Tampa Bay Rays: Are rule changes on the horizon for MLB?

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred looks on during the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Nationals Park on July 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred looks on during the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Nationals Park on July 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

As is tradition, the MLB Players Association and Major League Baseball have begun deliberations over their respective proposals to change the game. Both comprehensive and impactful, the proposals could bring sweeping changes to the very game we know today.

Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic has been following the ongoing discussion between the MLBPA and Major League Baseball as the two sides try to come to an agreement regarding rule changes for the 2019 season and beyond. As Rosenthal states, “If no agreement is reached, the collective bargaining agreement empowers Manfred to unilaterally implement three elements he formally proposed last year”. Per Rosenthal’s sources, those elements are:

  • 20 second pitch clock
  • 5 mound visits versus 6
  • Runner starts on 2nd base in spring training games and all-star games after 10th inning

Last Friday, the MLBPA responded to Manfred’s proposal with a proposal of their own which included some interesting rule changes aimed to improve the game and the lacking competitiveness that has engulfed almost a third of the league.

Per Rosenthal, the MLBPA proposal is believed to have addressed the following:

  • manipulation of players service time
  • draft penalties for tanking
  • universal DH

This is what Rosenthal said regarding the negotiations:

"The dueling proposals marked an acceleration in the negotiations between baseball and the union over ways to improve the game. Further ideas and potential tradeoffs are certain to be explored in the weeks ahead."

Topics such as mound visits and roster capacity were also addressed in the MLB proposal:

"Baseball’s current proposal includes one slight modification from the above provisions, reducing mound visits from six to four in ‘19 and four to three in ‘20. It also includes an expansion of rosters from 25 to 26 in ‘20, with an accompanying reduction from 40 to 28 in September."

The most interesting and controversial proposed rule change would be mandating relievers or any pitcher for that matter to face a minimum of 3 batters. Similar to the possible addition of a designated hitting role to the National League, placing a minimum on the number of batters a pitcher must face would fundamentally change the game as we know it.

My take on the NL DH: 

I don’t really see an issue with the implementation of a designated hitter in the National League. Heck,  it would provide more jobs to the countless hitters still on the market. I think we can all agree that pitchers can’t hit and the addition of a designated hitter would accomplish a few things.

The most obvious among them is a boost to baseball’s offense at a time where the league and its fans are desperate for more action. Pitchers can’t hit and while the rare bomb from Madison Bumgarner may be exciting, we can’t lose sight of the fact that he is a career .183 hitter.

Adding a DH may also allow starting pitchers who are in the midst of a 1 run game to stay in the game rather than be lifted in favor of a pinch hitter.

It will be interesting to see if a universal DH will be implemented in 2019 but I am not sure I expect it to happen.

My take on the 3 batter minimum: 

I get that mid-half inning pitching changes can get tedious and time-consuming but those small moves embody the true beauty of the sport. Baseball is a chess match and a beautifully challenging and engaging (in my opinion) one at that. When you start to limit what a manager can do to put his team in the best position to win, the game that we all love starts to lose what separates it from the rest.

It is me against you, right here. You can’t run down the clock by kneeling. You can’t foul someone and send them to the line for a pair of free throws. If a specialist is in to face a batter, the batter has no choice but to go to battle and by implementing a mandate, we could lose that in a sense. We could lose out on some great moments power versus power matchups in huge situations!

EX: Closers or even starters coming in on little to no rest just to get that one guy and push his team over the top in October. 

Do you see where I am going with this…? These are the type of one on one matchups of the games best that you can only get in baseball. I sure don’t want to lose out on those moments! Those are “I was there” moments…

When we become so consumed with adding offense, or action to the game that we start to handcuff managers and limit the choices they have had since the dawn of baseball, that is where I start to pump the brakes.

*Technically, a universal DH would also limit manager’s choices in a game. But, half the league already has a DH and I have always been irked by the lack of uniformity between leagues and a universal DH fixes that. 

"The overall percentage of relief appearances lasting less than three batters began to rise when Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa helped launch specialized bullpens in the late 1980s. But it mostly has held steady in the three decades since, ranging from 15.5 to 15.1 to 15.7 percent, including 14.1 percent last season. -Rosenthal"

It isn’t like a whopping number of appearances made by pitchers last for only one batter, less than a fifth do. Moves like these are just fresh in our mind due to the playoffs where they seem more prevalent, and rightfully so. If I am a handful of wins away from a ring, I want my best pitchers to face your best batters as often as possible and a rule change of this magnitude would allow less of that.

What would we gain from disallowing managers to make decisions to put their team in the best position to win? A few more hits…maybe. A shorter game, barely. To change the game this drastically the payoff must be greater.

Dear MLB: Baseball is a beautifully intricate chess match, let’s not begin to whittle it down to checkers.

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Next. PECOTA projections. dark

It sure will be interesting in the coming weeks as we wait with bated breath on possible new rule changes which could go into effect immediately. What are your thoughts on the proposed rules? What would you like to see implemented? Let us know below and on twitter!