The commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, should not modernize professional baseball. In February, he announced his plans to make rule changes to speed up major league games and draw in more fans.
Rob Manfred said the MLB would like to raise the strike zone to the top of the hitter’s kneecaps and add a clock to reduce time in between pitches. Beginning this year, pitchers will no longer throw four balls for an intentional walk, but rather make a signal to the umpire. All changes are in a bid to speed up the game. But speeding up the game will not draw in more fans, because it’s the pace of the sport most people don’t like, rather than the length of the games.
Even when MLB playoff games exceed four hours, not many fans complain because the thrill, excitement and energy produced by those games trumps the length. Whether games last three hours, or two and a half hours, it’s the pace of play and amount of action that keep some people away from baseball.
Seeing an at-bat with eight plus pitches that can last up to five minutes, with not one ball put in play will mean some people shy away from the sport and that’ll stay that way no matter what rules are changed. Trying to draw in more fans is the wrong way to go about this, especially if the players themselves don’t want to see change. If the players who play the game don’t like these rule changes, neither will people who already dislike the sport.
In 2015, the major leagues tried shortening games, and succeeded by cutting them down by 12 minutes. The following year, games increased again by four minutes. It’s not worth changing baseball to save about ten minutes, without the guarantee that games would continue at that pace.
The first and only rule change coming this season, using a signal instead of throwing pitches for an intentional walk, will shorten games by about 35 seconds and will save pitchers about 1.54 pitches per game, according to the Kansas City Star. Although the rule will not affect the outcome of games, it’s not worth it for the MLB to change a long-time custom of the sport, to save only half a minute.
Baseball is the only sport that hasn’t suffered any drastic changes since becoming a professional sport. Hockey players are now bigger, faster and stronger while goalies have much improved compared to say, 50 years ago.
In basketball, big men like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used to dominate the game, while today small players such as Stephen Curry and Isaiah Thomas have taken over the league. But in baseball, well not much has changed.
The home run king Barry Bonds hit only seven more home runs than second place Hank Aaron, who both played about 50 years apart. Pitchers now aren’t throwing any harder than pitchers any time before them. So if a player’s performance has stayed relatively similar, the MLB shouldn’t change things that have worked for them since it was established in 1869.
These are the things that make baseball what it is and shouldn’t change to draw in people who don’t like the sport.
While there is nothing wrong with trying to make games shorter, Major League Baseball shouldn’t change such important rules to do so. Even if games are 10,15 or even 20 minutes shorter, it’s still the pace of the game that keeps certain fans away. It’s not worth it for the MLB to change baseball, only to save maybe ten minutes when last time around it only worked for one season.
The MLB is the one North American sports league that hasn’t suffered any drastic changes throughout its time, so don’t change it to save such minimal time. New technology is something that’s taken over almost every industry in the world, but baseball is one that has stayed true to its roots for well over 100 years.
So Rob Manfred, how about we keep it that way?