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Category: Idea

Baseball Variations: Traitor Baseball

tapAs we lurch toward the centennial of the Black Sox scandal, it’s as good a time as any to remember the most interesting aspect of the disaster: how the corrupt baseball players went about betraying their comrades. Advocates of Shoeless Joe Jackson quote his World Series performance, which included a .375 batting average and zero errors. Swede Risberg worked harder for his pay, slashing .080/.233/.160. But Nemo Leibold had nothing to do with the fix and still only got one single and one walk in 19 plate appearances. Finding a cheat amidst the wild jungles of small sample size baseball is no easy thing.

Cheating is bad. But what if this kind of cheating weren’t actually cheating: what if taking a dive were part of the game? What if traitors were baked into the game?

This isn’t something you could do over the long-term, of course, particularly in the major leagues; it’d be better suited for an exhibition game, or perhaps a summer camp activity. Especially since this is baseball based on a time-honored summer camp favorite: the party game, Mafia.

The concept: teams are chosen randomly, by giving each player a facedown playing card. Players are not allowed to reveal their cards. Red cards play against black cards. The twist is that two people from each team, the players who draw the queen and king, are not actually playing for their own team. They are the traitors, and have been assigned to be double agents.

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A Modest Sacrilege: Making Pitchers Worth Triple

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets

Witnesses of National League baseball are aware that pitchers are terrible at hitting, and the numbers prove that they’re getting worse each day. The designated hitter looms over the league like global warming, a depressing inevitability, threatening to wipe out the rich tradition of the double switch. What was once a weakness that encouraged strategy is now a perfunctory strikeout, a waste of everyone’s time.

Pitchers in 2014 hit at a .122/.153/.153 clip, the worst in baseball history. At least until 2015, when they’re even worse, mustering a mere .099/.115/.117. Their collective wRC+ is -34, which would be okay if the average were zero. It’s not. It’s 100.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can actually instill even more strategy into that dreaded ninth spot. All it takes is a light rule change that would probably ruin the game. It’s a single sentence:

Any time a pitcher reaches base and manages to get all the way around to score, it counts as three runs.

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