St. Louis Cardinals: Dreaming up what an XLB league would look like
By Matt Graves
We are all St. Louis Cardinals fans, but the MLB isn’t making it easy to be their fans right now.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there’s a thing that the St. Louis Cardinals could do that would stop me from being their fan. Born and bred in Cardinal red, that’s just how it is. However, every day that goes by, every new turd the MLB owners shine and present to fans and players for a plan for 2020, it gets harder to love the league and its leadership as a whole.
It seems that while the MLB is proving to run by greedy idiots, it’s not much different from the NFL.
Earlier in 2020, we had another option to watch in the football world; one that sadly has ended since then: the XFL.
The return of the XFL brought the first football team created in St. Louis with the Battlehawks. Some people may have thought it was a bad product, some may have thought it was gimmicky, but in St. Louis, the team was very well supported.
What made the XFL fun and different was their willingness to change things about football. They miked up everyone, showed the breakdowns for instant replays, sped up the game, changed extra points and kickoffs, and overall added a lot more interesting things to the game of football.
Who knows where it could’ve gone if COVID-19 hadn’t interrupted the season halfway through, but it was a breath of fresh air.
What would an XLB look like? What rule changes could we dream up to make the game more fun and interesting? I’ve got a few ideas.
Mic up players, umpires, and coaches
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This one is an easy no-brainer. When an umpire makes a call or overturns a play, fans get zero explanation more than what broadcasters speculate. Let umps get on the PA system and explain the change. Furthermore, mound visits and coach ejections should be available (with or without expletives) for fans to hear.
We’ve seen how much fun it is to have players talking to announcers while fielding during spring training, adding that regularly would do a world of difference in marketing players and letting fans know their favorite players on a more personal level.
Allow fighting, but with a catch
This one may be harder to sell, but I think that legal fighting would be awesome in baseball. Hockey can’t have all the fun. Everything is not on the table though. What I think should happen is that if there are no runners on the batter and pitcher should be able to fight one on one until one player hits the ground. Like hockey players do the glove waggle, baseball players could do the same.
If any other players get involved, there would be suspensions (or consequences). After the fight is over, both players should be able to stay in the game, but the batter is out. Taking another rule from hockey, if there is any blood drawn, the player gets a one-game suspension. Nice and easy, solve problems with your fists rather than throwing 100 mph baseballs at each other.
Legalize pine tar/other “cheating” substances for pitchers
No, I’m not talking about drugs, I am talking about things other teams find on a pitcher’s hat, glove, neck or forearm that helps pitchers get a better grip on the ball. It makes them pitch better, so why not juice up the skill a bit? The batters won’t be without help though.
Allow one at-bat with a corked bat per game
Corked bats have been snuck into games for years. When they have been found, players are punished. Imagine a world where corked bats are allowed, but only to be used strategically?
Keep the corked bats different colors, so everyone knows when the bat is being used. Doing this would add strategy and a whole new layer of fun to the game. Do you use your corked bat with the bases loaded in the first inning? Or do you save it for later? Should your best hitter use it? Or should it be used for the best situation? Just like wondering when to use your best reliever, there is a ton of layers here. This rule change would be my favorite.
Let pitchers use corked bats every time
I think it’s consensus that the National League style of game is the purer game. In the XLB, I don’t want there to be a DH, but I would like pitchers to get a helping hand. The average pitcher can’t bat above .200, but giving them a corked bat (also clearly marked as a different color) would make watching pitchers bat much more enjoyable.
Normalize Statcast broadcasts
This is something we’ve seen before, but exposing fans to advanced statistics and more metrics regularly could be a staple of building a more intelligent fan base. If you get the right people in the booth to make sense of things, a broadcast that frequently breaks down catch probability, pitcher spin rates, and other advanced Statcast metrics would be so much fun.
Players who make an error must take an inning off
Do you ever get angry when a player makes an error? Wish that the player would be taken out? Let’s make it mandatory. To make this possible, multiple substitutions would have to be a reality in the XLB. Imagine though, every routine ground ball has so much more weight to it. Every throw, every pop-up. If a player loses concentration and makes an error, the walk of shame off of the field would be electric.
Don’t worry though, they’d only be gone for an inning. What better way to pummel fundamentals into every player’s game?
Immediate post-action interviews
Wouldn’t you have loved to hear from Yadier Molina after he tied the game off of Craig Kimbrel’s first pitch in the 9th inning of the third game of the Wrigley Massacre? Wouldn’t you love to hear from a player after he strikes out in a big spot?
Good or bad, the XFL took this approach with their players and I believe the MLB should too. You’ll get a lot of emotions, happy and otherwise, but it lets you feel exactly what the players are feeling right after a big event.
WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 08: A St. Louis Battlehawks helmet rests on the field before the XFL game against the DC Defenders at Audi Field on March 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)The XFL might be gone, the XLB will never be a thing, but in times like these, where the sport we love so much seems to be doing all it can to turn fans away, it’s fun to dream.
I would bet that at least a couple of these ideas are in the pipeline for the MLB to adopt anyway, but none of it matters if there is no baseball on the field.
Some of these ideas are a bit outlandish and surely have consequences I am not considering, but there are always ways to make this game more fun.