With MLB’s attendance levels and television ratings on the decline, baseball’s new commissioner Rob Manfred has unveiled a controversial set of rule changes intended to speed up the pace of play and broaden the appeal of America’s pastime. The Tribune Sports section weighs in.
t’s happening more and more every season, and it will be taken to a whole other level come October: It’s the dreaded pitching change and the mind-numbing loop of car commercials that go along with it. As recently as the 1970s, around 60 per cent of games featured only two pitchers per side. This means that if you went to the ballgame on any given day, you were likely to see one pitching change per team all game. Today, thanks to the trend of using highly specialized relievers late in games to exploit batter handedness, it’s twice as likely you’ll see four or more pitching changes per team than one.
Legendary Cardinal skipper Tony La Russa is often praised for revolutionizing the bullpen, but as much excitement the Royals’ dominant relief trio provided in last season’s World Series, MLB has to face the facts: The over-use of relief pitchers in baseball is the number one culprit both in lengthening games and in dampening offence. If Manfred wants to boost run scoring and shorten games, he should institute a structured limit on pitching changes. Barring injury, each manager should get two changes over the first through sixth innings, and two more over the last three innings. This would also add a new strategic dimension to the game, with intriguing spillover effects such as increasing the value of individual relief pitchers, reducing the need for an overly large bullpen, and freeing up space on the bench for speedy pinch runners.
Making the batter stay within the batter’s box during the entirety of the at-bat is sure to improve baseball. As much as baseball fans wish to preserve the ‘purity’ of the game, this rule will definitely increase the pace. Watching a player like Jonny Gomes fiddle around with his helmet, gloves, cleats, and bat is not only boring to the viewers, but also unfair to his opponent on the mound. The delays break the pitcher’s rhythm and makes an already long game even longer. This rule will shorten games and help turn around the poor broadcast ratings that have plagued the MLB for the past few seasons.
Professional baseball is at a crossroads. Sports fans can respect the quirks and mind games that give ballplayers character and make them more interesting to fans, but the league has to recognize that for the sport to survive in the 21st century , there need to be some changes. MLB must tiptoe the line between re-invigorating interest in America’s favourite pasttime and stripping away the subtle intricacies that make baseball the beautiful sport that it is.
MLB’s new pace of play rule changes will backfire, and the consequences could damage the league and the game itself. The league’s motivation for implementing new rules was to get baseball moving at a faster pace in an effort to appeal to a broader audience, but Manfred has lost sight of the fact that baseball is already plenty exciting to those who take the time to understand, analyze, and enjoy the game. The joy of watching baseball for those who love it doesn’t come from bone-crunching tackles, fistfights, or freakish athleticism. If football is shot-gunning a beer, baseball is sipping a glass of cognac.
Slightly shorter games won’t do anything to attract fans that weren’t interested before. They will only alienate already loyal fans, and disrupt the players who have no problem with baseball’s current pace. Legendary Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has already stated that he won’t follow the new rules, and will accept the fines he’ll receive. With the average MLB salary set to break four million dollars this year, players are still going to take their sweet time adjusting their batting gloves. The most worrying part about all of this is that it represents the beginning of a slippery slope for MLB. This round of changes will arguably have minimal impact on the integrity of the game, but the purists should hold on to their pitchforks for the next time the league tries to ‘spice up’ the game.
– Adrian Knowler
Time is of the essence
A breath of fresh air is descending upon Major League Baseball. The new rules that are designed to make the game faster will have a positive impact. The faster tempo will mean that the crowds in the stadium will appreciate the sport more and the audiences watching it on TV will feel more enthralled by this magnificent sport.
The best way to accomplish this would be to put time limits on the various baseball ‘traditions’ that lengthen the game excessively. Things like mound visits should have a hard cap set at 30 seconds, and even the newfangled instant replay process should be timed to trim down the length of each game. The delay of games caused by these ‘timeouts’ makes crowds yawn in despair and head to the bathroom, or even the exits. This sport isn’t cricket, for heaven’s sake.
-Raphael Uribe Arango