Last week, Major League Baseball announced three major new rules to speed up the pace of play and major league games. The new MLB rule changes are effective immediately and concentrate on keeping the games as close to three hours as possible without affecting any time for television commercials, which currently keep churning out big dollars for all parties involved in the game.
The first new MLB rule change focuses on keeping the hitters in the batter’s box during the at bat. All hitters will now need to keep one foot in the batter’s box, unless there is a wild pitch or close pitch that makes the batter move. This is completely in the umpire’s discretion and penalties can include warnings and even small fines for every instance.
MLB should not be changing how the game is played, it should be focused on how the game is viewed
Second, there will now be a timer in-stadium that begins at the third out of an inning and lasts 2 minutes and 25 seconds. Pitchers are expected to throw their last warm-up pitch with 30 seconds left and batters should be in the batter’s box and ready to hit with 20 seconds remaining. Play should be ready to resume when the television networks have returned. At least we have avoided a pitch clock to this point.
The third rule designed to speed up the game is that managers will now be expected to challenge calls by the use of replay promptly and from the dugout. This also will be in the umpire’s discretion. We will no longer have managers slowly walking to the umpire, arguing and then looking back into the dugout searching for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from someone on the phone.
While these new rule changes are fine and should not affect the game on the field, I believe Major League Baseball has missed the bigger issue. MLB should not be changing how the game is “played”, they should be focused on how the game is “viewed”. The game of baseball is still beautiful and pure; yes, even with the designated hitter.
MLB is trying to keep the younger generation’s attention and keep them interested in the game. However, the time of the games is not the problem. Most baseball games usually run close to 3 hours. They run about the same as an NFL game and much shorter than the average college football game, which has only grown in popularity. The question MLB should be asking itself is not how can we change the game to change the length of the contest, but how can we change how the game is perceived by the youth of today and how baseball can hold their interest.
Baseball used to be the sport that every child played growing up. This is no longer the case. There are many more athletic options for children today. But the real competition to playing baseball may also be the answer to bringing the kids back: technology. I’m talking about computers, smart-phones and apps. Technology is the way to bring the kids back and to actually help them interact while they are at a game or at home watching it on television.
MLB needs to embrace technology and provide the youth with in-stadium interactive apps that allow the kids to be part of the game or even provide “app boxes” on television. Hopefully, MLB will begin to switch their focus from changing the game we love to creating better ways to enjoy it. Perhaps the Houston Astros can be the pioneers. If Rob Manfred or Jeff Luhnow need any help, they know where to find me.
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