Slant Pattern Mailbag

Welcome to another edition of the Slant Pattern mailbag. As always, I do not get my own questions sent to me, but instead I poach them from other sites on the web.

Todd asks the Chattanooga Times Free Press: "I know you love baseball, so I was wondering which of the new rules you like the most and the one you hate the most?"

Gosh, Todd, how did you know I love baseball? Oh right, yeah, this wasn't intended for me originally.

This is a spicy take, one that the purists can't stand, but I like that the rule where there is a runner on second to start extra innings is remaining in effect.

It's not because it makes the game faster, I don't care about that. It's because it's exciting.

It's pretty simple. A runner in scoring position in a tie game in what could very well be the last inning is a high-leverage, exciting situation. It's inorganic, yes, but while everyone seems to moan in every sport that the games last too long, for some reason this way of shortening games — by making them more exciting — is beyond the pale?

I do not like the new shift rules. I'd be more okay with it if they painted lines from each side of second base to the outfield grass, but there's no way they are going to do anything that drastic.

That means what we are headed for are debates and reviews about whether this defender was truly and illegally shifted during play. Can't wait.

Sticking with rule changes meant to speed up games, here's another one, from Jackson to Saturday Down South: "What's your take on college football's reported consideration of changes to the clock rules?"

In case you missed it, the clock is no longer going to stop on first down unless there's two minutes or less left in the half or game, you can't call consecutive timeouts (an anti-icing-kicker measure), the clock will start when the ball is spotted after incomplete passes, and there will be no more untimed downs on plays to end the first and third quarters.

I don't have a huge problem with any of these. I do think if a coach saved all their timeouts, they should be able to use them as they damn well please. Hell, I'm waiting for a coach to use all three of his timeouts in attempt to ice the kicker. That would be annoying for the kicking team, and isn't that what will make them more likely to miss the kick?

SDS had much to say about hating the new clock-starts-on-signal on incomplete passes, but that the clock used to stop in that situation always seemed a bit arbitrary to me.

We also have a basketball question asked of Saturday Down South: "If Tennessee and Kentucky don't advance past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, who is under more pressure next year? Rick Barnes or John Calipari?" asks Dobbe8.

I'm cheating a little bit obviously, because I already know that Barnes did and Calipari did not make it out of the first weekend. I don't think either of them will be under a ton of pressure next year.

Calipari has been at UK for 14 years now, and even at a storied program like Kentucky, the longer you have been at the helm, the harder it is to get rid of you. It seems as though Kentucky is the school that attracts the most blue chips that seem like one-and-done types. Despite this, Kentucky has amassed at least 10 conference wins — in an underrated basketball conference — all but one of those 14 years. I don't know, maybe I'm really answering a question you didn't ask — should Calipari be on the hot seat? — with a "no." Barnes is absolutely 100% safe, and was even if he lost opening weekend.

Finally, we close with a tennis question posed to Sports Illustrated, with Steve from L.A. asking: "Serious question: what do you think Andy Murray is doing and what is motivating him? I loved watching him in Australia, but it doesn't change the fact that he lost in the third round and is now ranked No. 70. I'm curious what you make of this?"

I think Murray sees an opening in the landscape of men's tennis to still be able to make some noise, and I think that is what motivates him. It seemed certain a few years ago he would retire to frankly devote his post-tennis career to pain management. So by working his way back into relevancy (and top 70 is still relevant), he's showing a pretty indomitable spirit, buoyed by, once again, this not being the strongest era of players a bit younger than him (called "Generation Useless" on the Men's Tennis Forums.)

My hat is off to him, and Stan Wawrinka, too, who is doing the same thing.

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