My gut feeling is that baseball is doing really well. We have a lot of exciting players who are bringing fans in. We’re a growth sport right now. But that doesn’t mean that we can get lazy with it.
Pace of play keeps coming up. I don’t know if we hear it from the fans as much as we do from the commissioner. It’s an interesting business angle to take. Every time Rob Manfred brings it up, he’s stoking the fires on something that’s best left behind the scenes. Regardless, I have a few ideas on how to make our game more exciting.
1. We spend so much time talking about the strike zone, and we generally focus on how it has changed, rather than on what it would take to create more balls in play. As walks have become increasingly more desirable, I have a hard time believing a smaller zone would create more balls in play. Keep the zone as it is or, even though it would be hard to get hitters on board, make it larger.
2. Instant replay has gotten really good; it seems like the system has gotten better. But the strategy of it is not something I’m necessarily a fan of. The initial idea was to fix the egregious calls. We still see a lot of plays in replay that were so close: “Was the ball in the webbing of his glove? Was the metal spike touching the base?” That’s not the intention.
I was in the collective-bargaining negotiations. The intention was to fix the call on the hit 5-feet foul that’s ruled fair. I think I would be in favor of cutting back the review time big time, from a maximum of two minutes to 30-to-45 seconds. When you have a long review period, that does take the air out of the ballpark — the pitcher is throwing his warm-ups, and the batter doesn’t want to know what to do.
3. I understand why people don’t like it when catchers visit the mound, but taking them away completely, as good as these hitters are and as many cameras as there are out there, would be hard. Being able to change your signs is important. Unfortunately, as a result of replay, there’s a camera on the catcher, and the team playing you can watch in advance what your sequences are and what signals you use. I wonder if there would be a way for the camera to black out right before the pitch so the opponent can’t pick those up? That would help. Right now, talking to your catcher every second pitch in a tight spot, the crowd boos, the ump’s yelling at you … that’s not the product we want. I get it.
4. I don’t think walk-up songs are necessary. Remember when the White Sox and Orioles played the 2015 game in Baltimore with no music and no fans because of the riots and looting in Baltimore? That game lasted 2 hours and 3 minutes. I don’t know if the fans like the entertainment music as much as the players do.
I think that we are doing well as a sport. The young faces of the game, I don’t think they’ve ever been as good as they are now, when you look in New York at Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are so good and still so young. What they bring is a young fan base.
Baseball is in a good place. We need to keep it going that way.
As told to The Post’s Ken Davidoff