The start of a new Major League Baseball season always brings fresh discussion around the topic of starting the clock for each at-bat and innings pitched. The current collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball (MLB) requires a two-hour window from the time a pitch is thrown to the time it reaches the batter, even if the pitch is released under the “natural break.” The “natural break” is where the pitcher stops throwing the pitch and the catcher gets the ball back. In 2016, the season started on May 6, and the clock started on May 7, allowing for 26 minutes to be used between fastball thrown and pitch delivered. The last two years, the clock started on May 5 and May 6, both at 2 p
The story of college baseball is the story of one man. It is the story of the man who changed everything. It is the story of the man who gave us the pitch clock. And it is the story of the man who made the decision to end blackouts.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been eliminated by the New York Mets from the playoffs, but they didn’t get there in a traditional way. On Sunday, the Phillies lost a game in the 12th inning because of a lengthy delay caused by a rain delay. In the final inning, the Cardinals and Royals also required a rain delay to finish their respective games. The delays led to a 3 hour, 35 minute marathon of action. The Texas Rangers also had a delay, but the delay was caused by a lightening delay. The delay was only 45 minutes though.
Baseball is at a crossroads, with increasing strikeout totals and unwritten-rules disputes, as well as engaging with a new generation of fans and a potential labor fight. As MLB grapples with these problems, we’re taking a season-long look at The State of Baseball, exploring the themes and stories that will shape the game in 2021 and beyond.
Congratulations on being appointed as interim commissioner of Major League Baseball for one day.
What is the first thing you would alter about the league if you were granted unfettered authority during your short tenure? And, whether on or off the field, how would it improve the game? The only stipulation is that it must be reasonable. There will be no expansion teams on the moon, just modifications that can be made right now.
That’s what we asked ESPN MLB analysts Bradford Doolittle, Alden Gonzalez is a character in the film Alden Gonzalez, Tim Keown, Joon Lee, Kiley McDaniel, Jeff Passan, Jesse Rogers, and David Schoenfield to come up with, and we received a wide variety of responses, from subtle to radical.
The following are their eight suggestions.
Reduce the length of the season
The regular season of Major League Baseball should be reduced by a month.
Baseball is America’s summer sport, and it’s doing just fine. The July 31 trade deadline offers energy and momentum at a crucial time, but the dog days of August arrive not long after clubs welcome their new players.
Is it possible that games are too long? How can baseball make the most of its new crop of superstars? We go into the issues that will have a long-term impact on the game. Baseball’s Current Situation «
The nation has largely moved on to football and even the start of other sports’ seasons by the time the pennant battles heat up in September. These days, October comes in with a whimper.
That’s not even taking into account the teams that have dropped out of the race: It’s OK to use a month of useless baseball to evaluate prospects. Two months is excessive. It’s always been like way.
Consider the following scenario: The pennant races begin with the thrill of the trade deadline. Baseball’s season comes to a close with a bang as football approaches the starting gate. The September playoffs won’t seem like a sideshow to the pigskin game; they’ll be right up there in the news.
A shortened season’s secondary effects are all favorable. Star players’ careers, particularly pitchers’, may continue longer, compensating for the income loss due to fewer games. There would be less of a motivation for top players to miss games throughout the course of a season. With fewer games to select from, the stands would be even more packed. The weather in the playoffs would no longer be a concern.
Those days are long gone for the crusty, old-school fan who values baseball’s statistics above 162 games. The days of counting statistics are gone, and the days of percentages are here to stay. An OPS calculated using 132 games will have the same meaning as one calculated using 162. Rogers, Jesse
The leagues should be expanded and realigned based on location.
Baseball should be expanded to 32 teams as soon as possible. When that occurs, baseball will be able to use a new framework to capitalize on the sport’s regional appeal. This would irritate my history-loving instincts as a traditionalist. But, since it’ll almost certainly happen anyhow, if MLB expands, it’ll be time to tear off the Band-Aid and focus heavily on geographic realignment.
As a result, the cliched American and National League names will no longer be used. I don’t understand how you can maintain the league labels the same if you start moving teams that have been there for 120 years. You’d go to an Eastern League and a Western League, each having two eight-team divisions and two four-team pods inside each division. Six clubs each league would compete in the playoffs, with the four division winners receiving a first-round bye.
For scheduling purposes, the geographic pods within each division are critical: These are the games that will be played the most often on the schedule. Unless a club is the overall division winner, the champion of each “pod” will advance to the playoffs, in which case the next-best team in the pod will.
Finally, I’d set up broadcast distribution in the following manner: There would be various subscription tiers, and blackout restrictions would no longer apply. An MLB-level subscription, a division subscription, a pod membership, or a subscription for a specific club are all available. These would be stand-alone subscriptions for non-national broadcasts, so Fox, ESPN, and other networks would continue to show games that all fans would be able to see. These are the games that will be shown.
Regionalization is the driving factor behind it all. Start building such rivalries in the minors, which have already grown more geographically linked and will likely become more so over time. You don’t dismiss the national element, but baseball is already very much a local sport. The sport’s structure should reflect this. Doolittle, Bradford
Include a pitch clock.
In the lower leagues, pitch clocks are already in use. It’s time to summon them to The Show. Getty Images/Rich Schultz
Bill Veeck, the proprietor of the Hall of Fame, said in his autobiography released in 1962, “The pace of the game has slowed significantly. If we were presenting two and a half hours of activity, there would be nothing wrong with the now-standard three-hour game.”
“We need to find a way to bring more action into the game, get the ball in play more frequently, enable players to display their athleticism some more, and offer fans more of what they want,” Theo Epstein stated earlier this year.
Baseball, of course, had a clock that pushed the game to be played faster: the sun. We need a new approach to generate fewer strikeouts, more activity, and a faster tempo, unless we go back to day games and take down stadium lighting.
The answer is a pitch clock. It’s a term used in minor league baseball. The Olympics used one that didn’t have any runners on board. It’s effective. It’s something we’ll need in the majors.
1. The time between pitches is the leading cause of game lengthening: a nine-inning game is now 23 minutes longer than it was in 2005, and a 34-minute game is now 34 minutes longer than it was in 1984. (and 35 minutes longer than 1962). Grant Bisbee examined two virtually similar games in terms of score, pitches thrown, and baserunners — one from 1984 and one from 2014 — and discovered over 33 minutes of dead time between pitches in the 2014 game.
2. A 2017 research by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur found that as pitchers spend more time between throws, their velocity rises. With pitchers maxing out on every pitch more than ever before — particularly relievers, who are throwing a greater proportion of innings than they were in 1962 or 1984 — that stroll around the mound and wipe of the forehead adds up to almost 290 pitches.
So put in a pitch clock and make hitters stay in the box. Both teams will lose a little bit, but pitchers will be pushed to work quicker and will likely throw less hard. Fast-working command pitchers (think Mark Buehrle) will be in more demand, hitters will make more contact, and fielders will have more chances to show off their athleticism. David Schoenfield’s quote
Bring the robo umps in.
The striking zone is a straightforward idea. The game’s stewards designate a vertical space above home plate’s uneven pentagon. It’s a strike if a pitcher tosses a baseball in the area above the plate. Everything else is a toy. This seems to be a simple task.
It isn’t the case. It’s difficult because the human sight is prone to error and the human brain is prone to prejudice. It’s difficult since catchers have been trained to take advantage of these flaws and prejudices. It’s not simple since umpires who call 95 percent of ball-strike calls correctly are regarded the best of the best, and umpires who call 85 percent correctly stay employed, and there are many instances of balls being called strikes and strikes being called balls every day.
It’s past time to put a stop to this farce and usher in the age of the robot umpire. Because robot umpires seem like something Boston Dynamics might create, MLB has given this system the name ABS (automatic balls and strikes). I don’t care if behind home plate there’s a scary Chuck E. Cheese mechanical. It will be a significant improvement if it correctly and consistently calls balls and strikes.
Yes, the technology is still developing. Breaking balls is a difficult task. Determining a batter’s appropriate strike zone is also important. And, as is customary, the league-wide zone may evolve over time. At the very least, it won’t be caused by hundreds of diverse readings of the zone by various umps. The system’s foundations are strong. Iterations are being made following usage in the Low-A Southeast League, and the results are instructive.
I, for one, am looking forward to our future robotic overlords. — Passan, Jeff
Remove video rights limitations and end streaming bans.
If you’re in Iowa and want to watch White Sox games online, you’ve come to the right place. Continue to fantasize. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Ron Vesely
Last week’s Field of Dreams experiment was an attempt by Major League Baseball to break the baseball season’s mid-August monotony — a headline event with a pop culture tie-in to a famous film and a made-for-TV extravaganza amid Iowa’s cornfields.
However, if you attempted to watch a baseball game in Iowa on MLB.tv, you’d be greeted with blackouts, not just for that night’s national broadcast, but for any White Sox, Cubs, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals, or Royals game. Four hours from Chicago, four hours from Minneapolis, three hours from Milwaukee, and more than five hours from St. Louis and Kansas City, Dyersville, Iowa is situated. If you reside in New York, you could go to games in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., which are all around the same distance from Dyersville as New York.
Streaming services, social media, and YouTube are the primary sources of entertainment for today’s youthful cord-cutters. The league continues to stifle its potential development among those fans, as well as any fans blacked out due to location, by blacking out games on MLB.tv, the simplest method to watch throughout the nation. The league has to cooperate with its television partners to make it more simpler to watch local games.
It’s not only blackouts: While MLB has relaxed its social media video rules in recent years, the organization would be well to embrace social media as the main venue for fan discussion and consumption. The future of baseball is on social media, in the hands of fans, and MLB needs to make producing baseball-themed films utilizing game material as easy as possible by relaxing its copyright restrictions, similar to how the NBA considers user-generated content as free promotion for the sport. Joon Lee is a Korean actor.
Allow draft selections to be traded.
I believe that permitting the trade of draft choices is a regulation change that may have the greatest effect on the sport. It’s not a given that it’ll be in the next CBA, but at this point, I’d say it’s more probable than not.
Currently, any straightforward one-for-one MLB deal requires both clubs’ assessments of both players to be similar. With selections on the table, all 30 teams will value the pick about the same, so all you have to do is match up on one player’s worth. Because of their universal worth, any club will desire selections in a trade, regardless of where they are in the competitive cycle. Simply by doing so, a transaction will be twice as likely to occur as it is today.
Another apparent benefit of generating movement in the draft is that it boosts the event’s appeal. With deals and more speculations to come, big leaguers may suddenly be a part of the action. This would very certainly imply hard-slotted selections with a fixed bonus rather than merely a pool amount, making every player accessible for every team and making the structure simpler to grasp for casual viewers.
As the draft becomes more dynamic, it generates more interest and money for the event and any related events (maybe a new international draft TV event?). This would also provide creative teams with more opportunities to be on the leading edge (always a plus) and scouts with more opportunities to provide value to their clubs. It may even generate additional scouting employment, since more players may be selected by each side, necessitating more scouting reports for each club. Kiley McDaniel (Kiley McDaniel)
Minor leaguers should be paid a livable salary.
Over the years, minor league life has been depicted with a certain charm. Long bus trips, interminable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cramped flats are all portrayed as essential rites of passage, despite the fact that reality is much colder and darker.
It’s a kind of exploitation.
In 2021, minor league wages increased from 38 percent to 72 percent, with players earning between $400 and $700 per week throughout the season, ranging from rookie to Triple-A. It’s a step forward, but it’s not enough. Minor leaguers are still sleeping in vehicles and apartments infested with cockroaches, and players are virtually starving themselves since their salaries aren’t big enough to cover their living costs, according to many stories.
The Savannah Bananas are rewriting baseball’s rules.
Major league owners have long used an antitrust exception that enables them to stifle the salaries of minor league players. The recent reduction of Major League Baseball’s lower leagues was marketed as a structural reform that would enhance the quality of life for minor league players, but this has not proven to be the case. In fact, as The Athletic recently reported, the housing crisis sparked by the COVID-19 epidemic has further exacerbated the situation.
The MLB Players Association does not represent minor league players. And, for the most part, their colleagues in the big leagues don’t advocate for them in collective bargaining, owing to the fact that they all went through something similar. That does not make it acceptable. Improving minor leaguers’ quality of living will increase the level of their performance, which will improve the quality of baseball in towns throughout the nation, elevating the sport.
But this is about something much more fundamental than that: it’s about treating people with basic respect. Alden Gonzalez’s words
Reconsider the commissioner’s function.
As the new Grand Potentate of Baseball, my first item of business is to address the precarious nature of baseball’s time-honored capacity to overcome the ineptitude, avarice, and short-sightedness of those in charge.
The issue begins at the top: the commissioner represents the game, but he ultimately serves the owners. For example, Rob Manfred has been unquestionably excellent for the financial coffers of club owners — and terrible for almost everyone else. Under his leadership, the sport has seen a laundry list of public-relations catastrophes that would fill a lineup card.
The game will live on. It is always the case. However, as the commissioner focuses on the designated hitter, extra innings, and seven-inning doubleheaders, the sport is shrinking, becoming more regional, and less inclusive. Before every poor child gets totally redlined out of the game, youth baseball has to be reformed. Owners must be held responsible for failing to field competitive teams on purpose. Women must play a larger role in changing the culture. Conditions in the lower levels, where players are bunking five to a room and trying to make ends meet, must be addressed before a full-fledged mental-health catastrophe develops.
What is the most effective way to improve baseball’s current state? It begins with the appointment of a commissioner with a connection to the game that extends beyond financial considerations, someone who represents something other than corporate sponsorships and real-estate agreements for wealthy owners. Someone who realizes that there are people in the game’s operations departments, clubhouses, and the stands who enjoy the game for what it is, not how much money may be made from it. Tim Keown (Tim Keown)
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