With wet confetti being swept off Tremont Street and Roger Goodell signs hung proudly in dorm rooms across New England (including my own #GoodellSleepsWithSocksOn), football season is officially over. And with Spring Training just around the corner, it's time to talk baseball. Several potential changes to the rules of Major League Baseball have been reported over the past couple of weeks. Most rule proposals nowadays revolve around baseball's biggest issue: pace of play. This has been the war cry of the MLB legislature since the end of the steroid era. And while I'm all for improving baseball's pace of play, these rule changes won't improve anything.
The first rule is a clarification of the strike zone, setting the bottom of the strike zone to be the bottom of the batter's knee. Yawn, whatever. Jim Joyce will still get it wrong more often than not so who really cares?
The next rule proposal would allow intentional walks to be immediately issued rather than throw the 4 balls. Personally, I'm not a fan of this rule. Like at all. What, you want to chop off 30 seconds of game time one IBB at a time? Come on. Games have been decided on wild pitches, bad throws back, and general laziness inherent in intentional walks. And those are always the best endings. Nothing's better than cackling at the TV as some bobo catcher air mails the pitcher on ball 3 and lets a run score. It's shit like that that brings me joy.
The last rule, which has drawn the most ire from the baseball community, would put a runner on second base at the start of an extra inning. Now judging by the general online reaction, you don't need me to tell you that this is goddamn terrible idea, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. This is a terrible idea. Could this improve pace of play? Maybe. Could this lead to a one-million percent increase in lazy sac bunts? You bet your sweet ass it could. And as we all know, there's nothing more exciting than watching the sac bunt/sac fly combo inning after inning after inning until flies nest in your mouth, held agape in shear boredom.
Do these rules suck? Yes. But more than just sucking they're also indicative of the true nature of the suckage that's been plaguing Major League Baseball for decades. Baseball has been losing viewership for awhile now, and it's due in large part to pace of play. It's just too slow. The problem is that these rule proposals are situational. An IBB takes no time already and there might be 2 in a game. And extra innings rules? People think REGULAR games are too long so maybe focus on shortening those before you get carried away with extra innings, huh?
These rules are a store brand bandaid on the gaping head wound that is pace of play for the MLB. Sports nowadays need speed and flow. Hockey, basketball, and football games can all be drastically changed in the time it takes David Price to stop scratching his balls and throw a pitch. Even soccer has this shit figured out. Soccer is about as exciting as a board with a nail in it swung at your crotch is arousing. But viewership in America goes up every year because the flow of play is nonstop and you're done watching it in 2 hours.
If baseball really wants to become a fast moving sport that can be less than 4 hours long, these ticky-tack rules won't cut it. We need total overhaul. Strictly enforced pitch clocks. No commercial breaks in between half innings. Hell, just fewer innings. But that's never going to happen.
Baseball is an ancient creature that's been set in it's ways for too long to change now. All the fish in the metaphorical sports sea are getting faster, but baseball remains the stalwart horseshoe crab trudging along on the sea floor. And while time hasn't killed off the horseshoe crab, that doesn't mean a lot of people give a shit about it. And without some major evolutionary event, baseball may eventually suffer a similar fate.