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Extreme Baseball

Deadspin noted that National Extreme Baseball began its inaugural season on Sunday. According to Wikipedia, extreme baseball and regular baseball differ in that "both teams are on the field at the same time. Pitchers from each team take turns pitching to batters at two adjacent home plates. One team runs around the bases in the normal counter clockwise direction, while the other team runs around bases in a clockwise direction."

This sounds confusing. And dumb. One of the things that makes spectator sports great is that usually only 1 team has the ball - thereby giving fans an opportunity to root passionately for or against one side. The only sports that I can think of with this kind of simultaneous scoring are boxing and tennis - not exactly "can't miss" sports for the fans. And racing as well I guess - although competing against the field as opposed to only one other seems to distinguish that.

Anyway, extreme baseball sounds like it will fail. BUT, I started thinking, if I was to come up with a baseball variant to try and take on MLB, what would it look like? Well, it would be baseball, but, I'd market it as a faster, more exciting version. I'd make the following rules changes to try and re-enforce the brand:

  1. No jogging. Walks, home runs, ground outs all require running. The first time someone on a team jogs, the team gets a delay of game warning. Everytime after it costs the team an out.
  2. 15 seconds between pitches. If the pitcher doesn't throw the pitch by then, it's a ball. If the hitter isn't ready by then, tough - the pitch counts. How do you enforce? With a pitch clock of course. Just like a shot clock, except for, you know, pitches.
  3. Max out the number of pitching subs. No more bringing a guy in to face just one batter. You get tow relief spots a game, including the closer. Every 3 extra innings, add an additional pitching sub.
  4. No intentional walks. Strike that - intentional walks are ok, but you don't actually pitch them. Pitcher signals the ump its a walk and that's that. Kinda like conceding a hole in match play golf. No need to make the actual pitches.
  5. Encourage exciting plays. Successful suicide squeezes = 2 runs. Same with tag ups from third base. Nothing better than a good play at the plate. Incentivize it to happen. Think of this as baseball's version of the three point shot.
  6. No steroid testing. Leave that for the cops. This is baseball - let's the conversation revolve around the action on the field, not off of it.
  7. No malcontents. You get arrested off the field (yes, including for steroids) regularly, you're fired. Just like a regular job - you know the kind the rest of us have. I don't care how fast you throw, you're out.

By the way, I'm not saying this would work - there are many, many, many reasons why MLB (players, press, distribution, brand, etc.) is almost impossible to knock off. My point though is that if someone was to take on baseball, this seems to me to be the top level strategic approach. Leaving the best parts of the game untouched, making some new rules to try to address the worst parts (it's too slow, etc.) and launching it as a newer version of an old classic. Seems like it makes more sense than just doubling up the existing game.

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Comments (2)

J.T.:

A few more...

1) Limited # of pick off attempts. 5 per inning.

2) Aiming for the pitcher is good - drill him with the ball and you get a double. Hard to do, but great to watch guys get drilled in slow mo on ESPN.

3) Overshifting - if the team plays it that way for one batter, they have to do it for the rest of the inning.

4) No base coaches - players make the decisions.

5) Players have the right to punch the fans that interfere with a play.

mike:

JT,

Love ideas 1, 3 and 4 - no brainers that would make the game better. Ideas 2 and 5 are a bit frightening though....

Mike

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