Spring training games began last Friday, but baseball made bigger headlines with the announcement of a rule change, that will be implemented this season, which modifies the mechanics of the intentional walk.
The change eliminates the step of having the pitcher throw four balls to the catcher. Instead, managers will signal to the umpires and the batter will be awarded first base, without the traditional, dog and pony show.
It’s the latest tinkering by Major League Baseball’s front office, designed with an eye towards speeding up the pace of play and reducing overall, game length.
Of course, this particular move isn’t a cure all. It’s not even a cure some. The amount of time it saves – less than a minute – is minuscule, especially given the relative rarity of the event.
In 2016, there were 932 intentional walks, spread out across a total of 2,430 games. If the rule had been implemented last year, you would have had roughly a 38% percent chance of having a minute shaved off your viewing time.
The game’s purists will of course take umbrage with any modification to their precious pastime. Still, they should take solace in the fact that someone is being proactive.
In the field of business, simply maintaining status quo is a quick recipe for becoming obsolete. And, MLB is a business; they have every right to experiment with their product, in an effort to improve its quality.
Their prerogative is to not only sell tickets to current fans, but to ensure the game’s vitality for future generations as well. This much looks to be clear: nothing will be sacred, when it comes to that pursuit. The intentional walk modification is just the beginning.
Now that the forum is open, what other changes could/should be made? Starting this week, Last Man on Pluto will begin a series of articles that will focus on other areas that could be marked for improvement.
2/28 – The 162-game season