Editorial: A few thoughts on baseball rule change

Published 9:19 am Monday, February 27, 2017

We agree that there are rules in professional baseball that need changing. However, the way intentional walks are handled is not among them.

There are many instances where pitchers or catchers have botched intentional walks and the mistakes changed the outcome of the games. It’s not hard to find them on the internet. Heck, one video shows where an intentional walk pitch was hit and became a sacrifice fly.

The new rule change says a team merely needs to signify an intentional walk, and the hitter gets sent to first base. Yeah, it’s not going to speed up the game.

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Most rule changes that Major League Baseball wishes to implement aim to shorten the length of games. Yet, those changes often are prevented by the players’ union, formerly Major League Baseball Players Association. The collective-bargaining agreement says the union and the league management must agree before rules can be changed for the next year. The agreement also says management can alter playing rules without the cooperation of the union if it gives a notice of one year.

So the intentional walk rule, because MLB and the MLBPA agree, goes into effect this season.

However, MLB also gave notice to the union of rule changes it plans to implement for the 2018 season and beyond. Commissioner Rob Manfred and other MLB leaders want to speed up the game. The league front office wants to change the strike zone, install pitch clocks and limit trips to the pitcher’s mound.

Manfred is right when he says: “I believe it’s a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change.”

We agree with changing the strike zone. Many umpires call pitches below the knees strikes, but it’s because the strike zone presently is below the kneecaps. So from up above, it’s hard to tell. The change raises to to above the kneecaps, where a set of eyes on a grown man can more accurately spot the ball.

And we agree with reducing visits to the mound. A pitcher should be left to struggle or be yanked. Everyone dislikes these stoplights in the game.

We also would favor measures that reduce the time pitchers have to hurl the baseball and the time it takes batters to be ready to bat. There are 20-second pitch clocks in Triple-A and Double-A baseball. We like that, because the time it takes to get the ball across the plate is what really makes baseball slow.

Nobody wants baseball to be fast like basketball or anything. We like the summertime slow pace of the sport in comparison to most other competitions, except for maybe golf. It’s that baseball is just a bit too slow for the pace of the 21st century.