When MLB Commissioner Bud Selig stepped down in 2015, the majority of baseball fans rejoiced. They were happy as Selig was gone and some of the nonsense (winner of the All-Star Game gets homefield in the World Series?) that many hoped would go. Selig always spun bad things into a positive, notably MLB’s drug testing. My personal issue was with Selig and his mentality when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa breaking down the home run record and how it was “great for baseball” despite rumors of McGwire doing steroids. Then when Barry Bonds did it 3 years later, it was “well, we need to check on these guys; it isn’t fair to the game.” But anyway….I’ve ranted enough on Selig.
So when Bud Selig left, Rob Manfred took over as the Commissioner. His goals were simple: get the youth going, improve technology inside the game, and speed the game up. And the latter seems like if that is corrected, the other two will fall into place.
Yes, I get it. In this Millennial Era where we want quick results, action 24-7, and something to contain our attention for 3+ hours nonstop, baseball really doesn’t fit into that mold. It’s not a physical game like football or basketball. It is not one that has full of action from the first pitch to the last at-bat. And there are things that I would like to see differently.
But Rob Manfred is in danger of losing the faithful: the actual baseball fans. His bent views on speeding the game up such as eliminating the 4-pitch intentional walk has soured on traditionalists, Many feel it is just a “coy” to put a band-aid on a bullet wound.
The irony is that despite the intentional walk rule put in place before the season, baseball went up to a record 3 hours and 5 minutes per game in 2017. More impressive given how that the use of replays dropped in last season. Now Manfred wants to install a 20 second pitch count, only letting catchers go out one time to the pitcher between innings, and keeping the batter in the box between pitches and after a first warning, if the pitcher violates the time rule, a ball is called. If a batter violates the rule, a strike is called. If a coach or a manager goes out to the mound a second time in an inning for a pitcher, he must make a pitching change (to that I actually am okay with and thought that was a rule already).
What Manfred (in my eyes) doesn’t get is that the pitchers and hitters aren’t really taking a lot of time in between pitches (22 seconds between pitch, which is 2 higher than the proposal). It is everything else, that to me CANNOT be changed. One thing I normally see is we see a lot of foul balls being hit and foul balls have been on the rise. Granted, not by a lot, but you do see the foul ball totals go up. That takes time. Should Manfred get the wide eyes and go “any foul ball after the 2nd strike results as a strike out a la the bunt?”
One thing that I really think may be a predicament for Manfred is the offensive output had a great spike in 2017. After years of seeing more of the pitching duels than slugfests, we saw the long ball return to baseball. We had 41 guys hit 30 or more HR’s this year including Kyle Schwarber, who missed a chunk for a Minors trip and hit .211 (as opposed to 2014 when we only had 12 guys hit 30 or more). Now, two arguments can be made for it: the first one is the one of that new age way of players having great value to a team if they only go .200 but those hits are big (a la Schwarber and Chris Davis). And the other argument is that the balls are juiced.
After Game 1 of the World Series where Manfred salivated on the 2 hours, 28 minutes, the next 6 games were anything but fast-paced. The next game was a 4-hour, 19-minute tilt that went into extra innings. Game Three was nearly 3 and a half hours for a 5-3 score. Game 4 was 3 hours and 6 minutes. The classical Game 5 was over 5 hours long with only 1 extra inning. Game 6 which was an actual pitching match-up still went 3 hours and 22 minutes. And the final game was 3 hours, 37 minutes.
But people don’t remember how long the games took. They remember the great games we saw like in Games 2, 4, and 5. And more of the controversy was “were the balls juiced” instead of “are these games taking forever?” It would also help as well if these games weren’t starting at 8:00 eastern time either and starting at 7:30 at the latest.
Manfred can make these changes all he wants. It won’t speed the game up any. The thing is, baseball has evolved over time and will continue to evolve. We see it now with the the metric approach as opposed to what it was even 20 years ago. And even that somewhat makes things trickier to speed things up, especially if the strike zone is shrinking. So if Manfred really wants to speed the game up, the best thing for him to do is leave everything as is and let the actual sport take over.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat