As solutions to speed up the game are being considered, MLB may bring back an old and fun solution.
With bullpen specialization, and hitters willing to take walks or strike out without shame, baseball’s pace of play and time of game have become major concerns. Instituting a pitch clock seems to be a dead-end for the 2018 season, pending an agreement on other measures to improve pace of play. But the player’s union has reportedly proposed bringing back bullpen cars, and MLB is considering it for the coming season.
Bullpen cars first surfaced in the 1950s, and they became very popular in the 1970s. But as with a lot of trends, some over-saturation and creative liberties that were taken eventually took bullpen cars out of the game completely in the 1980s.
Here’s a sampling of how bullpen cars looked in the past.
Concerns over field maintenance would be a concern with bullpen cars, as they might do a real number on natural grass outfields. Maintenance and other costs attached to them would also be a potential issue. But they would reduce (or completely eliminate) the need for relievers to run in from the outfield bullpen present in a lot of stadiums while adding a fun element for younger fans to latch onto. A baseball’s audience demographic remains older compared to the other major sports, cultivating fans from a very young age, and making the ballpark experience unique, is something that has to be on MLB’s radar.
MLB teams could come up with a unique design for their bullpen car, within reason, and there are ways to monetize them. The most obvious move would be to sell ad space on a bullpen car, in a fashion much like other ad placements affixed in the stadium and ongoing during games.
It will take seeing bullpen cars in place to know if they are a good fix for pace of play in baseball. But injecting some fun into the game would be nice.