Over the past couple of seasons the MLB has attempted to modernize the game of baseball through the addition of new rules. Last season, video replay was implemented, making baseball the last of the big four sports with such capabilities. This season, pace-of-play rules have been enforced in an effort to speed up games and limit interruptions of play. The MLB first experimented with six different rules at Spring Training before sanctioning three of them. The rule changes that became permanent are: each batter must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout his at bat, a timer set for 2 minutes, 25 seconds between innings to limit the intermission and managers can signal a replay challenge from the dugout rather than having to go out on the field.
The new pace-of-play rules are a result of public outcry for shorter games, after record-high game times were experienced in 2014. Last season the average game lasted for three hours and two minutes. Through the first week of this season, which included 79 games, the average game has run for two hours and 54 minutes. While it is only an eight-minute difference, the brisker pace-of-play has been noticed by nearly every player. Many players have had to adjust their rituals at the plate in order to accommodate the new batter’s box rule. Most players have been able to successfully adjust to the changes, but a handful have been warned for taking too long. Ten pace-of-play warnings have been issued thus far and there will be fines up to $500 per violation, starting in May.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that the rules are meant to eliminate any unnecessary stoppages of play, without affecting the flow of the game.
“What I think people were concerned about was things that they saw as not integral to the play of the game, or even the economic setup of the game,” Manfred said.
The MLB is hoping to successfully shorten play by the end of the season. Manfred wants people to see that the MLB made the right decision in implementing these rules, and above all, he wants fans to be able to enjoy the same game of baseball that they already love.
“What I hope happens is that, at the end of the season, knowledgeable baseball writers and fans are saying, ‘You know, they got this one right. There’s a crispness to the play,”’ Manfred said. “They’ve cleaned up some dead time in the game. And maybe best of all, we feel like they were responsive to what people were saying about the game.”
Although the new rules will be different and unwelcome to longtime fans, they are not meant to stray from tradition. From 1996-2011 the average game time was around two hours and 50 minutes, so the new rules will only help to restore historic practices. These new pace-of-play rules will also assist in increasing interest in MLB games, especially televised games, as they will be able to retain the attention of viewers. A shorter game will be great for the game of baseball as it will please fans, and it will ensure players are focused on the game instead of trivial showmanship antics. A new era of baseball is coming, but it will make the game more exciting than ever before.
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Collegian Sports Reporter Alec Grimes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @GrimesAlec.