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May 7, 2014
The Lineup Card
10 Items on Our Baseball Wishlists
1. A Switch-Pitcher
So I’ll wish for a switch pitcher to make the major leagues. It’s technically been done before. Greg Harris pitched both lefty and righty, but of the 6,293 batters he faced, he only faced two of them as a lefty at the very end of his career. The strategy implications would be fascinating, but there’s been nobody able to do both at the major league level. The Great Right (and Left) Hope, Yankees farmhand Pat Venditte, is stuck in Triple-A two months short of turning 29. We might need a new one pretty soon. —Zachary Levine
2. An Openly, Proudly Gay Player
What's promising is that last year when NBA player Jason Collins disclosed that he is a gay man, a bunch of MLB players tweeted out their support for him. When University of Missouri football player Michael Sam came out, Fox's Ken Rosenthal asked MLB executives whether they would sign an openly gay player. Seven of them went on the record and all of them said some variation on "If he can help us win a baseball game, sure!" If there's something on my bucket list, it isn't wishing that players who feel the need to hide in the closet would become more brave. They already stand in against 98-mph fastballs. I think they have the bravery thing covered. I'm hoping that the trend continues and that more people in the game—players, front office folks, media, fans, and most importantly, myself—will embrace the idea that anyone who can hit .280 with some power is welcome. And at that point, there would naturally be a player who felt safe enough to say "Why bother hiding this?" —Russell A. Carleton
3. A Perfect Perfect Game
4. Dead Ball Era Outfield Dimensions
Now, I’m no scientist, but I have a sneaking suspicion that today’s pitchers are a smidge better than their McKinley-era counterparts. Wouldn’t it be nice to reward the Clayton Kershaws and Jose Fernandezes of the world with video-game numbers of their own? The game’s current conditions already favor pitchers, with strikeouts soaring and scoring in a steady downtrend. If we were to push the fences back to where they were in, say, the Huntington Avenue Grounds, maybe we could finally discuss Kershaw, Fernandez, and all-time greats Smoky Joe Wood and Candy Cummings in the same conversation.
5. A Genuinely New Type of Pitch
There have been pretenders, most notably the gyroball. The gyroball was supposed to be a pitch thrown like a bullet, rotating such that it would move through the air without drag. It turned out to be a mistake pitch called a back-up slider (essentially a slider without break which, if it could ever be consistently commanded, might be at best circumstantially useful). The most striking characteristic of the gyroball, besides its mostly mythic nature, was its ability to generate mass hysteria and excitement, eloquently demonstrating the appeal of a new kind of pitch.
It’s not that I don’t like the pitches we have. There’s plenty of variety in terms of break length, direction, and velocity. It’s just that it would be cool for there to be something genuinely new: a way of tossing a baseball 60 feet, 6 inches that nobody had ever used before. At this point, most of the pitches which are both a) consistent with human physiology and b) able to get MLB hitters out have already been discovered, but perhaps there’s still some method out there waiting to be found.
Maybe someone will figure out how to throw a 90 mph knuckleball with all of the break of an 80 mph pitch. Maybe the gyroball is better than we thought, and with a few mechanical tweaks C.J. Wilson will be tossing an unbeatable strike. Maybe, as MLB’s global reach expands, some talented youngster from Mongolia will introduce us to the Yakball, a pitch so fearsome paeans will be written to its awesomeness. For now, we can only hope… and wait. —Robert Arthur
6. A Three-Way Playoff Tiebreaker
The automatic one-game play-in may have watered down this pipe dream, but there could ostensibly be a three-way tie for a division, for example, where neither team would otherwise qualify for a wild card. (Looking your way, AL Central.)
Last September MLB.com itemized the potential blast radii of chaos that could result from two-, three-, and four-way tie scenarios. They spent more time explaining who would play whom, rather than digging into the emotions or amount of blood loss sustained when 162 games are converted into nine innings for the chance to play one more game for the chance to play, technically, a best-of-one postseason series.
It will happen someday and it shall be splendid. Pray your team is not involved. Maybe it will be a four-team tiebreaker. Maybe five! And certainly not in our lifetime, probably not in our children's lifetime, but specifically in the year 2391, the league will have all teams finish 81-81 and require 15-way tiebreakers. We're not sure how it will end but your descendants are going to spiritually lose it. —Matt Sussman
7. Brian Cashman in Charge of a Poor Team; Billy Beane in Charge of a Rich One
8. A Red Sox World Series Win My Five-Month-Old Son Can See
So if I could have one baseball wish, one thing that I would put at the top of my baseball bucket list, one thing I want more than anything, it would be this: I want the Red Sox to win, just once, for Johnny. That’s not too much to ask for. Just once! And I’ll go to him and I’ll say, “Johnny! Johnny! The Red Sox finally won! Finally! It’s been so long but they’ve finally done it! They’ve done it for you, Johnny! For you!” And you know what? Johnny will look up, his eyes meeting mine, and he’ll smile. Then he’ll spit up. Then maybe he can take a nap in peace*.
*Back off Bill Simmons! —Matthew Kory
9. A Three-Inning Closer
Unfortunately, that makes for long games that bog down at the point when the excitement level should be at its pinnacle. Therefore, one of the things I would love to see return to the game is the true, three-inning fireman reliever: a pitcher who can enter the game in the seventh inning and lock it down until the end. This wouldn’t be an easy adjustment; going three innings requires a pitcher to pace himself, whereas coming in for one inning demands only short-burst effectiveness. Staying in longer would require a different kind of repertoire than we see from most of today’s one-inning closers, and the peripheral numbers would seem subpar compared to what we’re used to seeing from save-getters in 2014. However, I do think the right three-inning guy would make games shorter while also providing some roster flexibility.
Ultimately, I think the game may have passed my bucket-list item by, but a man can dream. About three-inning relievers. —Mauricio Rubio
10. Giancarlo Stanton, Colorado Rockie
The following table lists (and links to) all of Stanton’s mile-high homers, with distances courtesy of ESPN Home Run Tracker. “True distance” is how far Home Run Tracker estimates each ball would have traveled at Coors if its trajectory had continued down to field level instead of ending in the seats. “Standard distance,” which adjusts for wind, temperature, and altitude, tells us how far each ball would have traveled on a calm, 70-degree day at sea level.
Here are Stanton’s average home run distances at Coors and overall from 2010–14. The numbers in parentheses are MLB averages over the same span.
Stanton’s average homer travels 16 feet farther than the league’s. In Coors, though, even his standard home run distance has beaten the league’s overall average by 34 feet, which—if you trust Home Run Tracker’s altitude adjustments—would suggest that those distances weren’t purely a product of the thin air.
Even if they were, though, it wouldn’t change my conviction that Stanton is miscast as anything other than a Colorado Rockie. To maximize our collective joy, the player who hits the longest home runs should play his home games in the park that most magnifies his power. We all want to see him make the bad ball fly.
Stanton’s next crack at Coors will come later this summer, in an August 22–24 weekend series. Road trip, anyone? —Ben Lindbergh