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Trimming the Fat: Major League Baseball Can Fix Pace-of-Play, Ineffective Bullpens and Revenue Issues with One Simple Change

We hear a lot about length of game and payrolls, and the need for fixing MLB pace-of-game. To the point John Lackey in August states baseball’s getting “soft”. I can’t argue with that. It is; snd part of the issue is the widespread use of the bullpen. 30 years ago, starters were throwing 120 or more pitches during a game. The logic was simple: They are the start, so the onus is on them. This logic, this mentality, gave us great hurlers like Nolan Ryan and Jack Morris, guys who often went beyond 120 pitches and lead Major League Baseball in pitches, complete games and a slew of other records. They were hard and gritty. But the game is getting “soft” as Lackey points out.

20160617_191520 - CopyWe now get to see the arbitrary pitch count grow. Every network showing Major League Baseball games has a pitch count somewhere. Every stadium advertises the pitch count. It’s become a staple for predicting when a pitching change will occur. We’d see a softening of the game on pitchers. Baseball has created an arbitrary number, the century mark, as the delineating point between continuing to pitch and stopping.

I still recall Jim Leyland and Brad Ausmus taking out starters who were into the 8th inning, even the 9th inning, because they hit 100-110 pitches. Then seeing the bullpen choke up the game.  Tigers fans are still smarting from the 2013 ALCS Game 2 debacle caused by Jim Leyland. Ironman Max Scherzer had 108 pitches through the 7th inning. He had a lead of 5-1 over the Red Sox. Jim removed Max, much to the astonishment of fans. Had it been Verlander, he’d have kept him in. The result was catastrophic. The Tigers bullpen choked up five runs in only two innings, and wound up losing 6-5. Ausmus pulled the same stunt on Scherzer in 2014 during the ALDS Game 1 against teh Baltimore Orioles. With Max at 98 pitches after 7.1 innings Ausmus yanked him. Granted, Max was credited with giving up five runs, but he wasn’t given the opportunity to redeem himself as he’s so great at doing. He’s a clutch pitcher. The result of being pulled? The Orioles buried the bullpen, scoring seven runs beyond the five Scherzer gave up. Essentially, by pulling Max at 98 pitches, Ausmus guaranteed the loss, relying on three relievers over 2-2/3rds innings. Instead of a two-run game, it became a blowout.

Stories like these are common throughout baseball. Coaches are so stuck on 100 pitches they no longer thing in terms of the big picture.  




Ed Comber (VP Of The BBBA/Owner –  

Major League Baseball Fan Foul Ball Fatalities in Context: Soccer, Tour de France and Racing FAR More Dangerous to Fans than Foul Balls

a foulballzAfter Andy Zlotnick commented on my Twitter feed and compared baseball to the X-Games and “Reality TV”, as he did in the HBO Real Sports episode I discussed in an earlier two posts (PART I and PART II), I started to wonder if baseball really is as dangerous to spectators and players as people keep claiming. The counterargument is predicated on the idea that 1750 fans are injured every year at Major League Baseball games. That’s the number Bryant Gumbel indicated in Real Sports and it’s the number a lot of others also misrepresent. They assume that is the number of fans hit by balls and bats each season. It’s actually the number of fans injured in relation to a ball or bat. That is, fans often injure themselves going for a ball or ducking out of the way of an errant bat.

All this got me to wondering. As it turns out baseball is one of the safest for spectators and participants. With a rounded up number of 2000 fans injured in relation to a foul ball or bat, and considering one fan in 100+ years has died, I started looking at other fan fatalities in other sports.


Soccer is by far the most deadly professional sport. It has riots. Over 800 people have died over the last 20 years as a result of hatred between fans who’ve gone on to pummel one another to death after a match. Baseball fans tend to riot only when their team wins the World Series, and while a few fans have died as a result of riots, we don’t come close to 800 deaths.


Ed Comber (VP Of The BBBA/Owner –  

Foul Reporting on MLB Fan Safety and Foul Balls: Real Problems and Inaccuracies in HBO Real Sports Foul Ball Episode, PART II

20160702_183656Part II of my report exposing the inaccuracies of Bryant Gumbel’s “Real Sports” episode 229 covers the later data found in this episode. As noted in Part I, Gumbel’s report sensationalized foul ball related injuries to the point of being preposterous. The historical research, to be blunt, was appallingly non-existent, and the piece misrepresented reality, and even showed clips which contradicted the words coming from Gumbel’s mouth.

The second part of the episode was no better.

At about 8:15 Gumbel asserts that over 15 months, three fans were seriously injured. While nobody ever wants to see any other fan injured, that comes to one fan every five months. To put this into perspective: The season is about 6.5 months long. I’ll be generous and rouns up to seven. That means, based on Gumbel’s argument, 1.5 fans get seriously injured each season. Let me reiterate that: 1.5 fans are seriously injured each season. Considering each team has millions of fans over the course of each season, this is hardly an argument worth having. But Gumbel is stating this is for the entire league. Forbes and others note the 2015 Major League Baseball season had nearly 74 million fans in attendance. Again, I’ll be conservative and simply say 73, given the number reported is 73.8. If I understand my calculator shorthand correctly that comes out to be .00000000233% (my calculator reads 2,328767123287671e-8) of fans in attendance are “seriously injured” by a foul ball per season.



Ed Comber (VP Of The BBBA/Owner –  

Foul Reporting on MLB Fan Safety and Foul Balls: Real Problems and Inaccuracies in HBO Real Sports Foul Ball Episode, PART I

20160702_183656It took a while for me to finally see episode 229 of Bryant Gumbel’s Real Sports on HBO. I finally had to buy HBONow in order to see what all the hype was. What I discovered is a report filled with misunderstandings, misinformation and incorrect assumptions. It was and is one of the most misleading pieces I’ve seen about foul balls.

This rebuttal and correction of the blatant errors in the Real Sports episode will end up in two parts because of the sheep enormity of the misinformation and misrepresentation.

Gumbel starts his report by quoting an article was a part of. I had the honor of discussing foul ball injuries with David Glovin, the author of “Baseball Caught Looking as Fouls Injure 1,750 Fans a Year.” Something Gumbel misrepresents and fails to clarify at about 3:20 into the report is that those injuries are mostly, about 98%, due to the spectators themselves. Fans jump over each other, over seats, dive, get in scrums with others. All of these count toward Glovin’s figure. Gumbel’s report failed to mention that little fact. Instead, he reported fans are hurt by them….




Ed Comber (VP Of The BBBA/Owner –  

In Foul Territory: The Real Cost of MLB Extended Netting

baseballDuring the last week of January 2016, the Double AA MiLB Fort Wayne TinCaps announced they would be extending netting to the end of each dugout for the 2016 season. They anticipated a cost of this extended netting to be $20,000. The rationale was to protect fans from foul balls and loose bats.

However, the debate over extra netting in 2015 was virtually non-existent. In truth, netting is not a cost-efficient method for protecting fans and maintaining the player/fan interaction which is central to baseball. Netting, is both the short- and long-term, is more expensive to install and to maintain, a point MLB Commissioner Manfred appeared to ignore before making his announcement during the 2015 Winter Meetings in which he “recommended” extended netting. The issues opponents to extended netting addressed to MLB were ignored.

Indeed, Commissioner Manfred ignored several alternatives to extended netting, particularly banning cell phone use in certain sections and moving families with small children into designated sections in the outfield and upper decks, areas with fewer foul balls and no errant bats. He also ignored the idea of tempered glass. This was an error that could cost teams and the league tens of thousands of dollars over the course of each season.

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Foul Territory: Who Suffers the Most Foul Ball Injuries?

Players, coaches, managers, fans, and the media all assert that children are the most at risk of foul ball injuries at baseball games. This is commonsense. We understand that children are more fragile and more easily distracted than adults, thus the risk posed to them will be greater. In past articles, I’ve advocated for special family sections in all Major League Baseball parks; and if MiLB follows suit, all the better. That recommendation has gone ignored by MLB Commissioner Manfred.

The idea of a family area that moves ALL children out of the hot zones for foul balls and errant bats seems like a commonsense no-brainer too. Families with children can be seated in the outfield boxes, still well within reach of their favorite players and even still in range of very long foul balls that gives a person seconds to respond rather than milliseconds.

Children at Higher Risk of Foul Ball Injury?

One of the major premises of the Gail Payne et al. lawsuit against Major League Baseball, and MiLB by extension, is the assumption that children “are at most risk” of injury. Again, the simple fix is to move children to the outfield box seats into a family specific section, or at least ban children in the hot zone areas in each ballpark.

The attorneys in the Payne et al. case assert that “Spectators are also actively misled that these areas of the ballpark are safe”—despite the evidence to the contrary (that the average human reaction time is sufficient and that signs are posted all over warning of the dangers of foul balls and loose bats.

The complaint argues that “Considerable research supports the proposition that children are particularly vulnerable. A child has a slower reaction time,” sit lower in seats that may offer an obstructed view, and are less familiar with the game and more prone to distractions from technology. They further assert that “Children are also at more risk due to their relative head size.” (These all make sense, but again, this is even more reason for family sections in each park.)

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Ed Comber (VP Of The BBBA/Owner –  

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