While the most recent proposed rule changes may not have a direct impact on the San Diego Padres or Major League Baseball immediately, some of the current rules could use another look.
I believe in the Church of Baseball,” says Annie Savoy in Bull Durham. “You see, there’s no guilt in baseball… and it’s never boring.”
Apparently the powers that be in Major League Baseball disagree with Annie and are trying various methods to speed up the game, including putting a runner on second base at the start of an extra innings. This experiment will be limited to the low minor leagues, specifically the Gulf Coast and Arizona Fall leagues.
In addition, the strike zone will be raised from the lower part of the batter’s knee to the top, and pitchers will not be need to throw four pitches during an intentional walk.
“It’s baseball,” explained Joe Torre, chief baseball officer for MLB. “I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch.”
But a closer look reveals that Torre may be seeking a problem rather than solutions. According to a recent article in Forbes written by Maury Brown, “Major League Baseball continues to grow at a phenomenal rate around its business.”
“As the calendar year nears its end, the league can report that gross revenues for 2016 are approaching an incredible $10 billion,” the article continues. “The figure marks the 14th consecutive year that baseball has posted record revenues.”
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Why tinker with a good thing, especially since the proposed “solutions” could backfire. Neither the extra innings nor intentional walk proposals insure the desired result. Shrinking the strike zone only helps pitchers produce more strike outs, which have already reached epidemic proportions and are frankly boring.
Instead of adding new rules, MLB should actually force umpires to enforce existing rules like the 12 seconds supposedly allowed between pitches once the batter is in the box. In reality, the umpires rarely enforce the rule, allowing pitchers like the Dodgers’ relief corps to average 25.9 seconds between pitches.
MLB’s own review process also merits more than a glance. Reviews last about 96 seconds, but that doesn’t count the time the manager has to dither over whether or not request a review.
Perhaps Torre and associates should revisit Annie’s Church of Baseball and let these ideas die in the Gulf Coast League.