As Major League Baseball heads toward the end of its labor agreement with the Players Union, it appears both sides are discussing possible rules changes in an effort to improve the game. While some of them are obviously an effort to speed up the pace of play, others will take some of the things that have made the game great and throw them out the window in the name of offense. Here are the proposed MLB rule changes and why some wouldn’t be good for the league:
Not All Proposed MLB Rule Changes Would Be Good
A Three Batter Minimum For Pitchers
This is an effort to speed up the game and is a good idea. The only exceptions to this are injury or the end of an inning. It eliminates endless pitching changes and essentially takes away the role of the specialty reliever. Pitchers should have to earn their keep and make their millions by either getting out of trouble or giving up a run or two (or more). It also keeps the game on the field and not in the minds of the managers. This rule will undoubtedly speed up the game because it removes bringing in a pitcher, so the opposing manager can pinch hit and another pitcher can come in and another batter can pinch hit and, you get the picture.
A Universal Designated Hitter
The pitching minimum eliminates a specialty position, but a universal DH creates another one across the major leagues. As a baseball purist, I think the DH is a cop-out for managers when creating their lineups for the day. They don’t have to create a strategy before the game and change it accordingly during it without a pitcher having to grab a bat. Professional baseball players should be able, even required, to play in the field and face opposing pitching. This goes especially for pitchers. It’s easy for an American League pitcher to throw high and tight to an opposing batter because he will never face the unwritten rule of payback. His teammates must do it for him. The DH also extends the career of players who can physically no longer play the field. What’s so exciting about watching a player who can barely run (can you hear me Albert Pujols) take a couple swings a game, when you can watch another player make a great play I the field, then come up and make a difference in the game on offense as well? There isn’t. Strikeouts are already at record high levels. Creating a universal DH will only add to that in the hopes of creating more offense and protecting pitchers from picking up a bat.
A 20-second Pitch Clock
It’s understandable that pitchers (and hitters) have their rituals between pitches, but honestly, how many times do you need to spit and adjust your hat (among other things)?
Expansion of Rosters to 26
A good idea if the September call-up number can be limited to 50 or so. I understand teams want to give youngsters a “cup of coffee” at the big kids’ table, but make them earn it. Players who earn it are the ones teams call up when players get hurt during the season, not players who might get there one day. Expanding rosters to 26 is good, but September call-ups should be limited to 30, not 40. That way, managers still need to have a game strategy other than putting in the guys without a name on their jersey to eat up some innings.
Draft Advantages For Winning Teams and Penalties For Losing Teams
As a Chicago Cubs fan, I’ll be the first to admit, their farm system was well stocked by some really bad years in the early 2010s. The Houston Astros followed suit with some perfectly executed tanking. In reality, baseball players, teams and managers owe it to fans who pay a lot of money for their $10 beers by always trying to win the game. This means sticking to the game strategy and team philosophy whether the team is winning 10-0, or being no-hit by four pitchers who previously had no career shutouts among them.
These proposed rules changes would rock the landscape for baseball. Any of them (or all of them) would immediately change how teams approach the season. But MLB and The Players Union need to be careful to make changes that not only make the game move a little faster but also make it enjoyable to watch. Penalizing teams for losing a good start, but a universal DH eliminates the unexpected enjoyment of watching a pitcher get a clutch hit. Not all changes are for the better.
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