As a baseball fan, aside from the “unwinding” of recently (for baseball, 30+ years counts) rules such as the DH rule, I’d like to see:
[ul][li]Repeal of the rule stating that bunting foul with two strikes is a strikeout. Why should a foul bunt on 2 strikes be any different from any other foul ball with the same count? It’s one of those “logically inconsistent” things in baseball that has always bugged me (as opposed to the ones that I find charming). This would also somewhat extend the time at bat for many a pitcher’s spot in the NL, which would eliminate some of the “need” behind the DH rule.[/li]
[li]Only one timeout call per batter per plate appearance. How many times do we see the pitcher stare in, go into the windup… and hold on, the batter wants to adjust his gloves or footing, or maybe disrupt the pitcher’s timing? Fine, but just once. Then you’ll just have to wait for the pitch like all the fans watching the game. It’s always the umpire’s prerogative to call or not call time, of course, but having it in the rulebook that it can only be called once per plate appearance would do a lot to speed the game up in a natural way.[/li]
[li]Replacing umpires calling balls and strikes with a fixed strike zone machine. This is really radical and has no chance of ever happening (unlike maybe the first two suggestions), but I hate hearing all the time about what the strike zone du jour appears to be, and if it’s consistent throughout the game or not, and how part of a rookie’s learning curve is learning about the strike zone tendencies called by various Major League umpires.[/li]
Instead, we should be able to come up with a radar or infrared based device that fixes a strike zone “box” of about 2 feet by 2-1/2 feet (or whatever the proper dimensions are ultimately judged to be) at a fixed height (say, 2-1/2 feet) over home plate. This would be just like the box with an X through it that one chalks or tapes up on a wall for playing stickball, except in front of instead of behind the batter. Any pitch that has a part of the ball pass through that zone is a strike. Nothing else.
Anybody could then get a similar machine and practice hitting and pitching to a Major League standard strike zone in their own backyard as easily as practicing free throws to a hoop set to an NBA height. Consistency of balls and strikes would be 100% across all levels of baseball, and across all pitchers and batters. The “outside corner” is two feet up from the corner of home plate, period.
On the downside, this would put shorter batters at something of a disadvantage (though I’m not sure what the “crossover point” height would be) since for them the strike zone would be relatively larger than it would be now, as it would not be defined by the distance from their knees to the letters. On the other hand, no more Eddie Gaedel schemes to draw a walk.[/ul]
In pro basketball, aside from seeing more traveling calls made (especially that “bunny hop” a lot of players do leading in to taking a jump shot), I would love to see the NBA institute a one-and-one free throw instead of the automatic two for getting fouled while shooting (unless over the foul limit for a quarter). No particular reason, except that I feel foul shooting is one of those fundamentals that get glossed over these days, and deserves a slightly higher premium on it.