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Hagan: Baseball’s rules are changing, and it’s for the better

| Thursday, March 17, 2022

Baseball is back! Last week, after a lockout that lasted more than three months, the MLB and MLBPA finally came to an agreement on a new labor deal. The new Collective Bargaining agreement that the two parties agreed to was quite controversial. Of course, baseball fans were relieved to hear that there would be a full season in 2022. Yet, some were not so happy when they heard the changes that would be happening to America’s pastime in the years to come. As for me, I think these changes are for the better.

Changes that go into immediate effect

Universal DH: Love

About time. I know there are a lot of baseball purists out there that absolutely hate this change, but I’m tired of seeing pitchers strike out on three pitches. It’s just not entertaining. Also, I can’t even imagine being a manager and watching my ace get hit with a 95 MPH fastball. Pitchers do not need to bat! Luckily, they can finally focus on their own craft. 

Postseason expanded from 10 to 12 teams: Like, I think

I loved this rule change when I heard it, but I have begun to feel like there could be some risks involved. For those unfamiliar with the new format, the top two division-winners in each league get a bye to the second round. That means that the four best teams in the league will have to wait almost a week longer than they normally would before beginning their postseason. In a sport where players are used to playing almost every day, I’m not sure all that sitting around is a good thing. Also, it’s only a matter of time before the MLB wants to go for the money grab of adding more teams, and I don’t want the MLB playoffs to start to look like those of the NBA or NHL.

Implementation of a draft lottery: Love 

Unfortunately, baseball is a sport where some teams are able to straight up not try to win. I don’t mean the players intentionally drop pop flies or anything like that. Some owners are just never willing to invest money in their team. The New York Mets currently have the highest payroll in the league at nearly $250 million. On the other hand, the Baltimore Orioles’ payroll comes in at just below $25 million. That’s nearly a 90% difference! At least the implementation of a draft lottery could motivate some owners to begin spending money on their teams.

English/Spanish as a second language courses: Love

I know this isn’t getting much press coverage, but this is really a classy move by the MLB. As long as at least one player requests it, each team will provide English and Spanish second language courses. The MLB is one of the most diverse major sports leagues in the world. This undoubtedly will help the players communicate with each other, especially pitchers and catchers.

The All-Star game could be decided by a home run derby: Are they serious?

I mean, come on. I honestly thought this was a joke when I first heard about it. From now on, if the All-Star Game is tied after nine innings, the game will be decided by a home run derby. Hell yeah! ‘Merica! The change was made to prevent the risk of wearing out the pitchers’ arms in extra innings. (Can’t believe this game used to decide home field advantage for the World Series!)

Changes starting in 2023

Oversized bases: Didn’t know this was a problem, but OK.

The MLB is changing the size of the bases from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. The league claims that this change should reduce injuries. I guess it will prevent baserunners from running into the first basemen? Besides that, it will lead to more stolen base attempts and more runners on base. Sounds good.

Banning the shift: Love 

This change, along with the Universal DH and the expanded playoff, is extremely controversial. Baseball has never had any rules to prevent defensive positioning, and now teams will be required to keep two infielders on each side of second base. Without a doubt this rule helps hitters. As the shift has gained popularity over the last few years, I have seen countless line drives caught by infielders standing 10-feet deep in the outfield grass. I don’t like seeing hitters punished for good at-bats, and I think it could make the game more exciting too.

Pitch clock: Love

There has been talk of a pitch clock in the MLB for years, and it is finally going to happen in 2023. It is not yet official what the time limits will be, but the league has experimented with a 14-second pitch clock with the bases empty and 19 seconds with runners on base. This should definitely improve the pace-of-play problem that has plagued the MLB for years.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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