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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gladiator Ball.

Baseball fans expect outfielders to run full speed into a wall while looking in the other direction.  We won’t implement safer conditions because we thrill at the expected collision and the remote possibility that an outfielder will leap and rob a batter of a home run.  So why not take this to the next logical, if unethical, step: gladiator ball?
Non-Detroit tigers in the outfield.
In the 2000 movie Gladiator Russell Crowe as Maximus is ultimately confronted by chained tigers that emerge from the Coliseum basement.  Why not add that to baseball?  Hey, what the heck?  If we are going to be amoral fans,  let’s do it right.  Why wait for Nick Swisher to make his next mindless attempt to get TV time with a nonsensical back to the ball I-have-no-intent-of-catching-the-ball leap at the wall?  In once in a Yankee – Met game Swisher waited too long to get to the wall to make a relatively routine catch in the right field corner so that he could leap into stardom.  Had Swisher simply run back to the wall as quickly as possible he could have waited to put his glove up to catch the ball. Instead it bounced off Swisher’s glove for a three run homer that enabled the Mets to win.
Swisher is a clown.  But what of a real Pete Reiser type effort?  Reiser is the legendary 1940s Brooklyn Dodger center fielder whose career was cut short by his repeatedly crashing into walls and suffering concussions.  Reiser was carried off the field several times and supposedly one time a priest administered the last rites on the field.  At age 22 in his first full season Reiser helped Brooklyn win the 1941 National League pennant leading NL in Runs, 2B, 3B, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, TB, HBP.   Reiser finished second in MVP voting to teammateDolph Camilli who led NL in HR, RBI, SO.
All fields now have a warning track.  When I was a kid it was also called a running track and a cinder path.  It helps.
Padding was added to the walls.  Does Wrigley Field have padding beneath the lovely ivy covering its brick walls?  Have you ever touched that padding?  Would you run full speed into a “padded” wall while looking in the other direction?  I doubt it.
There are two things that can be done.  From my blog:
1. Friday April 4, 2008 Padding
Outfielders used to battle brick walls and other immovable objects in most ball parks. In some cases there was naked chain link fence. Hey, it was cheap. Mickey Mantle broke his foot in June 1963 chasing Brooks Robinson’s home run to center in Baltimore and missed three months. I remember being on the subway platform in Flushing Queens waiting for the seven train to take me to high school in Manhattan and seeing the headline on the front page of the Daily News: Mantle Breaks Foot, Out Season.
So eventually padding was introduced. Have you ever touched that stuff? It’s hard. Would you let a pole vaulter land on that from twenty feet? The pole vaulter lands on a big soft cushion. You know, so that injury is avoided. Since that stuff exists, why not use it in baseball parks? Players would actually be protected. Imagine how cool it would be to see them running into it? Kids would love to play that way.
MLB could also outlaw catches of fly balls that are in the stands. That eliminates players trying to vault onto and over the new stuff. It also separates the players more from the fans on batted balls, hopefully decreasing fan interference.
2. Thursday, July 9, 2009 Wall protection.
Since MLB does not seem inclined to follow my recommendation and put pole vaulter pads along the walls, here’s a no tech alternative to protect players from injuries due to crashing into the walls. Make the warning track off limits. A fly ball caught after a player has stepped onto the warning track is not an out but is in play. Yet another devilishly clever way to improve baseball. What’s really amazing is that even simple stuff like this is beyond the grasp of baseball people, both fans and professionals.
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Or, we could devolve into Gladiator Ball.

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