League Baseball relies on its past to determine its future. 150 years of tradition, unmarred by progress.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Change in baseball is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, it happens slowly and incrementally. It tends to be reactionary rather than visionary. MLB didn’t get serious about PED testing until Bonds and McGwire made the game into a cartoon show and MLB got hauled into a Congressional hearing. They were the last ones in on the use of replay (well after the NFL and NBA), and not until some high profile botched calls were made in the postseason, in a perfect game, etc.

Now let’s keep in mind that tradition is one of the things we love about the game. The fact that the rules haven’t really changed in 100 years and you can legitimately compare players across the ages is one of the attractions of the game. We can all understand the strategy and it hasn’t become nuclear physics.

But it is laughable how slowly change comes to baseball. One big topic this spring is the prevalent use of defensive shifts on EVERYBODY now, even singles-hitters. Geez, it’s about time. Football coaches have been using down-and-distance tendencies to set their defenses forever…in high school. Same for basketball coaches with the shot chart. The idea that baseball managers are making use of ‘advanced metrics’ to realign their defenses based on tendencies and pitching strategies…well let’s just say, “it’s about time”.

Courtesy of

Which brings us to Michael Pineda and the pine tar fiasco. OK, we know we don’t want pitchers being able to physically doctor the ball in order to make it do ungodly (and unhittable) things. But isn’t having the pitchers get a decent grip on the ball in cold weather a good thing? And pine tar for pitchers has been such a universal thing that managers treated it as a common courtesy, knowing their pitchers were reliant on it as well. Kenny Rogers famously got busted in the playoffs and nobody blinked.

Of course Pineda wasn’t even artful about it, displaying pine tar blobs twice in a week to the Red Sox…at the second instance Sox manager John Farrell reluctantly raised the issue with the umpires.

While MLB wrings its hands over another PR nightmare about cheating…and dutifully suspends Pineda…Bud Selig and his braintrust ignore the common sense solution. Batters get to use pine tar for grip on their implement, why not pitchers? Why don’t they find a simple gripping substance for pitchers to use on their hands that doesn’t alter the ball (i.e. change flight dynamics after they release it)? The American free enterprise system should be able to come up with that product in about 20 minutes (I’d like to have that contract).

NFL quarterbacks and receivers adapted to cold weather with tacky gloves. Nobody argues that Peyton Manning has an unfair advantage that Sammy Baugh didn’t have.

C’mon baseball. We love the sense of history, we love that it’s the same game, we love that baseball is a constant in an ever-changing world. But please keep in mind, it’s OK to improve the game…to adapt a little…and to use your noodle occasionally.

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