The only truth of the world is that everything you love will change.
For better or worse, change is coming, and for baseball, those changes are coming this season, with more tweaks anticipated for the 2020 season as well. The new moves, some minor, some more contentious, are not totally re-writing baseball as we know it (the shift is safe for now, the NL still doesn’t have a DH... yet), but they do demonstrate an ongoing interest in creating a more modern and, shall we say... efficient version of the game we know and love.
Much like the removal of needing four pitches for an intentional walk, a lot of these changes are small tweaks that seem to function only to speed up pace of play slightly and to annoy the old guard who like to see baseball played the way it has always been played (hello, bring back my pitches, thank you).
Under the new agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, the changes we can expect to see implemented include the following:
- Effective immediately, the August 31st trade deadline (you know, the one that saw Justin Verlander sent to Houston at the literal last minute?) will be no more. Now the only trade deadline is the July 31st deadline, meaning teams really need to know if they’re planning to make a push to contend by the mid-season mark.
- Mound visits will be reduced to five per game, and might go down to four by 2020.
- Rather than selecting All-Stars based solely on the fan vote, the highest vote-getters will now participate in a single All-Star election day vote where fans will select based on the three top vote recipients in each category to select a winner.
- The Home Run Derby during the All-Star week will now have a $1 million prize, likely in the hopes of having more of the big-name stars participate in the event.
- Commercial breaks will now be only two minutes rather than two minutes and twenty seconds. There seems to be a move towards more in-game split screen ads in order to minimize the time away from showing the game.
- Position players will not be allowed to pitch unless: 1) the game goes into extra innings, or 2) the team is ahead or behind by at least eight runs. (I might hate this one most of all).
- No more LOOGY — That’s right, the one-batter pitcher is no more. Starting in the 2020 season, all pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters.
- Teams will now have a 26-man roster for the first five months of the season, and a 28-man roster in September.
In addition to these changes, there is a promise that the Commissioner’s office will work alongside the MLBPA to study the current free-agent market and how it can be made more active, as well as figuring out how to minimize the rewards for teams who tank intentionally. There will also be a focus on how teams are gaming service time for top prospects.
Overall there certainly seems to be a willingness between MLB and the MLBPA to work on the game while also making sure that things become more fair for the players in the union.
Whether or not any of the changes do anything to speed up the pace of play or engage new viewers in the sport remains to be seen.