Over the course of the last year, I have written article after article about the new MLB rules. Just a few games into the season I’ve realized that maybe they (mostly) aren’t that bad.
The Three Batter Minimum
When Rob Manfred, “Commissioner extraordinare” (heavy sarcasm added) announced the three batter minimum rule, I about went through the ceiling. How dare MLB dictate strategy? Yes, Joe Maddon drove me insane, changing pitchers faster than most people change underwear, but it was his strategy, his call.
Talking to a friend of mine who pitches in the Majors, he said he embraced the rule from the start. HIs philosophy is that any pitcher should be talented enough to record three outs, no matter which side the batter’s swinging from. I couldn’t argue with that.
All this rule really did was switch the advantage from the defense to the offense. Before, a manager could wait until the batter was announcd, then swap pitchers. Now, however, the opposing manager knows a guy is strapped for three batters, and he can insert changes to benefit his team.
The Universal DH
Having grown up as a National League fan, I longed to see pitchers like Carlos Zambrano and Madison Bumgarner jack a ball out of the park. You don’t get a DH in Little League, high school or college, so why have one in the pros? When I heard MLB was eventually going to a universal DH, I wanted to scream.
Having the DH during the interleague games was OK, but watching those AL pitchers trying to bat in NL parks was humorous. They kept saying the rule was going to be changing to a universal DH, then COVID-19 struck.
Four games into the season, and I’m actually starting to like the rule. Not for pace of play purposes, but rather because there is no longer that “easy out.” I’m not 100% used to it yet, but it is starting to grow on me.
The Designated Runner in Extra Innings
OK, this one just pisses me off. I accepted the three batter minimum. I’m almost embracing the universal DH, but a desigated runner? What the hell? This is the most asinine, Little League-style rule I’ve ever heard of.
It’s all about the pace of play in Manfred’s eyes. Gotta speed up those games, so that a newer, younger crowd with the attention span of a gnat can become MLB’s newest set of die-hards. Right, like that’s going to happen…
So here’s how it works. If the game goes to a 10th inning, the visiting team (batting in the top of the tenth) automatically starts with a man on second. The designated runner is the person who’d made the last out in the previous inning. In the bottom of the tenth, the home team does the same.
So let me understand this… A guy who couldn’t even make it to first base last inning, now gets a free pass to advance to second base in the following inning. Defiitely Manfred-esque.
As it turns out, Shohei Ohtani (Angels) was the first designated runner in MLB history, as the Angels/A’s reached extras. Ohtani had made the last out in the ninth, so when the 10th came along, Maddon and the gang were tossing him a batting helmet and shooing him out to second base. Ohtani was dumbfounded. No big deal, I’m dumbfounded as well.
There is a problem with this rule, as a co-writer of mine pointed out. With a free pass to second, a bunt and a sac-fly wins the game (or at least gives the visitors a shot at a run). Obviously, the home team would have the same advantage.
Nope, I’m shaking my head at this one Mr. Manfred. It’s beyond comprehension and borderline insane. This isn’t like hockey with a face-off in the circle near a net, nor is it like the NFL with an automatic spot on a touchback. This is baseball, Mr. Manfred, please quit changing the game to a point that it’s no longer recognizable.
By the way, Rob, can we talk about how badly you’re screwing up with regard to this whole COVID-19 thing?
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