On Wednesday March 14th 2018, Minor League Baseball announced changes made to the rules in regards to “speeding up the game”. These changes include mound visits, a 15-20 second pitch clock, and most importantly: beginning every half inning with a man on second base in extra innings. These changes naturally do not settle well with avid baseball fans, let alone baseball purists. To change the sport to fit the needs of an audience that it was never meant to target in the first place is unethical and quite simply not the right move.
Patience is Key
Baseball has always been the sport for the patient man. To outsiders, it is a sport like any other. The team that achieves the most runs (I hate the word “points” when talking about baseball) will win. Basically view it as a shootout. Although, when it comes to baseball, patience has a lot to do with how a team accumulates runs.
Think about it like a chess match; there are intricate strategies, statistics that could change the way a pitcher operates uniquely for each batter, signs for plays, warm ups between each half inning, among others. It is a sport for someone who realizes something new could happen in any game. Now I understand times and people change and some things should be tweaked for the sake of not having a rule from 1839 in 2018, but it has gone too far.
Just to clarify, I like the limitation of mound visits in all levels of the game. In Triple-A each team gets six visits, Double-A is eight, Single-A is ten, and unlimited for short season and rookie league. I can’t help but chuckle when I see Gary Sanchez go out to Masahiro Tanaka during a game. What could they be saying? Does Gary speak Japanese and nobody but those two know it? On a serious note, there doesn’t have to be a mound visit from a catcher between every single pitch. They may last 20-30 seconds, but they could add up quickly and disrupt the natural flow of the game if abused. Limiting mound visits is good.
The Bad and the Ugly
Let’s now discuss the bad. The MILB also dropped a bombshell on fans when they announced extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. Whoever is poised to leadoff the inning will have the previous batter be the second base runner. Basically it works like this: It’s the top of the 10th and your number seven batter is up to bat. The number 6 batter will be the extra inning runner. That extra inning runner is deemed to be a runner that has reached base by way of a fielding error. However, an error wont be charged to the opposing team or an opposing player. Which means they will not count as an RBI as per rule 9.04 (b,2). Also, it will not affect the opposing pitcher’s ERA as per rule 9.16 (b,3).
Think about this though: a 9 inning game could, in theory, last infinitely in regards to time. There have been 9 inning games that have reached four hours. So I am baffled as to how randomly adding a base runner in extra innings improves pace of play. Even still, both teams would be deadlocked once extra innings begin, but they are both still competing evenly. Extra innings could resume if both extra inning runners score resulting in a continued game.
Being on Base Is Earned
In my eyes, this is the first time base runners will consistently reach base and not earn it. Players earn the right to reach base by hitting, walking, hustling to first on a called third strike in the dirt, etc. The point is that it is almost always earned.
This also would disrupt the strategies of many managers. For instance, say you have your number one hitter due up in extra innings, and your pitcher is due to be the extra inning runner. Being that, I have been witness to one of the pitchers on my team injure himself when he was used as a pinch runner. Thus negatively effecting his season (Stephen Wright), this is not ideal. Sure, you could use a pinch runner but then that pinch runner will be gone unless he scores. Thus possibly making managers expend their bench players at a faster rate.
I get it, baseball is really trying to make the game more interesting for those who can’t sit still for more than two hours at a time. But maybe that innocence should be preserved for someone like me, who appreciates every moment of baseball possible. This rule should never even be considered to reach the Major League level and fans of the game should fight for it’s best interest. The game hasn’t lasted this long for no reason, after all.