I’ve been playing and watching baseball my entire life. The only major change to the game in my lifetime has been the implementation of instant replay and the challenge rule, which I think we can all agree enhances the game. While I’m open to changes that enhance the game, I disagree completely with those that change the fundamentals and core aspects of the game we’ve all grown up with and love.
Source: Sports Illustrated
Recently, Commissioner Manfred and Co. have been toying with the idea of making some major changes to the game consistent with the theme of “speeding up the game”. This has been explored and challenged thoroughly in pieces by BYB’s own Barry Millman and Jeanna Bellezza. The biggest rule changes coming down the pipeline for this season are eliminating the 4-pitch intentional walk and in the minors, putting a runner on 2nd in every extra inning starting in the 10th. As far as I’m concerned, these are decisions that would just be bad for the game, altering it’s organic excitement and coherence. In order words, it just sucks.
I suppose the lesser of the two evils is the intentional walk which reportedly has found it’s way into the 2017 MLB rules as a sort of compromise as they discuss the bigger changes in 2018. According to CBS Sports, “All it would take here is the motioning of an intentional walk by the MLB manager from the dugout and instead of the pitcher soft tossing four straight pitches out of the strike zone to the catcher, the batter would just take first base.There’s no word yet on what the dugout signal will be — probably something creative, like, say, holding up four fingers — but this seems like a relatively small tweak that will save a minute here or there without impacting the integrity of the game. Given the trifling differences — there were 932 intentional walks issued in 2016, or about two every five games — you could argue there was no reason to tweak anything about the intentional walk process.”
Allowing the manager to just signal from the dugout for a walk and the batter just goes to first without the pitcher throwing the pitches takes out an opportunity for some exciting baseball in my mind. As easy as it seems, I know from personal experience how hard it is for a pitcher and catcher to execute this play in a situation where tensions are high. I’ve been the catcher in a championship game where we LOST because the pitcher threw one of the intentional walk pitches over my head and the winning run scored, (Suzie Pinstripe can attest to this). Our very own Gary Sanchez had one of the crazier intentional walk plays I’ve seen last season when he drove one of the pitches to the warning track for a sac fly. Taking away this organic part of the game just alters the future just a bit too much for my liking.
Source: NY Daily News
The more controversial of the two pace accelerating changes is the extra inning alteration. As reported on Sports Illustrated.com, “Major League Baseball plans on testing a rule change in the minor leagues this season that automatically would place a runner on second base to start extra innings, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan.” A variation of this rule was implemented in the World BaseBALL Classic but it looks like this in modified international play:
“For any inning beginning with the 11th inning, the Federation Team at bat shall begin the inning with runners on first and second base. The batter who leads off an inning shall continue to be the batter who would lead off the inning in the absence of this extra-innings rule. The runner on first base shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding the batter who leads off the inning. The runner on second base shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding the runner on first base,” reports MLB.com.
First of all, it would turn into a cycle of small-ball until one of the teams successfully executes a bunt play and a sac fly. Some of the most exciting moments in baseball history come from extra innings, remember how many walk-offs we had in 2009? Remember the pies in the face? We started that!
The example I continue to go back to is the 4 game series against the Red Sox in August of 2009 when the game went into the bottom of the 16th and Alex Rodriguez blasted a walk-off homer into the bullpen. My mom was there by the way, without me. Second of all, plain and simple that’s not baseball. That’s not how baseball works. You have to find a way to score and win in extras and you play until it’s over. That’s it. When I was playing they used to cut the games off after a certain amount of innings because we were young, but my teammates and I always wished they would let us keep playing. Changing that rule, especially in the minors for the young guys, simply hurts the game. I can’t imagine the kids in the minors accepting this rule with open arms, when they’ve grown up playing the game the right way.
Source: NY Daily News
The worst part about all of these changes is that it’s all about money, ratings, and TV scheduling. Networks that carry the games complain about having to airing baseball games because it’s impossible to judge how slow or how fast a game’s going to be. There is no clock, there are no timeouts, and there never has been. You get 3 outs and 9 innings, however long it takes to complete that is how long it takes. And if it’s tied after 9, you go until someone wins. For television networks, it hurts them because they care more about the performance of their shows and the audience for the shows that are scheduled to air after the game.
As someone who is going to school studying this stuff, it’s discouraging. I’m first and foremost a baseball fan, and when those two worlds clash it’s frustrating. Commissioner Manfred is more worried about appeasing the media networks than appeasing the fans. “Speeding up the game,” hurts the game. Baseball is not for everyone. Capturing the people who find the game “too boring to watch,” should not be the focus. The focus should be enhancing the game we know and love; the game that’s been around for over 100 years, the game every generation grows up with the same way and will continue to grow up with for years to come.
–Chris Carbonaro BYB Writer Follow me on Twitter:@Carbs_