Major League Baseball is getting serious about quickening the pace of a game. And, MLB isn’t just talking about cutting a few minutes here and there. The idea is to get away from games that drag for three hours. It’s better to get the average time of game down to 2 hours, 30 minutes.
MLB is discussing several rule changes with the players association. ESPN’s Jeff Passan writes that his sources say that owners and players are thinking about a variety of ideas and rule changes that would speed up the game.
Hockey, basketball and football are constantly evolving. Baseball should do the same.
Baseball is left in the dark ages in an era of fast-paced results and technology. Baseball can’t continue to live in the past. It’s time to take meaningful steps to speed the game, even if it means changing longstanding rules that traditionalists argue should never be changed.
Commissioner Rob Manfred is trying to grow the game with fans. Players are too involved in the game to think about the marketing of the game. Their job is to win games. General managers are trying to construct a roster that helps a team win.
So how do all these ideas mesh?
Here’s a look:
* Relievers pitching to a minimum of three batters when they come into the game: This is a good thing, especially when you consider that, according to the New York Post, teams averaged 8.41 pitching changes per nine innings last season. The average was 8.20 in 2017, so the average keeps going up. I appreciate the strategy of the bullpen, but there’s nothing more boring that watching a manager walk to the mound to take out a pitcher after one batter. This rule would change traditional strategy, but it would also add new strategies for managers to think about. It might eliminate the job of the one-batter left-handed relief specialist, but it would put more emphasis on the starting pitcher.
* Implementing a universal DH: If the three-batter minimum is going to be implemented, then the players association would want in return a universal DH, meaning the National League, the last league in the world that doesn’t use the DH, would use it. I can go either way with the DH. I like that the American League had the DH and the NL doesn’t. It brings interesting wrinkles at the World Series. But if a DH in the NL is what the players want in exchange for the relievers’ new rule, there’s not a problem here. And, a universal DH would eliminate AL teams going on nine-game, three-city road trips into NL cities without one of their most dangerous hitters.
* The 20-second pitch clock: It is fine, but I don’t think it has much effect on pace of game. Pitching coaches say it helps pitchers get into a better rhythm. There is less thinking on the mound, and that’s a good thing. For that reason, implement it. Overall, the pitch clock is better than nothing, but it is not a big factor in speeding up the game. Manfred has the power to implement the 20-second clock without the players’ approval.
* How about a 26-man roster with a limit of 12 pitchers? It would create another job for the players, and the 12 pitchers on the roster are enough. Overall, it’s a good deal.
* Also, MLB is talking about using a 28-man roster for September. Currently, there is no limit on how many September call-ups a team can have on its roster, so one team could have 32 players to use in September game while the opponent has 28. September is a critical month, and expanded rosters change strategy and can determine which teams play in the postseason. Why should September be played under different rules than the previous five months? Players that come up in September are concerned about big league service time. Players should get service time whether they are on the active roster or not, but the most important item is uniform rosters for September. This a rule change that former Orioles manager Buck Showalter fought for a long time.
* One trade deadline before the All-Star Game? The trade deadline used to be mid-June. Now, it’s July 31 for non-waiver trades. Of course, trades can be made into September through the waiver process. A one-deadline trade before the All-Star Game would send the message that teams out of the race would be giving up their star players too early in the season. Let it stay the same.