David Durcan ’23
In September of 2022, Major League Baseball officially agreed to sweeping rule changes that went into effect at the start of this season. After being experimented in the minor leagues the past few years, baseball’s competition committee green-lighted these policies to speed up the game, generate more on-field action, and increase players’ safety.
Pitchers now have 15 seconds to begin their releasing motion when there are no base-runners and 20 seconds with a runner(s) on the base path. A violation of this rule results in an automatic ball in the at-bat. However, hitters are not completely off the hook, as they are required to be in the batter’s box with at least eight seconds left on the pitch clock. Failure to do so results in an automatic strike.
In addition to the pitch clock, the league outlawed the defensive shift, meaning that all four infielders now must have both feet on the infield dirt and two defenders on each side of second base. The goal is to create more base hits, as the defensive alignment (i.e., the shift) took away many of those potential base hits in previous years. They also only allow a pitcher to step off the rubber twice during the at-bat; the third time results in a balk.
The size of the bases increased from 15 to 18 inches. The goal here is to have more stolen bases, thus more action during the game—something fans have been starving for. In addition to stolen bases, the intent of the big base is to avoid collisions on the bag.
I love all of these policies. Baseball is a game that prides itself on tradition and purity, which prevented modernization, resulting in declining TV ratings and live-attendance over the past 15 years. America’s past-time was in danger of becoming America’s past.
In that 15-years, ratings dropped, and the games were only getting longer. The average length of a game climbed to over three hours beginning in 2012 and hasn’t dipped below since. With the newly installed pitch clock to thank, the dividends are already paying off. At this year’s opening weekend, the average game clocked in at 2 hours and 38 minutes, down a half hour from last year.
Baseball is a great movie, it just needed some cutting and editing. A pitcher and or batter’s excessive deadtime routines should not make the final cut of the film. For example, some batters will constantly step out of the batter’s box to readjust his batting glove between pitches, simultaneously while some pitchers have regimens or are indecisive over what pitch to throw, eating up a viewer’s valuable time. Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) has made an emphasis over the years of how the MLB needs to realize that it is entertainment first and these beginning steps are going to make it a fan-first product.
Some so-called baseball purists are against these changes, as they do not want to see the game they grew to love evolve. However, I would argue that baseball is actually returning to their old-school roots of stolen bases, contact hitting, and shorter games. In 1975, the average length of a game was under two and a half hours. What baseball actually did was go back to what made it America’s pastime with a modern twist.
Now if only ballparks could cut the price of a hot dog and beer in half, making it go from outrageously overpriced to overpriced, we’d be in business.
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