Yesterday afternoon the MLB announced a new rule that will be in place at all levels of minor league baseball to speed up the game. This is something that baseball fans have seen before, most notably in last years World Baseball Classic and it is interesting, to say the least.
Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, has made it his mission to speed up the pace of play in order to make the game more appealing to the younger generation. He has been constantly thinking of ways to speed up the game, implementing an automatic intentional walk (which doesn’t save any time), limiting mound visits to 6 per team, per game, and trying to implement a pitch clock at the Major League level.
All of those ideas are truly interesting on paper but I doubt that they will speed up the game all that much, if at all. However, they don’t hurt the overall core of the game.
The new rule that Rob Manfred is implementing puts a runner on second base with no outs in extra innings. This is a cool idea to do for the All-Star game and the World Baseball Classic simply because those games DO NOT MATTER. This will do nothing to speed up the game it will just give each teams offense a distinctive advantage or disadvantage depending on where their lineup will fall in extra innings.
When games go to extra innings it is a rarity and usually, due to a pitchers duel meaning the game is moving quickly.
I get it baseball games are taking longer and longer to complete and they are struggling to pull in younger fans. For some reason, the people making decisions for the MLB on Park Avenue don’t see that there is an easier solution to their problem which is making the game faster and more exciting. Luckily for them, I have a couple of answers that will fix both of their problems.
Pace of Play
Baseball games take too long and that is because of a few reasons, one is that pitchers don’t go deep into games, starters routinely go 5-6 innings and that is viewed as a “good start” then relievers come in to finish out the game but they don’t come in to pitch the whole inning just to face a batter or two then someone else comes in.
Relievers that are supposed to pitch the whole inning aren’t perfect and when they get hit someone else comes in to try to limit the damage and all of the sudden it has taken 2 hours and 45 minutes to get through 7 innings.
The obvious fix here is to have each team push their starters in the minor leagues to be able to go 8-9 innings but that won’t happen. My idea to combat the slow pace when relievers come into the game is to take away the 8 pitches that relievers get when they are brought into the game in the middle of an inning.
When new relievers are brought into the game mid-inning the game comes to a halt because that reliever who was already warming up in the bullpen runs onto the field and gets to warm up again. If the MLB takes away that warm up period it will save 5-10 minutes per game because there will be no need to go to commercial break and the game will continue as soon as the reliever gets on the mound.
In games when the starter goes 7-9 innings and there are no mid-inning pitching changes this rule won’t affect the game but those are the games that are moving at a fast pace already. This is something that will only affect how much relievers warm up in the bullpen before they enter the game and nothing else besides the pace.
Another reason the game is slowing is because of the amount of time there is between innings. This issue has been addressed by Rob Manfred in his pace of play initiatives that will be introduced for the 2018 season.
In previous years locally televised games would have commercial breaks of 2 minutes and 25 seconds but will be cut by 20 seconds. Nationally televised games will be cut from 2 minutes and 45 seconds to 2 minutes and 25 seconds. This will definitely speed up the game but I would like them to take off an additional 10 seconds which I think would really get the game moving fast.
The issue with that is the limit of advertisements that would prevent the league from making money and some pitchers would have to warm up at a faster rate in between innings, but eventually they will get used to it and the game will improve as a whole.
These silly mound visit and pitch clock rules will have a minimal effect on the pace of the game but what I outlined will chop legitimate time off the game and keep the game moving at a brisk rate.
Making the Game More Exciting
Baseball is a game of beauty that takes pure skill to master and an ability to admire the talents to enjoy. The game was once America’s favorite pastime but that time past well over a decade ago as football is king. Baseball has reigned as the second favorite sport in America for years but that has changed.
According to the Gallup poll that annually asks Americans what is their favorite sport to watch the order has changed, and not in baseballs favor.
The poll is pictured above and there is some concerning information in the numbers. First of all, baseball has fallen below basketball for the first time ever and is not much ahead of soccer in terms of it being America’s favorite sport.
Secondly, the age group that is most important for the future is the group of 18-34 year olds. Baseball is in last of the big four with only 6% of Americans in that age group that find baseball to be their favorite sport.
I think that is the reason why Rob Manfred wants to introduce the runner being placed on second base in extra innings as a possibility but it is the wrong solution to the problem. The game of basketball has not changed since 1979 when it introduced the 3 point line but it is becoming more popular and you may be wondering why.
The answer is simple. The league markets the players virtually every casual sports fan knows who Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, Russel Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony are because they are in commercials, they are active on social media and their teams have rivalries with each other. There is passion on the court when the Warriors and Thunder face off because of issues players have with each other and players are allowed to show their emotions on the floor.
Why do you think Lebron was in a baseball based commercial and not Mike Trout? People know him because of good marketing.
In baseball, beyond the names of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, casual sports fans don’t know who most players are and that is because the MLB doesn’t promote the players well. Mike Trout is a once in a generation type player who could walk down the street and most people wouldn’t recognize him, do you think Tom Brady or Lebron James can do that? NO SHOT!
The best way to combat this is to encourage players to celebrate when they hit the long ball with bat flips and celebrations in the dugout similar to touchdown celebrations, have players call out opposing teams on Twitter, be emotional. That is what baseball is lacking.
I understand the unwritten rules in baseball that say celebrating and bat flips are wrong but the league needs to have the players make themselves known on a personal level and celebrate because that is what fans like to see.
There is no doubt that when the Yankees and Red Sox are both great baseball is in a better place, but they can’t rely on two organizations to carry the load. The league has to encourage organizations to push rivalries with teams within their division to new heights, that will increase viewership. Not a runner on second base with nobody out in the top of the 10th.
Baseball needs passion like that to excite the fans.
Mr. Manfred, I am begging you, ask the younger generation what will interest them, don’t rely on people that are your age to figure it out. I am part of the younger generation and I just outlined a few ways to improve baseball, please take them into consideration.