Major League Baseball, in one fell swoop on Friday, made dramatic moves to change its image, while trying to reclaim the excitement of the game that was once America’s national pastime.
Baseball has officially agreed to the most comprehensive rule changes in the history of the sport starting in 2023, and there’s only one question left:
What took all this time?
There will be a pitch clock in MLB for the first time, forcing bowlers to throw the ball within 20 seconds with runners at base or 15 seconds with empty bases. The rackets in the box must be a “bouncer” with at least eight seconds left.
Those defensive shifts with the third base player playing on the short right field, and everyone playing outside the center are now over.
The bases will be increased by three inches, hoping to get players to start thinking about stolen bases again, even limiting the number of collision attempts by bowlers, rather than like a slow-pitch softball game.
Baseball experimented with these changes for years in the minor leagues.
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“I don’t think we have to be right about all of these things,” said Craig Konsell, manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, in his office this spring. “I think that’s one of the ways baseball has to come out. We can be wrong, but we’re trying to improve. We have to try things to make it better. Sometimes you have to fail to do things better. We can be wrong, because that will bring us closer.” Than a better answer.”
If it doesn’t work, you’ll be back on the drawing board, but everyone who’s watched minor league games, from CEOs to scouts to those already playing the game, is convinced it will improve the game.
Sure, something had to be given with the league’s batting average dropping to .243, the lowest level since 1967 and attendance steadily declining.
“I think there’s a misconception that MLB has an interest in trying to completely change the game and reinvent the wheel,” MLB CEO Theo Epstein told USA TODAY Sports after he was hired to help reform the game. We just want to bring the game back to a better balance. The game is constantly changing, and I think over the past 10 years it has been moving in a direction that no one would pick on their own if they were starting from scratch.
“I don’t think anyone is going to sit down and say, ‘Hey, we really want the strike rate to be 25%, 30%? It’s just realizing that the game is changing a little bit. It’s important for everyone who is interested in the game just to have a discussion that can be thoughtful and intentional about guiding in the direction that is beneficial to everyone, especially the fans.
“So, if the game is going to evolve, how can we put some guidelines in place to make sure that it changes in a way that is the best possible version of baseball, action-packed and the most entertaining of the game for fans and players alike?”
Why don’t you try it out?
“We’re not going to break the game,” Koncell says. “We will make it better and we have to start down that path.”
The changes to the rules in the minor leagues have certainly proven effective.
The changes to the rules in the minor leagues have certainly proven effective. There are 26 minutes missing from minor league games with MLB games averaging 3 hours and 6 minutes. Stolen base attempts increased from 2.23 times per game and a success rate of 68% to 2.83 and a success rate of 77%.
The changes will be implemented next spring after baseball’s 11-player Competition Committee formally approved the moves by a 7-4 majority — all four players on the committee voted against the court clock and shift ban, but voted unanimously on the expanded rules — which the commissioner exercised Rob Manfred has been under pressure since he came into office.
The players union, which opposed the unilateral changes Manfred could have made two years ago, finally agreed to the court clock. It’ll be slightly longer in the majors than the minors, giving commissioned bowlers to start pitching in 15 seconds with no one at base, and 20 seconds with runners at base. The hitters must be in the catcher’s box with nine seconds remaining on the clock and in the batter’s box must focus on the bowler with eight seconds remaining. The batter can only ask for time once while the panel appears.
Penalty for breaking the rule: The bowler is charged with the ball and the hitter is charged with a kick.
“I know they say it’s going to hurt the bowler, but I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with it,” an MLB veteran told USA TODAY Sports who was on rehab assignment. “You can’t just go out and clear your mind.”
The transformation, which was on track to be used 71,000 times this year according to Sports Information Solutions, will not be more. The new rule requires all four players to be in front of the outside turf when pitching, with only two players on each side of the second base, and prevents them from switching positions during the inning. Originally, the plan was to have all four players on the dirt, no matter where they stood on the second base side, but the MLB wasn’t sure that would make a difference.
Rule Violation Penalty: A ball is controlled unless the hitter reaches the base. If the hitter hits the sacrifice fly or has a sacrifice, the team has the right to accept play or call a ball.
Perhaps the most surprising new rule is the limitation on the number of take-offs a bowler can make or the times he steps off the rubber. The jugs can be released from the rubber to reset twice as the board appears. They are allowed to go out or try to throw the ball a third time, but they will be charged if they are not logged out.
The bases will also be expanded from 15 inches to 18 inches, which has never stoked objections by anyone, making stealing the bases a little easier while also making it safer for the first base not to be lifted.
The MLB, which could cost them some advertising dollars, agreed to limit the time between innings to two minutes and 15 seconds for regular season games, 2:40 for nationally televised games and 3:10 for post-season games.
Hill visits will be limited to 30 seconds when the manager, shooting coach, or player leaves their position to come to the hill.
They even shorten the time to listen to music, leaving only 10 seconds of some tunes and songs.
There will be a time when baseball will have an automatic strike zone as well, no earlier than 2024. Baseball could further reduce the shooting team to 12, instead of the current 13 through September.
However, players were not prepared with all the changes in the rules.
“Players live the game day in and day out,” the MLB Players Association said in a statement. “On-field rules and regulations affect their preparation and performance, and ultimately the integrity of the game itself. Player leaders from across the league participated in on-field rules negotiations through the Competition Committee, providing specific, actionable feedback on the changes proposed by the Commissioner’s office. Major League Baseball was non-existent. Desiring to meaningfully address areas of concern raised by players, and as a result, players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against the implementation of rules covering defensive transitions and the use of pitch timers.”
Who knows, maybe the hits will be lower, the hits will be higher, the action will be fast, the games will be shorter, and baseball can once again become America’s national pastime.
Well, if nothing else, be a patriotic pastime on the days when the NFL doesn’t play.
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