COLUMN: Let’s change some rules in sports

By TOM WILLIAMS

If the Atlantic City Surf was still playing in the Atlantic League fans would be listening to Tony Blum and John Leon doing the play-by-play and John Kiphorn and Jo Carroll would be working behind the scenes at The Sandcastle.

There would also be artificial intelligence assisting the umpires and a bunch of other rules changes being tried. For example, when you bunt foul in the Atlantic League with two strikes, you get another chance. The pitcher must step off the rubber before attempting to pick off a runner from first base. The Atlantic League has larger bases, has minimized defensive shifts and mound visits, and requires pitchers to face three batters before being removed.

And you can “steal” first.

When you are at bat and a pitch gets past the catcher, you can run to first. In fact, Tony Thomas of the Maryland Blue Crabs, who really didn’t like the rule, took off for first base on a wild pitch and was safe. He eventually came around to score the tying run.

Now, larger bases are fine and an extra bunt is silly. But those other rules will, among other things, eliminate any chance of a runner getting picked off first. And baseball is way too concerned about shaving four minutes off the length of games by reducing mound visits and pitching changes.

But stealing first could be an interesting addition.

There are, however, a few other rules that should be changed.

Sticking with baseball, why not determine if an infield ground ball is fair or foul by the last place it touched the ground before passing the bag, instead of where it was when it passed over the bag. It would make the decision easier for umpires, especially in high school, with only two umpires.

Also, let’s make the rule in baseball’s all star game standard – in extra innings, each team will start with a runner on second base.

And, finally, when a batter hits a home run over the fence, it should not matter whether all the bases are touched. The reason for the rule requiring runners to touch every base is to prevent them from cutting short their trip around the bases. That shouldn’t apply on a home run when the ball is out of play.

Moving to basketball – particularly high school basketball – lets eliminate the 30-second timeout and give each team four timeouts of 60 seconds. Also, let’s stop the clock after every basket in the final minute of the fourth quarter and every overtime period.

One more in basketball. When the clock is running, only players on the court can call timeouts. Allowing coaches to call a timeout when the ball is alive puts too much pressure on officials to make an accurate call.

In football it is difficult to understand the reason for the “half the distance” penalty. If the offensive team has the ball on its own 12-yard line and is caught holding, the ball should go back the full 10 yards to the two, instead of half the distance to the six. Why is a penalty reduced because it was committed close to a goal line? If the full penalty would put the ball in the end zone, put it on the one.

Also, lets place the ball at the spot of the foul for pass interference in high school instead of 15 yards from the line of scrimmage.

The 35-point rule in NJSIAA football, the 10-run rule in baseball and softball and the 35-point rule in Cape-Atlantic League basketball are also not positives. In most cases, those rules just reduce the amount of time the backup players get to play. And they certainly haven’t reduced the number of blowouts.

Soccer purists (they probably call it football) probably would be upset but why can’t the clock be stopped when play stops and stoppage time, that we see in most professional play, eliminated. Then everybody would actually know how much time is left in the game, like in high school soccer.

Just a few ideas. Are there any rules you don’t like?

 

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