For the Major League Baseball, it’s time to move on from the pace-of-play rule changes.
About three weeks ago, the MLB announced another new pace-of-play rule change that will be implemented in the upcoming season. The rule states that a player, or a coach, can only make six mound visits per game. While this is a dramatic change for some players, shaving another minute or two off the total time of a game won’t shave the “boring” label that clouds the game of baseball and it certainly will not help increase ratings. In fact, this isn’t even guaranteed to speed up the game, because despite the constant efforts of commissioner Rob Manfred, last year’s average game length was higher than ever at three hours and five minutes.
Some players have found ways around old rules, and some have just downright not cared. Back in 2015, Red Sox legend David Ortiz went on a heated rant about the MLB announcing that they would fine players who did not comply with the new pace-of-play rule change, that a batter must not leave the batter’s box during an at-bat.
“Well, I might run out of money. Period. I’m not going to change my game. I don’t care what they say,” he said.
Chicago Cubs star catcher Wilson Contreras had a similar reaction to the newest rule change recently, stating that “[he doesn’t] even care … If I have to go [out there] again and pay the price for my team, I will.”
It’s clear the pace-of-play rule changes have done little to actually speed up the game. The games have gotten longer and the players could care less. So why not look for more creative ways to change the game?
Not long after the newest rule change was announced, rumours of a new potential rule have circulated, and this one has the ability to change the very roots of the game of baseball. According to sports television journalist Rich Eisen, one baseball executive recently told him that there is a rule being discussed that would let a trailing team in the ninth inning choose their hitters, rather than staying in their batting order. Most baseball fans hate the idea of this but these are the types of changes the MLB should strive for. There will be backlash from players and fans but try and tell me that you don’t want to watch players like Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper in clutch situations down late in the game on a more consistent basis.
This rule change allows for more exposure for the game’s brightest stars, something baseball needs. In football, tight games are decided in the hands of star quarterbacks like Tom Brady. In basketball, games are always decided by the team’s best players as the clock winds down. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tight Cavaliers game where Lebron is playing off-ball. It’s time for baseball to follow suit. The potential of having the closer, often a team’s best pitcher, attempt to finish a game against the Mike Trouts and Josh Donaldsons of the world would force fans to stick around and watch a full game.
As much as baseball fans don’t want to admit it, the game risks dying out if it can’t make the game more exciting in this era defined by short attention spans. Plenty of ideas have floated around. Reasonable ones like shortening the ridiculous 162-game regular season schedule to restricting how many pitchers a team can use in a single game may improve the game slightly but aren’t incredibly revolutionary. Some less reasonable but potentially more creative and interesting ideas include having a player stealing home result in erased outs and starting extra innings with runners already on base.
In order to keep the MLB prevalent in a sports world where the NBA and NFL dominate, the league needs to do more than “pick up the pace.” It’s time to look at creative groundbreaking changes.
– Connor Toffan, Sports Co-Editor