It was announced today that Major League Baseball would be making a few changes to the game for this upcoming season regarding pace-of-play. Last year, Bud Selig implemented the replay rule, and one would surmise that these changes were made in effort to balance out the time lost when reviewing a manager challenge. In 2014, the averaged length of game was three hours and two minutes, which is the longest recorded time in MLB history. The three changes made will make a significant impact, but will they have the positive impact that new commissioner, Rob Manfred, was going for?
The best place to start with is the rule that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box when at the plate. If you didn’t happen to notice that this rule is written in the MLB Rule-book, Rule 6.02 (sub-section B) states, “Once a batter has taken his position in the batter’s box, he shall not be permitted to step out of the batter’s box in order to use the resin or the pine tar rag, unless there is a delay in the game action or, in the judgment of the umpires, weather conditions warrant an exception.” We’ll call this the “Jaywalking Rule” of the MLB. The one where a police officer, or in this case, the umpire, sees it happening, but does not react. Now, with an emphasis on it, officials will be keeping a closer eye on the position of each hitter during his at-bat. This rule is one that has been enforced in high school baseball.
The next rule that has come about this year has to do with the recently introduced replay. Managers are now to stay in the dugout when challenging a play. They are now “encouraged” to stay in the dugout when challenging a play. They’ll use a hand signal or request a replay verbally. Also new this year, managers will get a new second challenge along with the one managers retain for every call that is overturned, much like in the NFL.
The third, and most crucial rule that is being applied this year has nothing to with the players or managers, but everything to do with the media side of things. For 2015, there will be a prompt return to play after a TV break and pitching transitions from the bullpen will now be timed. This is the one that will probably have the biggest impact as far actual pace-of-play goes. As far as the bullpen transitions go, there is already a rule in place for that if you look at Rules 8.01-8.03.
For violators of any of these rules, they will receive a warning. A second offense will result in a series of fines up to $500. These rules will be in effect for Spring Training, but fines/warnings will not take place until May. The MLBPA still needs to agree to these additions, as the first month will be kind of a trial-run for the league.
Manfred states, “These changes represent a step forward in our efforts to streamline the pace of play. The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly. In addition, the batter’s box rule will help speed up a basic action of the game.”
With all due respect to the new commissioner, he’s completely in the wrong here. He’s stated previously that he’s trying to improve the speed of the game because it’s what the people want. Baseball is trying to conform to society, and that helps nobody. Part of what made baseball unique was that the pace wasn’t controlled, and it could be played the way the players wanted it without worrying about so many rules. Baseball didn’t change, they are simply cracking down harder on the rules that are in the rule book already. With the exception of “immediate return to play” and “manager challenging” these rules were already in force. The new commissioner would know that if he would just read the rule-book.
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