TD Ballpark was empty last week with the Dunedin Blue Jays on a road trip, so there was plenty of time to randomly muse over baseball and complaints about the “newly improved” game from an old man yelling at noisy birds.

First, Blue Jays prospect Rafael Ohashi had a rough outing in Fort Myers last week, giving up three runs in five innings against the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. But his earned run average is still a nifty 1.80.

Meanwhile, a pair of loudmouth Bradenton Marauders fans recently disregarded Blue Jays manager Donnie Murphy’s unwritten rule that fans should not get personal when crabbing about play. The two oafs first announced their arrival by waving two beers each while facing the small gathering and screaming, “Bradenton Marauders, let’s go!” 

As they sat behind the Bradenton dugout, their beer-fueled and obnoxious screams filled the largely empty stadium. The two goons were mostly ignored by Dunedin fans. Still, they crossed the line when they aimed their invective personally at Blue Jays reliever Ian Churchill. Each time Churchill wound up to pitch, they would scream his name while invoking his mother and other inappropriate references. Churchill pitched through their nonsense and the Blue Jays won 9-5. The Dunedin victory sweety silenced the two bozos.

The immortal baseball anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” includes the line, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.” They still sell Cracker Jack at TD Ballpark, which is delightful. But the fan favorite betrays its old jingle claiming, “candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize.” These days, the prize is a paper “Arcade” game. A sad concession to modern times.

Let’s hope that the moronic Major League practice of putting a crown or a wig or even, God help us, a cheesehead on players who have just hit a home run doesn’t infect the minor leagues. So far, the often-boisterous Blue Jays players haven’t adopted the clichéd and half-witted practice. Sure, it’s just the players having fun, but the whole idea seems silly and forced.

Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s vandal of a commissioner, has been hell-bent on “improving” the game, citing previously unheard fan demand for shorter games, more steals and bunts and the like. Although introducing the element of time to a game heretofore bereft of a clock is anathema to the game’s purists, it has largely worked to shorten games. The pitch clock is nothing new to Dunedin fans, and the ticker often means Blue Jays games are held to just over two hours.

But no one is holding fans hostage. If the game is too long, they can leave. Alas, the pitch clock is a permanent fixture at all levels of the game and fans can now resume their busy schedules as soon as possible.

Another tactic Manfred cooked up to speed up the game is to eliminate the four pitches required for an intentional walk. Now a manager simply gestures to the umpire and voila, there’s a man on first. This saves as much time as not adding exclamation points to emails.

Baseball is a game of surprises and, although it has happened only 11 times, some intentional walk pitches have become sneaky hits. The last time it happened was when Miguel Cabrera hit an errant pitch off long-forgotten Orioles pitcher Todd Williams for a run-scoring base hit in 2006. The first time it happened, for those keeping score at home, was when the immortal Ty Cobb hit a triple off Eddie Plank in 1907. Sure, it’s rare, but it happens. (Thank you researchers for that answer to a trivia question.)

Here’s another idea to speed up the game, Rob. When a player hits a solo home run, let him walk back to the dugout instead of rounding the bases. The umpire will simply circle with his upraised finger while players don the slugger with a stovepipe hat or some such nonsense. Thusly the game continues, having saved a full minute or so.

Finally, TD Ballpark still seems empty as an abandoned mine shaft during home games.

Dunedin fans, where are you? These games are a lot of fun and the players are real gamers. They could use your help.