Speaking of umpires, umpires need to enforce the rules rather than either making them up ("No, that's only a strike when the count is 3-0"), inventing them ("Ah, that's the 'neighborhood play' as found in section...um, section...well it's the 'neighborhood play'"), ignoring them ("You have 20 seconds to throw the pitch, Betancourt, and you're now at 18...19...19.5...19.9...19.92...Seriously, throw it soon, ok?"), not noticing them ("No, he's not out unless he's tagged while not on the base. He was? Right in front of me? You don't say!"), or randomly channeling Shakespeare ("Ah, but Mauer, you see: Fair is foul...").
And while we're asking the umpires to enforce the rules, could we make a few of the rules better? Some changes I'd like to see...
* Rule Change #1: You can make two trips to the mound each inning before you must make a pitching change. And this includes the catcher.
This would speed up games and would also force baseball players to play the game like athletes do in every other sport. In basketball, you don't see the point guard drive to the left wing, look at the center posting up, and go, "Hang on, hang on -- hey Andre, Larry, come over here. I think we need to set up a bit differently..." You get a very limited number of timeouts if you want to have those discussions, or you can have them during natural breaks such as free throws, TV timeouts, and strategic mascot decapitations ("Oops, clumsy me! I thought for sure I was firing the ball to my center. Well, as long as there's a break let me chat with my small forward").
In baseball, the catcher puts down signs, the pitcher can shake them off -- if there's true uncertainty about what the signs are, the catcher can use up a trip to the mound to sort things out. Heck, in any given inning the catcher can go out one time and later in the inning the pitching coach can still come out to settle the pitcher down by fondling his ass and pointing out that "go get 'em" is an excellent strategy.
This is a baseball game, not a series of committee meetings. Only in baseball would the shortstop have the nerve to join 3 committee meetings in 10 minutes and never once bring refreshments.
* Rule Change #2: Only the base umpire rules on a check swing.
It is absurd, in my opinion, for the home plate umpire ever to judge a check swing. For him to do so is essentially an admission that he was focused partly on the bat at precisely the time he was supposed to be watching the pitch. Meanwhile, you have someone else who at the moment the pitch crosses the plate, has nothing else to do except watch for a check swing, who is in an excellent position to judge a check swing, and who -- and this is a stroke of good fortune -- happens to be one of the umpires.
Furthermore, why does there need to be an appeal? If a right-handed batter checks his swing and the 1B umpires sees it as a swing, why can't he just indicate that it's a strike? And if not, indicate "no swing." It should be his call, and only his call, and like with every other call in the world, perhaps the umpire whose call it is should just go ahead and -- gee I don't know -- make the call?
All this would save Adrian Beltre a lot of trouble. (Not that you can blame Beltre for trying to preserve any balls he can.)
* Rule "Change" #3: There is no such thing as the "neighborhood play" and no such thing as a "takeout slide."
Leave the "neighborhood play" to Mr. Rogers and leave "takeout" to Chinese food. The former is not necessary without the latter, and the latter is barbaric. Plus, neither actually exists in the spirit -- or language -- of the rules of baseball. You are supposed to get forced runners out by touching the base, not by getting near it, and you are supposed to slide in order to avoid going past the bag, not to disrupt the fielder by maiming him.
Either give the middle infielders a tape measure in order to establish "proximity" as they turn two, and give the baserunner a Bengal tiger in order to assist with the maiming process, or get rid of both conventions that don't actually exist and force both sides to play actual baseball on a DP grounder.
What do you think? And what did I miss?