On Tuesday it was announced, to much fanfare, that bullpen carts are slated to make a triumphant return to Major League Baseball in 2018 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bullpen carts were a mainstay of professional baseball from the 1950s all the way up until 1995 when the last iteration of the form of transport was used by the Milwaukee Brewers when they brought relievers in sitting in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle.
We are assured to see the bullpen cart re-appear across the league in the next few years and while lip service may be given to pace of play considerations and nostalgia, don’t get it twisted. The driving factor is the almighty dollar. Two words: advertising revenue.
I’m sure everyone will be using the same basic set-up of a slightly modified golf cart with some sort of corporate logo emblazoned upon it. I’m hoping the Tigers don’t go down that road. Pitching changes brought to you by the good folks at Wallside Windows are fine, but there are some opportunities to get creative here. I have a few ideas.
With the money the Ilitch family is saving on not fielding a contending baseball team, they could afford to funnel some cash into a new research and development department focused solely on the most entertaining — and questionably efficient — means of transport from the bullpen to the mound. But efficiency would be an unexpected byproduct here. Like Pfizer trying to develop a heart medication and coming up with the gold mine that is boner pills.
Let’s take a look at the top options.
The Phil Coke Method
The latest news on one-time bullpen stalwart, Lord of House Finger Point, King of the Glove-Slam, first of his name Phil Coke, is that he’s trying to reinvent himself as a knuckleballer.
First off, if the Tigers decided to sign him as an actual pitcher I would be happier than Rod Allen describing a muscular power hitter, but the odds of it happening in Detroit, or anywhere for that matter, are slim. So, here’s what the Tigers need to do. Have Jim Leyland come to Phil’s house with a briefcase full of cash and have a very frank conversation about the twilight of a career and new opportunities. I’m sure the word “horseshit” would come in there somewhere.
Once you get Phil on board you then work on designing some sort of lightweight harness, like the external frame backpack kid carrier things people put on when they want to hike, but don’t want to look at or be reminded they have a child. With the development of this technology, a call to the bullpen would result in Daniel Stumpf strapping into the harness and charging in on the back of a sprinting Phil Coke.
Phil’s a big dude. I don’t think the extra weight wold slow him down that much at all.
Other methods based on former Tigers relievers
- In honor of Jose Valverde, a giant motorized potato.
- A giant cart shaped like Mike Henneman’s head and the incoming reliever rides in on his cleft chin.
- A literal rollercoaster named for Todd Jones.
- A large truck like the one from Mad Max Fury Road but instead of an actual guitar, the reliever is playing Guitar Hero against Joel Zumaya. They could probably get him to do it. I doubt he’s super busy.
- The Jason Grilli cart of shame. I haven’t nailed down the particulars, but it would involve Jim Leyland saying some things that are not very nice.
How entertaining would it be to see a call go out to the bullpen and to watch some terrified pitcher crawl into a steel tube with the knowledge that he’s about to get fired into the infield? Sure the cannon is problematic for a lot of reasons, but with all the new netting, and some additional reasonable safety measures, it should be pretty easy to catapult a dude toward the general vicinity of the mound and feel reasonably confident that he won’t die.
The Pneumatic Tube
It works for a variety of businesses. These tubes deliver money, mail, and other small paper items so why not go big and make one we can cram a man into? Those things move fast, and the satisfying “shwump” sound that it would make the dozen or so times Shane Greene sets off toward the mound to close a game would be worth it on it’s own. There’s also the element of surprise.
Say Matt Boyd is struggling in the 6th. Gardenhire motions to the bullpen. The crowd waits in silence as a hatch behind the mound opens and up from the ground emerges Chad Bell, at which point the crowd swears in unison because nobody wants to see Chad Bell in this — or any — situation, but the anticipation of his arrival is almost worth the disappointment. Almost.
The Curling method
With the recent Winter Olympics, curling is undergoing its most current four-year renaissance. How fun would it be to watch the bullpen gate open and see Buck Farmer come sliding in on a large motorized curling stone while Brayan Pena and the bullpen catchers sweep feverishly to ensure that he comes softly to rest on the mound?
The American Gladiator
This one offers a certain level of fan involvement. It’s the 8th inning and Ron Gardenhire calls for a pitching change. A quick survey pops up on the scoreboard. “Who should the Tigers bring in?” A list of choices appears followed by an invitation to Text your choice to 1-888-ISELLLAWNEQUIPMENTBUTIMPRETTYSUREICOULDMANAGEAPROTEAM.
If the fan choice and the Gardenhire choice line up, then all is well. If not, two large tennis ball cannons like the kind they used on American Gladiator emerge on the roofs of the home and visiting dugouts. They are armed by a rotating cast of former Tiger favorites. Guys like Brandon Inge, Phil Coke (he can split time), Andy Dirks, and Joba Chamberlain. If the reliever makes it to the mound without getting hit, he pitches. If he doesn’t, the fan choice toes the rubber.
You can’t tell me this wouldn’t be wildly successful.
The selected reliever has to don a pair of adult sized Tiger footie pajamas and climb aboard a gigantic Roomba that he would have to ride until it randomly found its way to the mound. There would be a certain level of chance here. A manager would have to consider if bringing in a new pitcher for that last out would be worth the possibility of having to watch a grown man in tiger pajamas sit on a giant vacuum cleaner slamming itself into the right field corner for 45 minutes.
The live tiger
This one has an intimidation factor to it. Watching a guy ride out all saddled up on a full-grown Bengal tiger would definitely get in the head of an opposing batter. It would be a gamble for all parties involved, no doubt. You never know when your tiger is gonna go all Siegfried and Roy on any random player on the field, but that would be part of the excitement. Kind of like watching a game called by Rod Allen and Jim Price.
These are just a few of the many options the organization could choose when considering new and innovative ways of subbing in a relief pitcher. The bullpen cart is great, don’t get me wrong, but please, Detroit, for the fans, dare to dream.