The Norman Transcript

National Sports

July 16, 2014

Could MLB bring mound down again?

MINNEAPOLIS — Baseball has a problem: Clayton Kershaw, Aroldis Chapman, Felix Hernandez and all the other kings of the hill are just too good.

Ruling with an assortment of big-bending curveballs, sharp sliders and 100 mph heat, a new generation of pitchers has thrown major league hitters into a huge slump.

The spike in strikeouts, the dip in home runs and worries that the game is becoming boring for fans reminds some people of 1968, when Bob Gibson, Denny McLain and their fellow aces dominated.

Back then, the sport came up with a radical solution: The pitcher’s mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 and the strike zone was reduced.

Combined with the addition of four expansion teams, the result was an 11-point increase in the big league batting average in 1969 and a 19 percent rise in runs.

Should baseball drop the mound again?

“I don’t know, man, maybe if they keep going like this,” Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton said Monday at the All-Star festivities.

“Move the mound back 5 feet,” he added with a chuckle.

There’s some thought that reducing the mound would combat the outbreak of blown-out elbows, which has seen stars such as Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez needing reconstructive surgery, and could also claim Masahiro Tanaka.

With low-run games again in vogue and defensive shifts taking away hits, there’s been more emphasis on small ball. That’s prompted questions about whether this is a cyclical change, or if this style is here to stay.

From his vantage point in the New York Mets’ broadcast booth, former NL MVP Keith Hernandez has an unusual analysis and an equally drastic solution.

“They should get rid of four teams,” he said. “Too many players. There’s too much dilution of talent. The pitching’s not better. It’s the same.”

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