GETTING IT RIGHT

John Granato: Hey baseball, pick up the pace. And we fix a lot of other sports problems

Dallas Keuchel does not like the idea of a pitch count. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Let’s pick up the pace, guys.

Every sport has made moves to speed up their games; every game except baseball, that is.

Actually baseball is so averse to catching up to the times, one of their recent changes added time to the games. How awesome is it to see four umpires stand around with headsets on while New York decides if a ball in the fifth inning of a 10-1 game is fair or foul?  Riveting.

I was in the Astros spring training clubhouse when they learned about the new rule that would limit teams to six mound visits per game. You’d have thought they cut their paychecks in half.

“Stupid.” “Ridiculous.” “A unilateral move.” “They didn’t ask us.” All things they said about Commissioner Rob Manfred’s newest innovation to the game.

They’re right about the unilateral move. Manfred says he worked with the players’ association to come to the decision but not so much. It was the least hated idea that he wanted to implement so they went with that. The most hated idea that he wants to implement is a pitch clock.

I asked Dallas Keuchel about that. He wasn’t pleased with the possibility. “That takes some of the best pitchers who are trying to really focus in on their game and take it pitch by pitch and take some of the integrity of the game out. We’re not playing basketball here. We’re not playing football here. Baseball is a non-pitch clock game so it’s frustrating to see hopefully there’s not any backlash.”

That’s a lot to digest. First of all, I don’t get how that messes with the integrity of the game. Making pitchers throw pitches in less than 20 seconds will not affect the game’s integrity. It’s already been implemented in Double-A and Triple-A for the last three years. It hasn’t changed those games. Guys are coming into the league now working fast. They’re used to it.

And no baseball is not basketball or football. It’s slower, and at times, dare I say it, and I’m a baseball fan, more boring. This is a different world and I’m not just talking about millenials. Even old guys like me want stuff faster.

“Baseball is a non-pitch clock game.”  Yep.

And there was a time when basketball was a non-shot clock game. In 1968 Duke and N.C. State played an ACC tournament game that ended 12-10. A player dribbled without shooting or passing for 13 consecutive minutes. Then they instituted a shot clock and that atrocity never happened again. Can you imagine paying money to watch that?

There was a time when there was no forward pass in football. Actually it was always in the rules but nobody tried it. Then they did. There was an outcry but they got over it and it turned out OK.

Remember when they didn’t keep score in soccer? Me either. They always have. I just made that up.

Baseball, you can get better by playing the game faster. Don’t fight it. It’s progress. But there are other rules I’d like to see changed in the sports world. Here are a couple:

No more Hack-a-Shaq or Hack-a-Dwight or Hack-a-DeAndre. It’s brutal to watch a bad free throw shooter shoot horrible free throws multiple trips down the floor even if he makes them sometimes. This is entertainment. That’s not entertaining. We are there to watch some of the world’s best athletes compete at the highest level and instead we get bricklayers chucking up air balls.

The argument against changing the rule is that we shouldn’t reward a guy just because he can’t shoot free throws. He’s a pro. He should be able to make free throws. Fact is he can’t so don’t punish us. Instead of high flying non-stop action we get clock stopped bricks. That’s no fun.

Here’s a solution. If he has the ball he’s fair game. Foul him. That’s on them for giving him the ball. But if he doesn’t have the ball and you foul him the team has the option to just take the ball out of bounds. So all you do is pick up a foul. No advantage gained. In the last two minutes you get free throws and the ball. Problem solved.  

The biggest issue in the NFL is the National Anthem. Easy fix. No players on the field for it. That way we don’t know what their stance is. If they want to address social issues on their own time that’s their right. We’re there to watch football not politics. Problem solved.

One of the worst things in all of sports is the wave. Somehow. some way this must be stopped. It’s embarrassing to mankind. I don’t know who started this but they should be remembered the same way we remember Judas, Benedict Arnold and Justin Bieber; vile individuals who ruined life as we know it. Here’s the new rule: if you do the wave you will be kicked out of the stadium. No exceptions. If you start the wave your season tickets will be revoked. If you don’t have season tickets you will be banned from every stadium in America. It’s a fair and just punishment. Problem solved.

These are probably the biggest issues the sports world faces today. There are more. I can’t fix everything in one article.

Baseball pick up the pace.

Basketball stop the free throw atrocities.

Football let’s just play football.

Fans stop embarrassing yourselves.

Problems solved.

 

 












 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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