Rob Manfred has been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball for only a week, and he is already trying to fundamentally change the game that we all know and love.
After Bud Selig did so many great things for the game including the second wild card, Manfred is trying to leave his mark in a big way, and I don’t blame him: it’s human nature!
He is over-hyping pace of play, and offense scoring issues so he has an excuse to make radical changes, and it’s not going to fly with most fans including me.
Baseball is the national pastime for a reason. Baseball has no clock for a reason. America loves this sport because it’s great just the way it is.
There is no doubt that games are getting longer, and that scoring is decreasing at the same times. In order to keep baseball popular, we need to keep the next generation of fans interested, and in that aspect, Manfred is right.
However, there will always be people that love baseball. I know plenty of young fans that like baseball right now, and it’s not like baseball is suddenly going to disappear. As much as I love an 11-10 game, there is something special about a 1-0 pitchers duel, especially when runners get on base. It’s intense and exciting.
In an interview with Karl Ravech of ESPN, Manfred suggested banning the defensive shift. I don’t know what he was thinking, but there are so many things wrong with that statement. First of all, if he thinks that banning shifts will dramatically increase run scoring, than he is living in la la land.
Second, banning defensive shifts takes the strategy out of the game that we all love. One reason why I love the slower pace of baseball, is because I can talk about a play or an at bat before it happens. When a pull happy hitter is at the plate, and the defense shifts, I can talk about that.
Finally, baseball players get paid a lot of money to adjust! If a left-handed pull hitter can’t hit the ball to left, shame on him, and shame on the hitting coach. Hitters need to learn to hit the ball the other way. Eventually when a player constantly beats the shift, teams will stop putting it on.
There are better ways to increase the pace of the game without radically changing the game and losing fans that you already have. Here are some suggestions for the Commisioner.
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1. Move the Mound Down
I’m not sure if this will have that much of an impact, but it could give an advantage to the hitter, so it might be worth a try. There is a chance that moving the mound down could transform strikeouts into home runs.
2. Automatic Intentional Walks
This is the most obvious one. Why do we have to watch a pitcher throw four meaningless pitchers just to walk a guy. If your going to intentionally walk a hitter, than signal to the home plate umpire, and the hitter can just walk to first base. That would save a few minutes.
3. Cut time between Inning Breaks
I love this idea that Manfred has suggested. Batters have to be in the box 20 seconds before a half inning begins, and pitchers have to be ready to throw their first pitch 30 seconds before the half inning begins. This is plenty of time and it would shave another three minutes.
4. Keep Batters in the Box
Once a batter puts both feet in the box, one foot should have to stay in the box. Constantly stepping out to adjust batting gloves a million times and to swing the bat around is a waste of time.
5. Limit Trips to the Mound
Each team goes to the mound on average twice during a game to talk, so that’s four times per game. If the MLB gave each team one trip to the mound they would save four minutes per game.
No matter what you do, the games are still going to be long, but that is what makes baseball great. Run scoring should go up as hitters adjust. There is no need to ban shifts or install pitch clocks. Both ideas are to extreme.
If you want more young people to watch and attend baseball games, market baseball’s big name starts better, and throw a ton more money into youth, high school, and college baseball. That will get more young people interested.
So please Mr. Manfred don’t loose fans you already have by changing the things that make baseball great!