The Times in Baseball They Are A-Changin’

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, March 14.  Traditionally baseball has been the most resistant to change of any sport out there.  Both college and pro football routinely changes their rules more often than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends. Now, MLB and the union have agreed on changes, some of which will take effect now and some next season. MLB didn’t make the two best changes they could have.  They could have insisted on the 20-second pitch clock being enforced.  They caved on that.  They also could have permanently canceled the Home Run Derby.  Instead, MLB has decided the winner should get a million dollars.  The problem with that is, with players making 30 million a year, a million to them is like $3.00 to us.  Home run derby has caused injuries and has ruined the rest of the season for some of its participants.  Would you risk your good health for 3 dollars? 

One complaint I’ve had for decades is the long breaks between innings and during pitching changes.  While it seems like each break takes half an hour, MLB officially says they were 2 mintes 5 seconds on local broadcasts and 2 minutes 25 seconds on national broadcasts.  This year 5 seconds will be shaved off local games and 25 seconds, almost a full commercial off games on Fox and ESPN.  Come 2020 MLB is looking to make all breaks a minute 55 seconds on all games. That’s not etched in stone but it sure needs to be. Before Gillette razors grabbed the radio rights in 1939, there were no commercials in between innings on World Series broadcasts.  The two teams changed places which at the most took a minute, and the game continued. Fast forward to the 1975 World Series, and the games were still played at a brisk pace with relatively short breaks.  The iconic game 6 which took 12 innings and featured Carlton Fisk’s 12th–inning home run barely edged past Midnight.  In the last decade, baseball games in general and World Series games in particular could be in the 7th inning at the witching hour of Midnight.  Admittedly, the commercials aren’t the only thing dragging baseball into the quicksand of time.  The abandoned 20-second pitch clock would have helped even more than shortening the commercial breaks.  Especially in postseason play, a full minute could pass between pitches because of pitchers wandering around the mound and hitters wandering outside the batter’s box, adjusting their packages, doing their taxes on their cell phones or whatever they were doing. But the clock is dead until at least 2022. Finally for 2019, only 5 mound visits will be allowed instead of 6.  I can’t remember a game last year where a team came close to 6 mound visits, so reducing the total to 5 makes sense. 

Next year we will see rosters go from 25 to 26 men, with a 27th being made available for doubleheaders.  That had to happen especially in the National League where there is no DH.  It doesn’t take long to run out of pinch-hitters if you carry 12 or 13 pitchers–a number that would have been absurd a decade ago. My opinion is, 28 would even make sense and that could be increased to 29 for a doubleheader.  While I’m not in favor of the teams carrying 13 pitchers, if it must happen they need enough batters to have a real bench. This year will be the final year of teams having 40 men available in September.  I really don’t care for that move.  I remember September being exciting if your team stunk because you could see new players who might do your team some good in years to come.  Almost any player who ever played began as a September callup.  This will be the last year for that.  In September the rosters only go up to 28 rather than 40. 

The change I like the best starting in 2020 is the 3-batter rule.  Nothing annoys me more than pitchers coming in to face one guy, then leaving.  That leaves listeners to wait through 2 full commercial breaks and kills any momentum the hitting team may have built up. While I’ve heard it a million times as a fan and a broadcaster, the example that jumps into my head is a game my partner and I broadcast.  We were with New Britain, the Twins’ team in the Eastern League then and our team was playing Norwich, the Yankees’ AA team then. Our starting pitcher opened the 7th inning but our manager Sal Butera followed him with 3 relievers, 2 of whom faced just one man.  Sal got what he had coming to him that night.  The game was tied and went into extra innings.  We lost in 17 innings.  Our closer, our very last available pitcher, blew a possible save in the 16th and lost the game in the 17th. 

Across all social media platforms, these changes are a hot button topic.  The more you read, the more different opinions you’ll see.  Of course, mine is the correct one! lol Two weeks from today the season will start and the changes for 2019 will be real.           

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