The process is going to be a huge pain in the ass for any of this to happen, because it has to go through the players association, but it sounds like major changes could be coming to Major League Baseball as early as next season.
Listen, I’m a fucking HUGE baseball nerd. That’s well established at this point, so it’s hard for me to put myself in the mind of a casual baseball fan, or a sports fan who doesn’t particularly enjoy baseball in general. But in an attempt to take a step back and look at the sport through the eyes of a simpleminded baseball hater, what’s the number one complaint? It’s boring, the games are too long, blah, blah, not enough action, my penis is too small, blah, blah. All of these ideas and attempts to speed up the game are definitely worth considering, and it sounds like MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is open to most, if not all, of them.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said that baseball is contemplating everything from altering the strike zone to limiting the number of pitching changes in a game, to curtailing the number of shifts, to even installing 20-second time clocks for pitchers.
“We feel it’s been effective in the minor leagues,’’ Manfred said. “You look month-by-month in terms of where we were in terms of game time, we did really well early and kind of regressed the second half of last year, and certainly this year.
“The more we can have on the field, constant reminders so it’s in front of people’s minds, the better off we are in terms of continuing to move the game along. And I think the clock is probably the quintessential example of the reminder that keeps pace in people’s minds.”
I’m not one of those baseball purists who thinks that the game is perfect the way that it is, and it should stay as is. I want the game to flourish and attract new fans, and I’m totally open to anything that will allow that to happen, without sacrificing any of the things that make the sport so great in the first place. That being said, these ideas that Manfred proposed, some of them I’m for, and some of them I’m against.
Before I get into that, can we just get one thing straight here? Even if you implement ALL of these changes, what are you actually shaving off of the average time span of an MLB game, 10-15 minutes? This isn’t about bringing down the average time of an MLB game, because nobody is going to see that the average length of a game went from three hours and 15 minutes to three hours and be like, “YUP! I’m back in, baby!” No. It’s all about perception, and that’s why I think some of these rule changes are important. You’re still still essentially committing the same amount of time to watching a game, but it’s the idea that it feels faster because you’re implementing changes to eliminate down time between the action.
So, let’s go in order. Altering the strike zone — Fuck that. That ain’t right. Baseball was at its peak when the game’s offense was at its peak, so altering the strike zone is their way of increasing offense in the game. I get it, but that’s not right to make the game harder for pitchers just because hitters can’t use steroids anymore. It’s not like the offense is painfully unwatchable in today’s game. You still have plenty of guys hitting 30-40 homers a year, so I don’t see a need to make the game easier for the shitty hitters who aren’t as good. Be better at baseball.
Limiting the number of pitching changes in a game — I don’t see how you could actually do this. I can totally see why you would want to do this, though. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been to a baseball game, and I look up at the scoreboard, and it’s the middle of the fifth, and I’m like, “Wow, this game is FLYING!” Two hours later and it’s only the seventh inning. It’s because of all the pitching changes later in the game. I just don’t see how you could put a limit on the number of pitching changes in a game. I think the alternative to that would be that a reliever has to face a minimum number of batters. That’ll eliminate the specialists who come in just to face one batter, which seems pretty ridiculous that such a job description even exists.
Eliminating/limiting defensive shifts — Impossible. Oh, you want to get rid of defensive shifts? Good fuckin’ luck with that one, buddy. As if there aren’t enough things that umpires have to pay attention to already, now you want them to pay attention to some sort of designated zones that infielders have to stay in? How the hell would you even enforce that? Imagine replay challenges to see if an infielder stepped out of their designated zone? That’s too much. Can’t do it.
20-second pitch clocks for pitchers — Yes, yes, yes times a million. They already do this in the minors, and have you ever heard of a minor league pitcher complaining about it? No. The veteran major leaguers will piss and moan about this, because they’re used to a certain way, but fuck them. It’s completely unnecessary to stand there on the mound for 45 seconds in between pitches. I’m not saying get the ball, throw the ball, but some of these guys take forever in a fucking day, and that’s what puts fans to sleep. Twenty seconds is plenty, and I would love to see pitch clocks implemented at the major league level. I’ve written about this before, but there also needs to be a time limit on replays. I suggested 90 seconds. That’s more than enough time to review a play and make the correct call. These guys take up to six minutes sometimes, and still get the call wrong. Speed it up.