The Big Red Machine may be back.
Cincinnati won again on Wednesday, hitting four more home runs, beating the Pirates 11-4 and making it five out of six out of the gate.
“This team is doing something,” said Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin on the Wednesday afternoon broadcast.
He’s got a case.
Wednesday’s record brought it to 57 Reds runs, the third highest of all six games in a season since 1900.
But it’s not really about the Reds, but the game is big and like baseball it tries to give us back the sport we went crazy for.
Sure, a phrase like this can overly generalize “growing up,” but if you’re 50 or older just admit it, you grew up with Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, not to mention Reggie Jackson and the entire Dodger- Infield, Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann, Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson knew more than you knew Kareem and any other Laker before Magic arrived, or a group of Celtics before Bird arrived.
No, baseball isn’t going to get the NFL or the NBA back into the national consciousness soon or never, but what it can be is a better version of itself than that metastasized to a competition that includes home runs, walks, strikeouts, Pitching changes that never stop and games that never end and not much else.
New rules are being tested in the small leagues. If the game is your interest, you should probably make it to a ballpark near you and check it out.
In Triple A, the bases are larger, now 18 “by 18” instead of 15 by 15 “. They should also be less slippery.
In Double A, all four infielders must have both feet within the outer infield boundary, which means that no one can play deeper than the dirt.
In High A, all pitchers must get off the rubber before attempting to pick up a runner.
There is a 15-second pitch clock in Low A West. In Low A Southeast, balls and punches are accessed electronically.
Some of the rules may eventually reach the big leagues and others never, but everything is on the table between now and next season’s opening day. The current collective agreement between owners and players will expire after this.
That means a strike, lockout and a new playoff system could also be on the table, but let’s hope the game does the right things.
Now let’s go back to the reds for a moment. The Vintage Reds. The Big Red Machine Reds.
These teams are tempting to remember because Rose played catcher better than anyone, and George Foster, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, and Bench slugging. But it wasn’t all they did.
The ’75 Reds world champion, who so famously beat the Red Sox in seven games, was actually led by Joe Morgan, MVP of the National League this season (and next one too), who not only had a base percentage of .466 and Snail .508, but also stole 67 bases.
Dave Concepcion stole 33 bases and Griffey 16.
In 2019, the average major league team stole 76 or six fewer than the average team in 2018, eight fewer than 2017, 21 less than 2000, 51 less than 1990, and 51 less than 1980.
Bigger bases and not allowing left runners to take off the way Andy Pettite and Steve Carlton used to do – come on, they held back, right? – has the potential to bring stolen bases back into play.
It could also reduce collisions, spikes, and sliding past the bag.
More stolen bases, more hits in the infield, and more reason to put the ball in play.
It’s a win, win, win.
Let infielder stay in infield?
While I’ve long thought that managers should be able to place outfielders wherever they want, give me this rule too.
One or more balls will come through the infield, most of them past a second baseman who cannot park in a short right-hand field.
In addition, not only is a lifeline thrown to get in touch with hits, but a higher premium is also placed on the field. Not only are more hot shots generated by the infield, but more dive stops of those hot shots as more dive stops are required.
If someone hits .400 with a few more balls through, fine. The last one to do this may have faced a shift, but today there is nothing quite like infields.
A pitch clock?
Sign me up.
Other things can also be done, such as not visiting a second hill. You want to bring in a new pitcher, bring it in without talking about it, until the home plate ump tells you to get on with it.
I am against robots that shout balls and punches, but not because it is not more accurate, because it is so.
But the chances that a referee on home plate will offer a classically caught third strike call if they get the score of the field over the air instead of making it up themselves are slim, and if the whole idea is to do that We don’t have to lose to make the game more entertaining.
Everything else is safe.
Well, it’s like the game has been outwitted, but what it produces is a boring version of a sport we love.
Change is due.
There is still nothing wrong with outsmarting the game. But the best way to see it better right away is to make the smart move, too.