Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Rule Changes Ruining Baseball

Darren Zaslau, Sports Editor

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Whether it’s eating ice cream at the ballpark on a hot summer day with your family or watching a diving catch on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays, baseball memories always last. But the game that everyone grew up watching is about to drastically change for the worse.

Major League Baseball proposed several rule changes to increase the speed of the game and create more offense on Feb. 6. The MLB wanted the strike zone to be raised two inches to the top of the hitter’s knees, for intentional walks to no longer require the pitcher to nonchalantly throw four balls out of the strike zone and for pitchers to be on a 20-second pitch clock.

Though the speed of play needs improvement, it’s important for the league to understand that the game’s roots need to be preserved. If the pace of the game is going to be improved, the rules cannot have a lopsided benefit on the offense or defense.

Luckily, on Sunday, the Major League Baseball Players Association vetoed the rule changes for the 2017 season. Tony Clark, the director of the MLBPA, was firm in his intentions to protect baseball’s traditional rules.

“As I’ve said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open,” Clark said.

The MLBPA, also referred to as the players’ union, made the right decision by vetoing the proposed changes. The new rules that the MLB wants to implement wouldn’t change baseball for the better because they would unfairly favor batters and diminish the importance of defense and pitching.

Forcing pitchers to throw on a pitch clock ruins tempo and styles of play used to deceive batters. Additionally, raising the strike zone two inches above the knee gives pitchers less room for error.

With increasing the pace of play in the back of the league’s mind, many players are taking the MLB’s side that the games need to be shortened. Baseball purists like me must at least try to see where the MLB is coming from — last year’s average game length was the longest ever, lasting three hours and twenty-six seconds. Minnesota Twins catcher Jason Castro said he wants the pace of play to be improved, but without making drastic changes to the game’s rules.

“From a player’s standpoint, as long as things being implemented don’t affect guys in a negative way, we’re definitely for trimming the fat in some of the games and make sure they’re staying on pace and have a good tempo to them,” Castro told MLB.com.

Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus also supported the MLB’s efforts to improve speed of play. Ausmus, though, said he believes the rules need to first be established within the minor leagues as a trial.

“I think what has to be done is this has to be done at the Minor League level for a course of a number of years, so as these players come up, it’s ingrained in them…” Ausmus said to MLB.com.

The league has followed Ausmus’ suggestions. Starting this summer at the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Arizona Fall League, extra innings will start with a runner on second base to provide teams with a better chance of scoring sooner. The same rule will also be used in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

While the immediate future looks bright in maintaining baseball’s traditional rules, the 2018 season may look significantly different if the MLB’s proposed changes are implemented. On Tuesday, Manfred threatened that the league may use the new rules next year without the approval of the MLBPA if an agreement cannot be reached because of “a lack of cooperation” between the MLB and players’ union. If the league goes forward without consulting the MLBPA, the decision would be completely unethical, violating the power of the players by diminishing their voices on the issue.

As a fan of the game since I could walk and current college baseball player, I stand by the quote, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While the players on the diamond may change, the rules that made baseball America’s pastime should always be preserved.

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Established 1874.