I don’t normally write about national issues in this space, but as a baseball fan, there’s a topic I felt compelled to address.
Major League Baseball execs and players are once again considering changes to the rules of the game I love.
- A rule that would requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three batters before coming out.
- A 20-second pitch clock.
- A reduction of mound visits from six to five.
- Bringing the designated hitter to the National League.
There’s even been talk of trying out a rule placing a base runner on second base at the start of each half inning when the score is tied after the 10th. Geez.
I like to think I’m pretty open to change — both accepting its inevitability and embracing its importance in continuing to grow.
When it comes to baseball, though, I’m pretty much old school.
I love the speech made by Kevin Costner, in his role of career minor league catcher Crash Davis in the1988 movie “Bull Durham.” In sharing a litany of his personal beliefs — some of which are not appropriate for a family newspaper — he included the following:
“I believe there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing AstroTurf and the designated hitter.”
It turns out no amendment was needed on turf. Thirty years after that film hit the theaters, turf has all but died of natural (grass) causes.
The designated hitter is another matter. The rule, under which an offensive player hits for the pitcher, has been part of the American League since 1973. Now they’re talking about bringing it to the National League as well, though probably not for the coming season.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, intent on finding ways to speed up the game, is looking for union approval for some of the possibilities mentioned above. In exchange, he seems open to listening on the DH.
The need to speed up the game comes, to no small degree, from shrinking attendance. According to a recent Forbes Magazine article, Major League Baseball drew 69,625,244 paying customers in 2018 — an average of 28,830 per game. That’s down 4 percent from 2017’s average of 30,042 and total of 72,670,423 and the first time MLB attendance dipped below 70 million since 2003.
I get it. We live in a much faster-paced world now. Baseball isn’t concerned about people my age. They want to build a young fan base. Plus, I have to admit that the games are frequently too long.
I can live with fewer mound visits and even a pitch clock. But I think ending the strategy of one pitcher coming in to face one batter in a big spot would take away some the the game’s beautiful tension. And putting a runner on second to try to shorten extra inning games feels like beer league softball.
Finally, although I’ve always thought, and still do think the DH hurts the strategy of the game, the part of me resistant to that change has slowly given way a realization that it is silly to have different rules for each league, especially with so much interleague play.
Also, as a Mets fan, the last thing I want to see is Jacob deGrom or one of our other pitchers get hurt swinging the bat or running the bases.
Sorry, Crash. I held out as long as I could.
Contact Dennis Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org