Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MLB Institutes New Batch of Rule Changes

Last week, a series of rule changes went into affect across the Major Leagues, effective immediately.  So immediate that anybody playing in a Wednesday spring training game had to play under a different set of rules than the day before.  These rules include but are not limited to the following:

  • Managers can now motion to the umpire to issue an intentional walk instead of the pitcher having to throw all 4 pitches.
  • Managers are required to decide within 30 seconds of a play whether or not to review it, and umpire reviews are now on a 2-minute time limit. 
  • Managers are also now allowed to challenge through the 7th inning, which is an additional inning than the former rule.
  • All markings used on the field used for defensive positioning are banned.  This is primarily in response to a lone incident last season in which the Dodgers used lasers to guide their fielders.
  • The "Carter Capps Rule" - a pitcher lifting his back foot during his delivery is now a balk or a ball, depending whether runners are on base or not.
  • "Hazing" has been severely limited - forcing players to dress as women or in any offensive costumes has been banned.
  • Base coach boxes will now be more strictly enforced.
Most of these rules make a lot of sense.  Everybody wants plays to be called accurately, but not at the expense of an extensive NFL-length replay delay, so the new replay rules are a good middle ground for that.  And while I will miss seeing Eddy Sedar hobbling two-thirds of the way to home plate to throw up the stop sign, it's probably best for his own health that he is confined to an area.  The rule that really irks me though is the intentional walk rule.  I'm all for improving inefficiencies in the game - a major criticism of the game for a long time as been the slow, deliberate pace, so I understand the spirit of the law.  But I would argue this rule affects gameplay itself, so I am opposed to it.  This would be like in basketball in that final minute of the game where you need to foul a guy to put him on the line, but instead of actually fouling the player, the coach just walks up to the referee and says "I would like to foul him."  It eliminates the potential for a steal, or a passed ball, or any sort of player error during that sequence to affect the game.  I can think of at least three times that Miguel Cabrera alone has gotten a hit off of an intentional walk pitch gone astray.  Most importantly, I think eliminating or changing a part of in-game strategy, however small it might be, is a slippery slope for the future.  Who knows what could be next after this?  They're already testing a rule in the minor leagues now in which a baserunner would be placed on 2nd base to start extra innings.  The game could look completely different in 10 years.

It's reasons like this that I have not been a huge fan of Rob Manfred thus far.  His biggest platform seems to be that he wants to speed up the game, but he also wants more offense, which is a complete oxymoron.  I want him to stop messing with the game and start focusing his efforts on more important issues like player safety and the Oakland/Tampa stadium situations.  Nobody is going to start watching baseball because it the games are 4 minutes shorter.  NFL games are nearly 4 hours long now, and the popularity of football is only going up.  People either love baseball or they don't and that's just the way it is.  What I worry about most is that Manfred will eventually bring the DH to the National League, and I will not go down without a fight on that one.  I've already written angry letters to my fair share of elected officials this year and I'm not afraid to add one more to the list.

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