If you recall fondly of 2016, one of the many great talents of the Chicago Cubs was their patience. From top to bottom in the lineup, Cubs hitters forced opposing pitchers to exhaust themselves. In many cases, teams were forced to use their bullpen early causing havoc on their gameplans.
For those of you who watched many of the games last year, you witnessed how beautifully the Chicago Cubs played. That patience systematically broke down opposing teams pitching making the Cubs a dominant force.
So it’s with my appreciation of that cerebral approach that I can’t help but be a little annoyed with the proposed MLB rule changes. It appears that the rules won’t make it to the game in 2017, but a loophole in the CBA will allow the MLB to impose the rules in 2018 without player approval.
As reported by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, the MLB intends to be resolute on these issues:
The issue is pace of play. We are trying to take a game that has remained mostly unchanged for over 100 years and springboard it into the 21st century. Regardless of the good intentions the changes bring, it comes at a cost.
Baseball, more than any other sport, worships the statistical outcomes of its players. Before we address a few of the proposals, try and explain to yourself how these changes wouldn’t fundamentally alter the game.
Placing a limit on mound visits per inning
On the surface, this seems like a pretty easy one to agree with. God knows how much I hated watching Tony La Russa and the Cardinals drag out innings with their incessant pow wows. But this begs the question, where does this end?
The next step will be to limit how many pitching changes would be allowed each inning. It certainly would cut down the pace of the game. But slipping down this path would only affect the strategy of the game.
Ok, this one I’m ok with. There are examples of unnecessary time wasted when nothing is happening. I wanted to pull my hair out during the NLCS. If at the very least, can we all agree that Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez needs a clock?
Strike zone changes
This one is a killer. The advantage of the low strike isn’t the reason so many people find baseball boring. Professional athletes have become so much more refined and I’d like to think this game can reward the best for being able to execute with consistency.
I’d be more comfortable if umpires chose to call more strikes. Expanding the zone will create more balls in play hopefully resulting in more action. I can’t disagree that a major problem has been the number of strikeouts in the game. Fans don’t want to see guys walk back and forth from the dugout.
The critical side of me, however, fears that this would be yet another killer for pitchers.
Baseball has some viable issues that they must address. Sweating over the length of its games shouldn’t be one. Major League Baseball shouldn’t be so willing to change its core simply to gain a new audience.
Generations of fans have been drawn to the sport because of it’s strategic mind games and admiration for personal milestones. If this is the direction baseball is headed, we better be willing to change how we view the future stars of this game. Their value will never be on par with the stars of yesterday.
And honestly, let’s not sugar coat this, if you can’t appreciate the fine details of this game you only have yourself and your short attention span to blame. This game relies on physicality as much as it does intellect. Perhaps the game should work to make fans more informed.