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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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