Four Reasons Major League Baseball Should Consider Using Earpieces

Earpieces could do away with glove-over-mouth mound huddles, among other time killers.

by Paul West

Baseball is still as great as ever, and in no immediate danger of vanishing from the American sports landscape; in fact, thanks in part to a thrilling KBO season and the star power of young players like Fernando Tatis Jr., baseball might be preparing for a rebound. Still, there are clouds hanging over the sport: the persistence of toxic in-house environments at the top, the ever-present chatter about how ‘juiced’ the baseball is at any given time, and the overblown matter of ‘pace of play.’ The preponderance of ‘true outcomes’ and the lack of balls in play is problematic; but at the risk of sounding like a luddite, I daresay that baseball needn’t be made enticing to people who don’t appreciate its fine points. Nonetheless, I offer a modest proposal which could take the edge off of problems real and imagined: the introduction of earpieces, and a ‘play calling’ apparatus somewhat like quarterbacks and coordinators use in football.

Pace Of Play

The ‘pace of play’ enthusiasts (including those who are simply insufficiently appreciative of what makes the game special) will love this: delivering signals via earpiece will save battery mates several minutes a game, if not more. Prolonged bouts of squinting to see the catcher’s signs–battling sunlight, dusk, and/or the catcher’s attempts to make their signs visible only to the pitcher–will be a thing of the past. Also eliminated will be the ‘get on the same page’ mound visit, the stepoff to reshuffle the signals, and standing around with gloves over mouths to conference without lips being read.

One Less Outdated ‘Unwritten Rule’

Incredibly, one of baseball’s ‘unwritten rules’ says that peeking at a catcher’s signals or positioning–even if they’re clearly visible to the naked eye–is grounds for dangerous retaliation. In a game where doctoring baseballs was celebrated for decades, somehow an offensive player is supposed to pretend not to see it if a catcher is set up way off the plate and/or presenting signals in an obvious fashion. If pitch calls could be relayed via earpiece, this silly aspect of the game would finally be a bygone relic.

Pitchers Could Still ‘Shake Off’ Signs

As with quarterbacks, signals delivered via earpiece would still leave room for ‘audibles,’ i.e. choosing to go with another pitch or location; it just wouldn’t take as long. Pitchers deciphering, considering, and ‘shaking off’ signs is something which eats up game time by attrition, in a way that provides little of value.

Position Players Could Use Them, Too

To some, this might be taking things a bit far; but players sometimes wear earpieces to be interviewed while on the field, so it’s definitely something to which they could acclimate. Meanwhile, dugouts could relay positional shifts or hitting tendencies–or even pitch selection–to fielders, who could adjust accordingly instead of peering in to watch the bench coach’s coded gyrations.

The experiment should begin with pitchers and catchers, and be used for the sake of relaying pitching strategy. If players take to it–which seems likely–its use can be expanded to position players, and even hitters. Making the communication process more fluid and glitch free would not just shorten game times, it would do it without compromising strategic sensibility or dramatic tension.

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