Steve Phillips is the former GM of the New York Mets and current host and commentator for MLB Network Radio. More than that, he is a baseball revolutionary who has an idea that has yet to receive any serious discussion, even though it could lead to a reduction of arm injuries for pitchers as well as significantly pick up the pace of the game.
You can imagine what it must have been like when the Sons of Liberty gathered at the Old South Meeting House in Boston to begin planning for the Boston Tea Party and the eventual overthrow of the richest and most powerful country in the world at the time. Lunacy, heresy, ridiculous, it can’t be done!
Steve Phillips’ Bold Idea
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In ways very similar to what went on in Boston that night, Steve Phillips has an idea that will revolutionize the game of baseball. What he wants to do is change the number of strikes to two and balls to three. In effect, it would mean that every hitter who steps up to the plate begins with a count of 1-1.
He pitched the idea over the past summer and it gained the attention of many in baseball circles, and then the story ran out of steam, even though radio host Mike Francesa – the “Sports Pope,” as New York Daily News writer Bob Raissman has tagged him – thought it was a good idea.
And maybe that’s been part of the problem in getting the idea at least to the point of being carefully considered and discussed. Because while Francesa enjoys high ratings for his show, he is thought by many to be somewhat of a blowhard and buffoon. And Steve Phillips, well… he’s had his public issues as well, spending some time at a sex rehab clinic after his dismissed from his job at ESPN.
Because, as Marshall MacLuhan put it, “The medium is the message.” So maybe if the idea was introduced by Derek Jeter as a story he wrote for his own Players’ Tribune, for example, things might be turning a different way now.
And that’s not to say that a new rule incorporating the proposal would have been adopted by now. It’s simply to say that it might be on the agenda at the Winter Meetings next week, or even as part of the discussion in the negotiations between players and owners on a new collective bargaining agreement.
How Baseball Would Change
Steve Phillips best explains the idea himself in a featured story in the New York Daily News, but mainly the idea centers on two main goals.
The first one goes a long way to accomplishing something that Commissioner Manfred keeps harping on, which is to speed up the game. Starting hitters off with the equivalent of a 1-1 count would certainly do wonders for that. But here’s where thought and discussion should come into play by asking, for example, how much is too much when it comes to the time it takes to play a normal nine-inning game?
For instance, would you want to spend a considerable amount of money in taking your family to a ballgame only to arrive home two hours later when your average movie takes longer than that and is a less expensive form of entertainment?
Next is the reduction of injuries to pitchers based on the theory that they would be required to throw fewer pitches in a game. Not necessarily, though, and it’s likely that the almighty and unwritten pitch count rules would remain in place. Making the overall effect a chance for a pitcher to go deeper into games as a starter. Which in turn would reduce the need to have a number of relievers (think jobs) on your staff.
All of these possible side effects are worthy of discussion as details of the main idea. In the same way that the patriots in Boston had to decide which ship to target in the harbor, and what night and what time of the night to conduct the raid and dump the tea in the ocean.