Editor's note: In the days leading up to Jan. 25, Rob Manfred's one-year anniversary as MLB commissioner, we asked our writers to offer one change or innovation they would make to improve baseball if the sport started over today.
Limit teams to two visits to the pitching mound per nine innings.
How it would work:
A team could have only its manager, a coach or a player visit the mound a total of two times per nine innings.
When a manager wants to change pitchers, he would just move to the top dugout step and signal the pitching change to the umpire; it would not count as a visit.
If a game were to extend to extra innings, both teams would receive two additional mound visits for the next nine frames. If a game were to go to the 19th inning, teams would be given another two visits for the ensuing nine innings.
Teams would also be able to save their mound visits during a game. If a team doesn't use either of them in the first nine innings, they would start the 10th inning with four possible visits.
Visits from a player -- be it a catcher or a position player -- would not count if they last 15 seconds or less.
Why it would help baseball:
Have you ever attended a game hoping to see managers, pitching coaches or players talk to the pitchers on the mound? Neither have we. This would make the game shorter, while aiding the better prepared teams. Teams should be rewarded for protecting their signs without a group discussion every few minutes.
Excessive mound visits are an unnecessary part of baseball that needs to be modernized in the same way that other sports limit timeouts. You should not be allowed, because of poor anticipation by the pitching coach or manager, to delay the game to give a reliever extra time to warm up for a certain matchup. The managers who are the most prescient should be rewarded.
How realistic is it:
Very. Why wouldn't Major League Baseball want to speed up its game without removing anything anyone will miss? (Imagine fans saying in a few years: Gosh, I wish there were more mound visits during games!)
The rules, as they stand now, state that a manager or coach can't go to the mound twice in an inning to talk with the same pitcher without removing him. That does limit mound visits.
Too many times, though, a pitching coach has to come out of the dugout to say, "Throw strikes." Maybe they can just mouth that from the dugout. If that doesn't work, a pitcher should have to gather himself on his own. Managers and pitching coaches would have to be judicious about when they need to calm a pitcher down themselves. That would add some strategy to the game.
Since a catcher or a position player can take 15 seconds to talk to a pitcher, simple commands about how a potential double play will be covered, or if signs are being switched, would not be impacted by the new rules.
Granted, this isn't the most exciting change to improve baseball, but it is one that is easy to implement -- and would instantly make the game better.