Marolt: Fear of making missiles in the garage
September 28, 2015
I think readers believe the hardest thing about writing a weekly newspaper column is writers' block. For me it is the fear of the unknown. Columns are like homemade rockets you build every week from spare parts you find in the garage using a plan you memorized from a YouTube video. You tinker, you aim, you pray.
Wise, old writers who have abandoned the trade for the ease of pumping out mystery novels will tell you the elusive secret to success in column writing is knowing what you don't know before hitting "the button." It's an inside joke because those of us who do this for wrinkles and gray hair know there is not enough time between deadlines to figure this out.
So it was that I found myself on the brink of revolutionizing the sport of baseball with an ingenious managerial manipulation of the lineup card.
It's a clever idea. Not to make things too complicated for the casual fan — it is for the visiting team to put their best second-string hitter in as the starting pitcher and batting him in the leadoff position. Normally the person who fits this description is saved for late in a game when the tiring, normally weak-hitting pitcher is scheduled to bat in the inning and the team really needs a hitter with experience at the plate who has a better chance to get on base and start a rally. The pitcher comes out of the game, the pinch hitter gets to bat in his place, then a new pitcher replaces him when the team goes back in the field. It's a strategy older than Abner Doubleday's desire to find something exciting to do with warm summer afternoons besides fishing.
I have to admit this old strategy works fine. But, where there's a long drive with nothing on the XM radio, there's a way to get lost in your thoughts so hopelessly far from reality that you can convince yourself that you are a genius. It was somewhere between Rifle and Parachute that I explained the logic of my new strategy to myself: You start every away game with a pinch hitter. After he bats and your team takes the field you put the real starting pitcher on the mound, replacing him, and things go normal from there.
Think about the advantage. In essence, a team would now be able to pinch hit for the starting pitcher twice per road game. I figure it could result in about 25 extra hits per year for the team and about 10 more runs scored. In a game of inches, that's going the extra mile!
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I spent pretty much two full days thinking of reasons why this strategy wouldn't work, which would explain why you never see National League managers, who don't have the luxury of designated hitters, use it. The only thing I came up with is that you would burn up a bench player's game eligibility in the first at-bat who you might need later in the game. But, there are usually five or six reserve hitters on the bench and the average National League team only uses 1.3 reserves per game. The vast majority of games end with several hitters not seeing any action. I think it would be great strategy to use one of them to start every single road game. (The strategy obviously doesn't work for home games where the starting pitcher has to be on the mound to begin the game.)
The more I thought, the more excited I got — I was going to leave an indelible mark on the National Pastime! Think of it — The Marolt Rule; the strategy that changed baseball forever! Could a footnote in Cooperstown be out of the question? Talk about a couple of nights having a tough time sleeping!
It was the day after that a balk was called; reality and me had separated before coming set. "You are not smart enough to come up with something new in a game that billions of people have thought about for over 200 years," my brother said.
It was a kick hard enough to spur me toward the rulebook. Since I had already submitted my finding in writing for publication in The Denver Post for the entire world to witness my brilliance, I never felt so stupid in my life. Right there in black and white my strategy was clearly declared against the rules. It took about 30 seconds of research.
Roger Marolt finds out something new about baseball and two things about life every day. firstname.lastname@example.org
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