Saturday March 12, 2022
New Baseball Rules: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Hey, the 2022 owner lockout is over! Major League Baseball is starting again, officially on April 7, which is a good day for Opening Day. (I hate it when they play in March.) More good news: They're playing all 162 games, even though they're starting a week late. How are they doing that? Apparently by adding double-headers (good) and by adding three games at the end of the season (bad, since the postseason already bumps up against November).
As for the rest? My friend Tim breaks it down in a piece called “The new normal: CBA changes leave a sour taste,” on the Grand Salami site. There's the monetary stuff—who gets what percentage of our dough—which he deals with in straightforward fashion. Then there's the baseball stuff. How are they changing this game that we love?
Are they, for example, making it easier for fans without cable to watch their home teams? No, we're still screwed on that. Are they doing anything to speed up the game? Probably. They're creating a beast called the “Joint Competition Committee” (what a monicker), which will consist of four active players, one umpire, and six reps/owners appointed by the Commissioner. (Meaning owners and Comm. Rob Manfred will have majority rule.) This group will suggest on-field rule changes that Manfred can implement within 45 days beginning in 2023.
And what changes are being bandied about? According to Tim, “a pitch clock, larger bases, and severe restrictions on defensive positioning.” Me: Larger bases? Who looks at baseball today and goes, “You know the problem with the game, don't you? Those damn bases aren't big enough.” (Follow-up: If it increases SBs, I'm down with it.) Pitch clock, if it's enforced, seems fine. Limiting the shift, though ... I get it, but I'd rather market forces took care of that. Teams should put a premium on guys that can hit to all fields rather than beefy pull hitters. Also not sure how they'll implement/enforce it. What the parameters will be. How much out of position can a shortstop be, for example? And who decides?
Anyway, all that's in the future. What's in the present? Let's break it down Sergio Leone-style:
- Extra innings are extra innings again. No more stupid ghost runners.
- Doubleheaders are doubleheaders again. Nine innings rather than 7. As God intended.
- The amateur draft order changes. Instead of a last-to-first thing, there will be a drawing of the bottom six to prevent teams from tanking. Interestingly, I just rewatched the 30/30 doc “Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks,” much recommended, and the NBA did such a draft in '85 when the Knicks got Patrick Ewing. Seems smart. And dramatic.
- Just five player options. Teams can now only option a player to the minors five teams per season. Which seems plenty. Let's get to know these guys. Even if they suck.
THE NEUTRAL (Sorry, Sergio, but...)
- NL gets the DH. Tim really hates this one and I get it. You're reducing strategy—when to pinch-hit for a player who can't hit. But it is a player who can't hit—generally. So this doesn't bother me that much. I'm almost neutral on it. But in the great DH/No DH battle since '73, I thought it would only be resolved by war. Instead, barely a whimper from the NL. Kind of sad.
- Every team will play every other team. To begin in 2023. Again, both bad and good. The AL/NL border wall was thick until the mid-90s and now it's porous. Everyone's getting through. At the same time, seeing fewer games against, say, the Rangers, sounds fun. At the same time, I miss league specificity. I miss the romance and mystery of the other league. I miss All-Star Games that mattered a little. Maybe I just miss my youth.
- The playoff field grows from 10 to 12 teams. World without end here. When I was born in 1963, just two teams made the postseason: the pennant winners. From '69 to '93 it was four teams: the two division winners. From '95 to, what, 2012 or so, it was eight teams: the three division winners plus a wild card. Then it was 10 teams: the three division winners plus two wild cards, who would play each other in a die-or-day game. Now it's 12. We're playing 162 games, half a year, to eliminate 18 of 30 teams. And it'll only get worse.
- Game 163s are gone. You know, when teams tie and have to go sudden death? Yankees/Red Sox in '78, Mariners/Angels in '95, Twins/Tigers in '09? That excitement? Yeah, thanks but no thanks Bucky Dent, Luis Sojo and Carlos Gomez. We've had enough excitement for the season. We'll just trot out the mathematicians for this one. A formula will decide.
- They're putting ads on uniforms. Let me repeat that: They're putting ads on uniforms! God, what fuckers. What greedy fuckers. According to Tim, a patch on every jersey and a decal on every batting helmet is now allowed. “How prominent these will be has yet to be revealed, but it's the first step toward NASCAR-like ad insanity or MLS-like team sponsorships that overwhelm a uniform.”
That last one hurts. It really does. And it's more evidence that the people who run baseball don't give a shit about baseball. It's more evidence that we need to save baseball from the people who run it.