Years ago, at the Highland View Golf Course, some smarty pants wanted to find a way to improve the Family Day scramble.
The municipal golf course in Butte dedicated one family each month to families. In addition to a potluck lunch and free kegs of beer and pop, the day included a scramble and a derby. The scramble was drawn up based on handicap, and it was a great way for golfers to get to know other members.
Each team was made up of all ends of spectrum, from low-handicap golfers to golfers who could not hit the ball out of their own shadow. The teams included men, women, kids, senior citizens and everything in between.
It was a perfect way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon.
Then, this smarty pants decided he needed to change things up. Just playing golf in the scramble was not enough.
The new rules of the scramble allowed each player to only bring three clubs. You could pick any three, but you had to leave the rest of them behind.
It was, he said, a way to try to make the scramble more exciting.
This silly new rule did not set well with Vern Maddock, a beautifully foul-mouthed, stocky man with a driver at least two times longer than regulation.
“What the hell is this?” Vern said. Well, that is the PG version of what Vern said.
“What are they going to do next? Are we going to have to play left-handed and with one eye closed? Let’s just play golf.”
Unfortunately, Vern passed away in 2015, and he never gave a rip about baseball when he was running roughshod on this world. But I feel his sentiment about the scramble is exactly the same as mine today for the smarty pantses who keep trying to change baseball.
For crying out loud, let’s just play baseball.
Since the 1800s, baseball has been the perfect game. Sure, the sport has a history of scumbag owners, ugly racism and nefarious characters, but the game itself was always perfect.
But the smart guys want to change it.
Last year, we were introduced to the rule requiring relief pitchers to stay in the game to face three batters or until the inning ended. We were also subjected to the seven-inning doubleheaders.
Another gem that has carried over from last season is that each extra inning starts with a runner already on second base.
The doubleheader and extra-innings rules were crammed down our throats in the guise of safety during the COVID-19 season. They were also doing it to get the games over faster.
(However, games were longer on average last year than in 2019 with those silly rules in place).
Baseball commentators around the country are all saying they like the new rules. It is as if Major League Baseball has mandated that they say that.
If you really like baseball, then you do not like those new rules. I paid for 162 full games on MLB TV, and every time my team plays a doubleheader, I am cheated out of four innings.
If you do not like how long the games or doubleheaders take to play, then change the channel. I am sure there is a NASCAR race, WWE match or monster truck rally you can watch somewhere.
Now, baseball is looking at making more changes. One is to move the rubber on the pitchers’ mound back one foot from home plate.
Since 1893, the distance between the rubber and home plate was 60 feet, 6 inches. In the second half of the independent Atlantic League this season, games will be played with pitchers throwing from 61 feet, 6 inches away.
Get ready for that to follow soon to Major League Baseball. The experiment is being run in conjunction with MLB, and the Atlantic League gave us the three-batter rule.
So, you can expect the 61 feet, 6 inches to be part of MLB in 2022 or 2023, at the latest.
The thinking is that pitchers are throwing the ball faster than ever now. The move back will give hitters a better chance.
You know, if they want to make baseball more offensive, they could just stop testing the hitters for steroids, but that is another column for another day.
Moving the mound back is not the only misguided rule being proposed by baseball executives who want to try to make baseball more exciting. But it is the one that will change the game the most.
It is the change that will forever wipeout the record book. It is the one that means we will longer be able to compare any modern players to Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth.
Of course, more offense will make for longer games, so they will have to cut regular-season games down to three innings as they try to placate to the simple fan who only watches during the playoffs anyway.
If you do not like a 3-2 game, Arena Football is looking for fans. If you do not like movies driven by dialog, you can probably find a flick with a car chase if you change the channel.
Really, it is OK if you do not like baseball the way it is. I don’t like you, but that is your opinion.
But why ruin it for all of us who love baseball for what it is and what it always was? Why change the sport that became our national pastime because of its intense situational drama and strategy?
Baseball is well aware of the romanticized beauty of the sport. That is why we keep seeing those promotional ads featuring the speech by Terence Mann at the end of the movie “Field of Dreams.”
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”
They are trying to change the one constant.
I am going to type that sentence more time. This time, read it while screaming at the top of your lungs.
They are trying to change the one constant.
It is not surprising that the pinhead commissioner is behind these ideas. He is, after all, the guy who decided that we need less, not more, minor league baseball teams.
It is disappointing that former Red Sox and Cubs personnel man Theo Epstein is behind some of these moves, too.
It is even more disappointing that longtime baseball writers like Jayson Stark and Ken Rosenthal, both now writing for The Athletic, are pushing the ideas.
These are two guys who grew up with the dream of writing about baseball. They went on to become two of the best.
For years, I have admired these two writers because you could tell that they love the game. They appreciated its history, good and bad, while understanding the importance of the perfect game.
Now, they want to change it to make it more exciting? Suddenly, after a century and a half it is not good enough?
Today it is a ponytail softball league rule for extra innings. Tomorrow it will be moving back the pitchers so it will be easier to hit. If one foot doesn’t do the trick, they’ll move it another. Then another.
Are all the pitchers going to have to throw left-handed and with one eye closed?
— Bill Foley, who writes with one eye closed, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74