Allow me to channel Andy Rooney for a few moments.
Major League Baseball is at it again, considering three rule proposals that chip away at the history and integrity of the game. One proposed rule would add a 20 second pitch clock. You read that correctly: a clock. In baseball. It shows just how far Major League Baseball had drifted from the roots of the game. I’m reminded here of presidents who don’t know the price of a gallon of milk. There is no clock in baseball. That’s part of what makes the game unique, and it is at the core of how the game is played.
Another proposed rule would require any pitcher to face a minimum of three batters. This cuts down on platooning, but in reality, it speeds up the pace of the game because you don’t have as many pitching changes.
A third proposal would make for a “universal DH” bringing the dreaded DH to the National League beginning in the 2019 season. The DH allows for more potential hitting, but takes away more of the subtle strategy that makes NL games so interesting.
What do these three proposals have in common? They attempt to increase the pace and action of the game in order to keep the attention of viewers, who might change the channel when they feel a game is moving too slowly.
In reality, I don’t believe any of these changes would significantly speed up a game. A pitch clock might hustle the slower hurlers on the mound, but it would have no effect on the pitchers who have a quick delivery. Maybe you shave a minute or two from a game. The same is true for pitching changes. You shave a minute or two here and there. A better way would be to require a pitcher to be ready when he leaves the bullpen. He gets to the mound, and starts to pitch, no need for additional warmups. In reality, this is not about speeding up the pace of the game but providing the illusion that the game is moving faster.
And for what? Isn’t the pace of life fast enough already? One thing I love about watching baseball is that life slow down for a while when I watch a game. I immerse myself not just on the action on the field, but in the history behind all of that action.
These rule changes put baseball in danger of morphing into something else entirely in order to retain viewers and fans. The irony is that those viewers want to see a baseball game. With the way things are going, what they’ll see is something that doesn’t take quite as long to play, but it won’t be a baseball game.