When Pete Rose won NL MVP in 1973, the league-wide batting average (.254) was 10 points higher than it is in today’s game (.244) and strikeouts accounted for just 14% of all at-bats instead of today’s sky- high figure of 25%.
It was a decidedly different game, and as Rose makes his notable return to a Major League Baseball diamond in Philadelphia this weekend to participate in the Phillies’ 1980 team reunion for alumni weekend, the former player and manager sees a game changing in front of him .
And he’s not sure whether he likes what he sees.
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Rose, 81, who is still suspended from Major League Baseball because he gambled on games during his time as a player and manager, joined the Takeoff with John Clark podcast this week to chat about his return to Philly, his legacy, the city, and plenty more from Rose’s long past.
But the two also discussed what’s to come, namely three main sticking points in the future of baseball: robot umpires, the pitch clock, and analytics.
Here’s a sampling of what Rose had to offer on each topic.
On the possibility of robot umpires replacing human umps
“ROSE: No. That’s out of my corner, too. I believe the umpires do a good job. I had my run-ins with umpires, but umpires are a big part of the game. It’s a shame they can’t be a bigger part of the game.
“Whenever [two of Rose’s good umpire friends] would come in for a weekend series in Cincinnati, I would always go to their hotel on Sunday morning and have breakfast with ’em on the way to the ballpark. Now if I did that today, and a situation came up where they ruled in my favor in the ninth inning, they’d think the gamblers got to us. So umpires can’t be as big a part of the game as they’d like to be, as they should be. I used to get my haircut at the ballpark in the umpires’ room. I’d get it cut before they got there, so I got to know the umpires pretty well.
“With the replays, if they miss it, they’ll overturn it. So umpires get every call right now. A close call, all you gotta do is review it. That takes time, too. But when they review most plays they’ ll prove that the umpires are right, they’re doing a good job. Leave the umpires alone. Speed up the game.”
On analytics saying players shouldn’t run out each ground ball
“ROSE: No. I don’t want ’em on my team. I managed in the big leagues 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89. I can’t imagine telling Barry Larkin or Chris Sabo or Paul O’Neill to hit a ground ball and not run it out, okay? Because as soon as you don’t, the guy’s gonna boot it and you’re gonna be embarrassed. Hey, you’re out there for two and a half hours on a daily basis. I don’t want anybody to tell me that you’re going to get tired because you run a ball out, okay? You’re feeding right into the people who don’t like you if you don’t run a I never heard of a manager telling a player – and I’m surprised Tony La Russa, who’s had success as a manager, would tell his players not to run a ball out.
[Clark points out the decision could be coming from analytics departments.]
“ROSE: Get rid of ’em. I don’t want ’em in my dugout, I don’t want ’em talking to my players. I played 3,558 [correction: 3,562] games and I don’t ever remember getting tired during the game.”
On the prospect of a pitch clock to speed up the game
“ROSE: I don’t like the pitch clock, but it seems like baseball – and I like [Rob] Manfred, he’s doing a good job with the league – but I think the only thing they don’t address in baseball, the rules committee, is how to speed up the game.
“I was watching [Jose] Altuve last night with Houston, every pitch – ball, strike, whatever it is – he stepped out and re-adjusted his batting gloves. I counted. Every frickin’ pitch. They all do that. The people who love that are concessionaires, because the game is longer. They’re gonna sell more hot dogs, they’re gonna sell more beers.
“They’ve got to figure out a way – I don’t want a pitch clock where you’re worrying about, you’ve got 30 seconds to throw the ball. What if a guy gets a bug in his eye? He’s got to step out. I don’t know what the remedy would be to speed up the games, but it seems like back in the 60s we had faster games because the players weren’t jumping in and out of the batter’s box. There’s so many pitcher changes today. Every time you have a pitching change, you have a new pitcher warming up, he’s coming in from the bullpen, that all adds to the time of the game.”