In recent weeks, numerous rule changes have been proposed by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners. Both ideas were floated last fall, well before the recent collective bargaining agreement negotiations, but seemed to disappear from the table without a trace during those talks. Both sides expedited agreement at the time by sticking to bigger issues, but that makes it all the more surprising to see this renewed push right before spring training begins.
Major League Baseball has been concerned about the length of games for some time now, fearing that the game time is hurting their ability to compete with football and basketball for new fans. Never mind the fact that baseball games take no longer than football games do. The introduction of pitch clocks, for example, was a direct frontal assault on game times. Eliminating the four pitches required for an intentional walk would certainly cut seconds off of some games.
However that’s an extremely small return in exchange for meddling with one of the game’s fundamental premises. There were 932 intentional walks handed out in 2016. Substantially fewer than half of all games played even feature the offending walk. Thus, the hope that this will trim a meaningful amount of time from baseball games seems to have no real basis.
While the left hand wants to squeeze that minimal amount of time out of the game, the right hand is working in the opposite direction. The strike zone has already grown over where it was a decade ago, particularly to right-handed hitters. Strikeout rates have risen as a result. The proposed rule change would reduce the strike zone by 34 square inches, or 7.2 percent of its current size. Presumably, hitters everywhere love this idea, while pitchers do not. Offense is more entertaining to the average fan than a pitching duel, but there’s a problem: more offense equals longer game times.
Wait, it gets much worse
While those rule changes seem at odds, neither would fundamentally alter baseball. Future fans will never know the joy of Miguel Cabrera or Vlad Guerrero reaching out and drilling a pitch intended as an intentional ball. I suppose they’ll survive.
But as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports, the commissioner has an even worse idea. MLB will begin experimenting with a change that would place an automatic runner on second base in extra innings games. The move will be rolled out in the lower levels of the minor leagues this season.
Needless to say, I loathe this idea with the fury of a thousand suns. If you ask me, the lower minor leagues are the perfect place for bad ideas and gimmickry. Keep it out of the majors. We can only hope to get Joe Torre under control before his experiments with some kind of “shoot-out” come to fruition. I agree with others that baseball is much better weird, and occasionally far too long. Have to get up early for work? Just go to bed and come to Bless You Boys in the morning. We’ll have you covered.
Meanwhile, the Twittersphere had plenty of suggestions for Commissioner Manfred. I’ve included a few that were actually permissible by law.
Here's an idea.— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) February 9, 2017
FEWER GODDAMNED COMMERCIALS. https://t.co/7NKuH05Npp
every time baseball goes to extra innings, the two teams should be required to play a single quarter of nfl-rules football— Rian Watt (@rianwatt) February 8, 2017
If they need more ideas for extra innings, our list of baseball predecessor games offers some options: https://t.co/P5KyDGBOHi #SABR pic.twitter.com/qixlBAvpzs— SABR (@sabr) February 9, 2017
A ghost runner starting on second base in extra innings? In a real @MLB game? pic.twitter.com/KOKxXgxorH— Baseball Photos (@Baseball_Photos) February 9, 2017
Okay, the egg-hat concept intrigues me...
A very terrible top ten list of second basemen for you to mock
.@Jim_Duquette's top 10 2B— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) February 8, 2017
Maybe it’s not that terrible, but Ian Kinsler ninth? Behind Dustin Pedroia and Rougned Odor? Get outta here.
World Baseball Classic Time!
The World Baseball Classic doesn’t get underway for almost a month, but the rosters are now set in stone. Team USA announced their complete roster on Wednesday. ESPN has their team power rankings out. The defending champion, Dominican Republic, is once again the favorite, while the U.S. ranks second. Meanwhile, we have you covered in terms of your favorite Tigers and where to find them. As it turns out, the Tigers will send more representatives than any other major league team, which...well, I don’t know that it means anything. Please be careful, guys.
Suggestions for further reading
Everyone is happy to bag on the recently released PECOTA projections. The Yankees signed Chris Carter, which should be fun. The Twins value character and chemistry. We’ll see how that works out for them. I suggest more strikeouts and dingers instead. [Ed.: I don’t. Stay bad, Minnesota.] Here’s a look back at Satchel Paige’s induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some teams are much harder to project than others.
Tigers’ left-handers Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd came up together in the Blue Jays’ organization before coming to Detroit in the David Price deal. Turns out, they have been tight for years, as they discussed on their media tour during the Tigers caravan. Maybe character and chemistry are as important as the Twins think.