There are at least eight new rule changes on the table for the upcoming Major League Baseball season and … actually, wait.
Before we do anything else, let’s start this entire exercise with a caveat: Baseball loves to propose ideas for rule changes, even if they never actually come to fruition. In fact, every winter we have a day like this one, when a bunch of proposed new rules have leaked to the public and we spend a week (or longer; very often it’s longer) overreacting about things that aren’t actually happening.
Like the pitch clock. We’ve talked about so much about a pitch clock over the years you’d think it was a real functioning thing. Nope, it’s just another of those things baseball talks about every year.
OK, so there are eight new rules being tossed out by the league and the players’ association. They started to surface Wednesday night, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that MLB wants to put a three-batter minimum on relief pitchers and then on Thursday ESPN’s Jeff Passan followed with a full slate of proposals, everything from the universal DH to draft penalties for tanking teams.
Adding any rules right now is a very give-and-take process, since they’re being discussed outside the collective bargaining agreement. The process is like: If the league can do X, then the players need to be able to do Y. Therefore, any changes either have to be no-brainer-good-for-everyone type ideas or they have to come with a concession for the other side of the table. That’s also why we often get a lot of ideas but not always a ton of action.
For the purpose of this article, we’re just going to toss all that out of the window. I’m not going to worry about the union side and the league side — or even the likelihood that any of these rules will actually happen, this year or any other year.
I’m only looking at it one way: Assuming all these new rules are happening, which are the best and which are the worst?
1. A three-batter minimum for pitchers
This would pretty much do away with relievers who come in to pitch to one batter. There would reportedly be exceptions at the end of an inning or if a player gets hurt, but otherwise, it’s death to the LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy). While you don’t want to legislate people out of jobs, this seems like a better way to fix baseball’s pace-of-play than anything else proposed in the last few years. Who among us hasn’t grown tired of late-inning pitching change after late-inning pitching change? The strategy part of it is to be commended, but let’s face it: Baseball is too specialized sometimes.
2. One trade deadline
To me, this is a no-brainer-good-for-everyone type idea. As it stands right now, MLB has two trade deadlines — the one we all know and look forward to on July 31, and the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline. The Aug. 31 deadline has given us some memorable deals recently, but it’s still mostly just a bunch of confusion. Teams have to put players on waivers. Even good players that they don’t want to trade, just in case they want to trade them even though they don’t. Then everybody freaks out when Bryce Harper is on waivers. Streamline it, y’all! One trade deadline!
3. Draft advantages for winning teams; penalties for tanking
Under this proposal, according to ESPN, small-market teams that do well would get additional draft advantages while teams that lose more than 90 games in consecutive seasons would face penalties in the draft. This is all about tanking and all about valuable players getting good contracts from teams. It’s something that both the players and the league office should like, because we all want competition. And it’s something that fans would love if they’re not too obsessed with becoming the next Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros.
4. Roster expansion and limits
This rule would jump roster sizes from 25 to 26, adding 30 new big-league jobs. It would also cut back September roster sizes to 28 from 40. This is good and helpful to the overall mission of making baseball better to watch for fans, who aren’t trying to see all 40 guys players in a meaningless September game. Or even a meaningful one, if we’re being honest.
5. Bring back major league contracts to entice two-sport amateurs
It’s a Kyler Murray rule, basically. Right now, drafted players sign minor-league contracts, which don’t pay as much as major-league contracts (heck, they pay barely anything aside from signing bonuses). This would give teams the option to give major-league deals to players, and thus encourage two-sport athletes to pick baseball instead of something else. It’s a good idea but doesn’t figure to impact the game as often as some of these others.
6. A 20-second pitch clock
All these years later, I’m still not excited about a pitch clock. It may speed up the game by imposing between-pitch urgency, but I don’t know that it makes the fan experience any better. Baseball has been talking about this for a while. As of current, it’s a 20-second clock that Commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly hoping for. The minor leagues currently use the 20-second pitch clock. The idea of only using it in the minors is that young players will come up through the minors with that timing built into their routine. That seems like the most useful approach.
7. A universal designated hitter
There might be nothing in baseball more polarizing than the DH — well, except maybe whether Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. We’ve talked for years about whether the DH should be in the National League, but now it seems like there’s real movement toward the idea. And this season, if the players union has its way, it could happen. As a fan of #pitcherswhorake and pitchers hitting homers, I just can’t get behind it. While pitchers hitting usually results in strikeouts, the possibility that Bartolo Colon or Madison Bumgarner can hit a dinger is something I don’t want to give up.
8. A study to lower the mound
Baseball starting a study to figure out whether it should lower the mound? I’m surprised I didn’t fall asleep while writing that sentence.
– – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Brady had to convince Belichick to kick late FG
• Smith: 76ers’ trade for Harris has a lot of factors
• No shirts, plenty of bling on Patriots parade route
• Thamel: NBA scouts break down Duke phenom’s game