If you weren’t already aware, Sean Doolittle his wife and Eireann Dolan are pretty good at Twitter. Oakland A’s fans know this, and Washington Nationals fans have learned over the last year and a half since he was acquired from the Athletics.
Over the past 24 hours or so, they solicited ideas for ways to improve the fan experience of the game, and they received plenty of good ones.
You can read the entire thread that started with Eireann’s initial question here:
I recently had a conversation with a Nats fan about keeping fans’ voices in the ongoing conversation about the direction of baseball. So I want to know: If fans had a seat at the table, what would you ask for to improve your game experience as a fan? And what keeps you a fan?— Eireann Dolan (@EireannDolan) February 2, 2019
Summing up what he’d read yesterday, the Nationals’ closer said that the conversations that resulted from the initial question reminded him, “... that pace of game and defensive shifts aren’t the existential threats to baseball we need to be focusing on.
“Growing the game means making it more accessible and affordable while creating a space where fans feel included and connected to the product.”
But... if you, like, you know, want some ideas in the “pace of play/defensive shifts” area, you could always ask Doolittle’s teammate Max Scherzer, because he’s got ideas.
“I’ve got some crazy ideas,” Scherzer told reporters earlier this winter when he was asked about his new role as part of the MLB Players’ Association’s executive subcommittee, an eight-player board that works with the MLBPA’s executive director Tony Clark on all issues related to the game and its policies.
“It’s an exciting time to kind of join the union and lend a voice and lend some ideas and just see what direction the game goes,” Scherzer said.
“There are more decisions that are going to be made before the ultimate CBA decision, just some on-field game stuff of what direction we want the game to go.
“Because look at last year, we introduced the mound visits, and as a whole I think that was good. We saw less — fewer mound visits and players didn’t have a problem with it. I don’t think it downgraded the game in any which way, and so you constantly bounce ideas off other players, and sometimes the players have the right ideas of where the game needs to go and so I’m excited to be a part of that committee, and hopefully continue to grow the game in whatever direction we need to.”
While we all know that Scherzer works as hard between starts as he does when he takes the mound every five days, the reality of starting in the majors means there’s some downtime in between outings that provides him an opportunity to talk to with teammates and to bounce ideas off of them.
“That’s the beauty of sometimes being a starting pitcher, is that you’re looking at the game a different way on the bench,” Scherzer explained.
“A lot of times, actually, it was Wieters, when [Matt] Wieters wasn’t playing I would bounce an idea off of him like, ‘What if the game was this way?’ and we actually had some pretty good banter back and forth of like different ideas of how to improve the game, so that’s the thing: It takes conversation amongst all players, whether the ideas are great or not, sometimes just having an idea, pushing it, and somebody else will take your idea and run with it and make it even better, so hopefully that’s the culture that we have and the way we can continue to keep improving the game.”
You can’t just put something like that out there without some intrepid reporter asking what sort of ideas one of the best pitchers in the game comes up with, and Scherzer, as usual, is not one to disappoint.
“This is one,” Scherzer told reporters. “We talk about pace of game all the time. ‘Oh, we want to quicken up the game.’ Why does the pitcher have to come set for one second before he delivers the pitch? If you actually look back in the olden days, there used to be a bounce. As long as you had a change of direction in your hands, that constituted that you could deliver the ball to the plate.
“And so if you remove that rule, where you had to wait for one second, you would constantly shave off one second every single pitch.
“So, as long as there was a gamesmanship — the hitter has to be ready in a quick-pitch, so the thing with pitchers, we’re trying to disrupt the timing of the guy on first. So if I hold the ball, I have to wait for ‘one-thousand-one.’ That’s zero in my mind. Then it’s one, two, three, or four and working off that. Well, if you got rid of that one second, it’s still either, zero, one, two, or three, or four. And so for me, that would be an easy way to help quicken up the game.”
Shaving one second off each pitch with a runner on base? How did he come up with that idea?
“I was in the dugout, and we’re constantly — we read, we see stuff, and when we hear ‘pace of game’ we’re always trying to think of how we can play quicker, well this is how you play quicker, you just remove this second.”