Finally, baseball is doing something about its rotten on-field product
Finally, Major League Baseball is making the games suck less.
To be certain, baseball isn’t “dead,” or even dying. Business is doing just fine, and the games are still good for the same moments that made us fall in love with them in the first place, like walk-off home runs, plays at the plate, 3-2 pitches with two outs. But getting to those moments has become an interminable plod through the boring and tedious.
So, after years of rot, MLB is enacting rule changes for 2023 that acknowledge what the on-field product has become. And, mercifully, the games are about to become watchable again.
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As first reported by Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, sweeping changes are coming to Major League Baseball games that are expected to improve the pace of play and increase the on-field action. Jeff Passan reported on Friday that the rule changes are officially voted in and will begin in 2023.
The biggest and most important change is the implementation of a pitch clock. It’s expected to be 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on base. There will also be a ban on defensive shifts, as teams will be required to have two fielders on each side of the second base bag and their cleats on the dirt.
Pitchers, therefore, will no longer have unlimited time to stand around and adjust themselves before throwing the damn ball. And the ban on shifts will almost certainly lead to more balls put in play, which has become a real issue amid the proliferation of walks and strikeouts in an analytics-driven era.
According to Passan, players voted against the pitch clock and ban on defensive shifts, because of course they did. Thankfully, those who voted in favor of the changes thought more about the fans and perhaps a little less about themselves.
Two other notable changes coming to baseball in 2023…
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – APRIL 22: Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays reaches back to first base on a pickoff attempt by the Boston Red Sox during the third inning in a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 22, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Never mind taking too long to throw the ball, how about pitchers who make 600 pickoff moves any time a guy gets on first base? Now, teams will have to strategize pickoff attempts. Pitchers are only allowed to step off the mound, for any reason, twice per plate appearance when a runner is on base.
If a pitcher steps off a third time or more, and runners are safe, then he is charged with a balk. But he can avoid a balk if he records an out. So, in theory, this will make stolen base attempts and pickoffs more exciting when they happen.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – AUGUST 05: Yolmer Sanchez #47 of the Boston Red Sox slides into second past Nicky Lopez #8 of the Kansas City Royals for a steal in the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 05, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. Sanchez would be tagged out on a run down after sliding past the bag. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
The bases will increase by three inches, from 15 in to 18. The idea here is to reduce collisions around the bases and avoid possible injuries, and also encourage more stolen base attempts. More action, less injury? No-brainer.
Is Baseball Back?
Well, baseball never really went away. But these changes should absolutely make games more engaging for fans and TV viewers. It’s about time. Screw the players’ feelings.
You can be sure to hear more about the latest MLB rule changes from our own Tony Massarotti on Felger and Mazz and The Baseball Hour on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.