The MLB rule changes haven't been bad, but there's still work to be done.
Major League Baseball is arguably at its greatest point in the modern game. Since 1919, there has never been this amount of international superstars from all over the world, including Shohei Ohtani (Japan), Juan Soto (Dominican Republic) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (Venezuela), just to name a few.
Though the on-field product international players bring to the table, with crazy talent and flashy components to their game, is tremendous, Americans seem to not be as enthused about baseball today. Maybe it's because the game is “too slow” for millennials and gen-z. Or maybe it is just because people in this world are gravitating away from sport and more into arts, music, and pop culture.
Whatever the reason, the product of the game is still in good standing. Those who have loved baseball for reasons they cannot explain since they came out of the womb will continue to love it - that is, as long as the product does not turn into a modern-day video game.
Worth the Price of Admission?
Picture a warm June afternoon at Dodgers Stadium. You just sat down in your overpriced seat (with an 80 percent capacity, mind you), purchased a $17 Corona, and are locked in to watch all-time great Clayton Kershaw carve up the Colorado Rockies. After paying for parking and dealing with LA traffic, you've settled in to enjoy the immaculate vibes at the ballpark. The last thing you're worried about is getting home for dinner. An expensive day at the ballpark is more than justifiable, as long as you get your money's worth.
Then it's the third inning before you know it. Shortly afterwards it's the seventh and number 22 gets pulled with a 3-1 score. The game is flying by. The Dodgers end up winning 4-1 in 1:58. Awesome time at the ballpark, but it seemed like you were there all of five minutes. Oh, that’s right, Commissioner Rob Manfred is looking to speed up the game in hopes of gaining more fans under the age of 40.
Now, the pitch clock isn’t all bad and neither are the new bases. The pitch clock would just be better if it was a little bit longer. Also, starters generally don’t work slow, so another option would be to only have the pitch clock be in effect after your first pitching change. Because relievers are the ones who have traditionally slowed the pace of play.
The other part of the pitch clock rule they should get rid of is the part where the batter has to be alert and ready with eight seconds left. If they aren’t ready, the pitcher should just deliver the pitch, but the batter shouldn't be penalized for not being ready at eight seconds.
The MLB rule changes are meant to help offenses score. MLB might not have said it, but the players have. With the new shift rules and bigger bases, the game has changed. The right side is now more open for lefty pull hitters and the bigger bags make it more likely for players to steal bags. Stolen bases are up from an average of 1.4 last year to 1.8 per game this year. And the success rate is 79.4%, one of the highest in history. I think MLB knew what they were doing, but I don’t think they expected it to affect base running this much.
The new rules are 100% an acquired taste that not everyone loved immediately. It took a second to get used to, especially with the batters having to be alert within eight seconds. But I think, overall, the changes are helping the league get more viewers and keep fans engaged. This was their goal from the start and I think it’s working well, so far. MLB is in a good place moving forward.
It will be interesting to see how the pitchers adjust to these very hitter-friendly rules over the next couple of years. The best solution would be to alter the clocks. Add like five seconds to both the pitching clock and the batter being alert in the box clock. This way relievers are still working fast and games would be around the perfect sweet spot of 2:45 for nine innings. Which is still a quick game. If you compare it to the average length of an NFL game, which is 3:12, and the average length of an NBA game which is 2:30, it’s almost smack dab in the middle, where it should be!
Beauty of Baseball
The complaint people have for NBA games is that the first 46 minutes don’t matter because the league finds a way to make it close with two minutes left. That's when all the timeouts happen and the game really slows down. Baseball is different. Every pitch in a game matters. A baseball game should be a bit longer than a basketball game.
A 2:15 minute game is a little bit absurd and rushed, especially when you think about it from the fan's perspective and what they have to do to make it to the ballpark!