The Sports Revolution: Flipping the Diamond

Let me set the scene for you: a prominent base stealer is on first. A left-handed pitcher is on the mound. The baserunner doesn’t try to steal second—as he would if a right-hander were on the mound—because the lefty has an intrinsic advantage in picking him off.

Let me reset the scene for you: a prominent base stealer is on first. A left-handed pitcher is on the mound. The baserunner does go for second—as he would if a right-hander were on the mound—because the lefty no longer has an intrinsic advantage to picking him off.

How? Because the baseball diamond was flipped. With a left-handed pitcher on the mound, third base becomes first base, and vice versa.*

*Or, if you’re like Bill James or John S and want to limit stolen bases, you switch the set-up for righties, making it easier for both sides to hold runners on. Whatever floats your boat.

Now, calm down. I know: This one sounds pretty ridiculous. But think of all the advantages and limitations the current static set-up puts on players. Left-handers cannot be infielders (outside of first base). Speedy right-handed hitters often have to learn to switch-hit so they can bat from the “closer” left side. And a weak ground ball hit by a lefty is easier to beat out than one hit by a righty.

Not to mention how simple it is for lefties to pick guys off first.

The only reasonable solution to this problem is to flip the diamond. It eliminates intrinsic advantages to being a righty or lefty that need not be intrinsic. What, after all, is the reasoning for the current set-up? Methinks Henry Chadwick be a left-handed pitcher.

Under my proposal, both right-handed and left-handed pitchers have to hold runners on first with their backs to them. With a lefty on the mound, it’s beneficial to have left-handed infielders. And in that instance, right-handed hitters have the quicker path to “first” base.

It’s win/win/win.

Also, think of the versatility this requires from your infielders. First basemen would need to have the skills of third basemen and vice versa. What? You’d say they’d swap spots when a new pitcher comes in? When? Ain’t no time in baseball for infielders to be all moving around!*

*Combine this with my too-obvious-to-post idea to eliminate the designated hitter, and you might just get rid of Major League Baseball’s excess of unathletic, plodding, only-there-because-they-can-hit players. It would also again perpetuate the deleterious (read: injurious) effects of steroids by requiring more movement in the field.

Which leads me to my next point: if you switch pitchers in the middle of an inning, the runner can choose to stay on the base he currently occupies. Wanna bring in a southpaw to face Ryan Klesko with Chipper Jones on first? Well, how bad do you want it? Because now Chipper’s on third. Take that, Tony LaRussa.

What are the cons? Really, besides some occasional confusion, I can’t think of any. And if you’re telling me professional athletes aren’t smart enough to run clockwise every once in a while, well, they shouldn’t be professional anythings. It ain’t that hard. And if they do mess up, well, that’s just funny. Ryan Howard smoked that ball down the line off Pedro Feliciano, but he ran the wrong way, passed Shane Victorino on the basepaths, and so the inning is over. That’s the third time this season and second this series Howard has gone the wrong way.

Sure, you’re probably thinking this is a drastic step to right a small wrong, that the advantages afforded lefty pitchers just compensates for those given to righty infielders. Well, where I come from, wrong + wrong ≠ right.

Maybe the end result of this is just what baseball needs: we get rid of specialists—both specialist pitchers and specialist hitters—and get rid of pesky pickoffs.

It’s about time we solved the game’s biggest problem.

One response to this post.

  1. […] I often ask a lot on behalf of my readers: a suspension of traditional thinking, a very creative imagination, the willingness to spend trillions of dollars to solve otherwise […]

    Reply

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