In 1986, legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke wrote a book that explored what the world might look like in the year 2019. Titled July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century, the book has predictions about everything from transportation to sex. But it's his predictions about sports of the future that may raise a few eyebrows for baseball fans here in the year 2013. Bionic shoulders, 57-year-old third basemen, and open steroid use? Just a regular day for Major League Baseball in the year 2019, according to Clarke.
Clarke's predictions were presented in the form of a 2019 L.A. Dodgers scouting report for the New York Yankees by Don Mattingly. (In a fun present-day twist, Mattingly spent his entire career with the Yankees but is currently the Dodgers manager).
As we can see from the report, teams now get to make drastic physical changes to their stadiums in order to throw off the opposing team. Worried about home runs? Just swing your fences out a couple hundred feet. Want to steal more bases? Swap out the astroturf to your preferred quality.
Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers
Prospectus: It's our power and fielding against their pitching and speed. Our Sportspak computers say we'll win if we get 4.2 runs a game.
Away Games: LA. will swing the Dodgersdome fences out beyond 500 feet to cut down our home-run production. And they'll stick with their hardest artificial turf so they get better bounce and traction for base-stealing.
Home Games: We'll roll out our softest Astroturf to slow them down, and with our short 450-foot fences and our boron bats, we should light up the sky in the Yankeesdome with homers. Also, the computers show the Dodgers win 11 percent fewer games when the temperature falls below 68°F; we'll turn off the indoor heating systems and retract the dome, using the late autumn chill to our advantage.
Rufus Lincoln—right-hander. Throws fastballs, fastballs, fastballs, but never gets tired. Since his bionic shoulder and elbow implant two years back, he can go 9 innings every other day. We've clocked him at 120 mph.
Sol "The Prof" Hershowitz—southpaw with pinpoint control. The Dodgers have the best biomechanical analysis system in baseball. The Prof has spent more time perfecting his pitching motion with the digitizer and high-speed videotape than he has on the mound.
Tom "Twitch" Sully—their right-handed ace. He had augmented electrical muscle impulses cloned from Hall-of-Famer Dwight Gooden's muscles the year before Gooden retired. Consequently, his fastball breaks bats and his curveball could swerve around the corner of a building. You can rile him, though—they forgot to save Gooden's alpha brain waves.
Ralph Shandy—15-year-old rookie relief pitcher who throws with both hands. He has a terrific screwball and forkball, but he's pretty wild. It seems the Dodgers have been racing him along too fast with the growth hormones.
Cary Goiter—right-hander. Always had a consistent bat and a great arm. Until last year, though, he couldn't hold onto knuckleballs, and years of catching had turned his hand to sausage. The deep-webbed impact-free mitt solved all his problems.
Jerry Rodriguez—right-handed third baseman. Diludin-crystal derivatives could only hold off his aging process so long. At 57, his reflexes are slipping. But he's already planning his next career—racing a solar sail around the Moon.
Bud Garvey—right-handed first baseman. He can hit any kind of pitch you throw Steve Garvey the Dodgers's old first baseman, sired him so well that he keeps getting black market requests around the league to produce more offspring.
Sam Juice—southpaw second baseman. Good speed but sloppy with the glove. His dad ignored his infant anatomy profile, which showed he was best suited for football.
Gary Yamamoto—shortstop. Yamamoto made a big mistake when he switched from the Tokyo to the Tucson National Baseball Camp at the age of 12. The Tucson graduates all have trouble hitting curveballs.
Lance Nihilator—switch-hitting center fielder who can catch any ball hit within a block of him. The Dodgers's steroid program has helped him get down to 8.7 seconds in the 100-meter dash, just .3 off the world record. He stole 207 bases this season.
Bill Black—southpaw left fielder. Almost as fast as Nihilator. His leg was shattered while parachuting between ski slopes during the off season, and we thought it might slow him down, but the trainer sealed up all the cracks immediately with bonding solution. Electric stim has almost got the bone back to full strength.
Enos Tramweigh—right-handed right fielder. This rookie could barely hit or throw a ball across a room at the start of the season. The Dodgers lasered away some bone chips in his elbow, then hooked him up with electrodes to a computerized strength-training machine day after day. Now he's got a gun for an arm and ended up hitting 30 homers.
What's perhaps most interesting is that even those innovations that could scientifically happen in the next six years likely won't; there are few sports more averse to change than baseball, and few more tightly regulated. Growth hormones and steroids played their part in the 90s and early 2000s but have been beaten back with strict penalties; even when career-extending equipment does get introduced, players are loathe to adopt it.
It's tempting to suggest that Clarke should have aimed lower, but it's probably pointless setting any sort of bar for a sport that didn't embrace instant replay until just five back.
Image: Getty Images, Orel Hershiser pitches during a 1986 game at Dodger Stadium