Photo courtesy of Andrew Dieb
Baseball is America’s sport. It is, in my opinion, the best game ever invented. With that being said, baseball is not a perfect game and is constantly evolving. Over the past few years there has been a considerable amount of discussion surrounding potential rule changes in the MLB, whether it be concerning COVID-19 safety, improved technology capabilities, or pace of play. While there is some merit to most of the proposed changes, ultimately not all of them can or will be implemented.
In the spirit of improving the game, I’ve come up with some potential rule changes of my own. Some have been previously discussed and some came right from my own brain. For entertainment’s sake, some of my proposals to the MLB might be a bit “over the top”, but who doesn’t want to be more excited when they’re watching baseball? These changes could not only improve baseball, but could also generate more viewership and bring in new baseball fans.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Here are my proposals for the 2022 MLB season:
Bring Back the Universal DH
This is a rule change that was utilized in the abbreviated 2020 season. I’ll speak for myself by saying I was extremely disappointed when it was announced there would not be a universal DH in the 2021 season, but I think the majority of fans agree with me. Personally, I hate seeing a pitcher come up to the plate with runners on base because it’s a foregone conclusion they’re just going to lay down a bunt. Yes, it is entertaining when they get absolutely embarrassed by their counterpart on the mound, but that’s not good for the game in my opinion.
The argument against this rule is that by requiring NL pitchers to bat for themselves, it adds a whole new element of strategy and managerial decisions that could win or lose their team the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of seeing a double switch that ends with a pitcher in the outfield. I also love seeing the rare “pitcher that rakes” that can get some run support of his own with a dinger or clutch base-hit, but those moments are a dime a dozen unless your name is Shohei Ohtani. There also is the issue of player safety. When a pitcher (intentionally or unintentionally) pegs a batter, they’re immediately a prime target for retribution the next time around the lineup. I’d hate to see something like the horrible injury that happened to Giancarlo Stanton happen to a pitcher and end his season.
All in all, I’d much prefer to see a true designated hitter in the box who’s singular job is to be a good hitter, rather than a pitcher that takes BP once a week.
Implement an Electronic Strike Zone
This is one of the main potential rule changes that has been tossed around plenty in the past few years. Nothing frustrates me more as a fan than to see an inning end on a terrible strike three call. I can imagine it’s much more frustrating for the players. Installing an electronic strike zone would eliminate these instances and leave no room for argument or the “well who knows what would’ve happened if he’d called it a ball” moments. It would take some trial and error, but we have the technological capabilities to move in this direction soon.
The main argument against this is that it takes the human aspect out of the game. To the people that bring that argument to the table, I find it very hard to believe that you have never been livid about a strike or ball call that might’ve cost your team a game or two. I hate the fact that every umpire has a “different strike zone”, as some might prefer the outside corner one day, or not call balls up in the zone at all. The strike zone is the strike zone. It’s a concrete thing that shouldn’t vary based on the day or count.
This is one of the changes that will take time to implement, but as they do with many other proposed rule changes, test it out in the Minor Leagues for a year or two. Once the kinks are worked out and it’s ready to roll out in The Show, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Require High School Players to Play in College First
It frustrates me as a fan of one of the top college programs to see many of our commitments get drafted and go to the league instead of playing a few years in college first. That’s selfish of me to say, as I’m happy for those players to get a payday and chase their professional dreams right off the bat, but many of those players will never make it to the big leagues. There are issues with this proposal, but I think it would be beneficial for most players if the rule were to change.
The main issue with this is injuries, for pitchers especially. I would hate to see an uber talented player come to college, only to have a career-ending injury and miss out on the money. With that being said, that is by far the main issue I see here. Another potential issue could be lower contract offers for players out of college versus high school, but if every player was required to go to college first, that issue would be eliminated. Yes, high school players can stipulate in their contracts that their college would be paid for by the drafting team if their career were to end prematurely. To argue that point, I challenge you to find a kid that would rather spend his age 18-21 years on long bus rides and in middle of nowhere towns than in a college town not only getting an education, but having good times with friends and having the true college experience.
With the new proposals in the NCAA that could potentially allow student-athletes to make money, this proposal could gain some traction. College baseball players obviously wouldn’t make as much money as football or basketball players, but a higher influx of top-tier talent into baseball would absolutely make it more popular among viewers. I would love nothing more than to see a more even distribution of talent across the nation and have new contenders every year, as opposed to the domination the SEC dishes out yearly.
Not only would this rule change benefit colleges, but it would help scouts and MLB organizations get better reads on players before signing them. Such a small percentage of those high school players drafted every year end up making it to the highest level because it’s much harder to know what you’re getting out of an 18 year-old than a 21 year-old. Yes, those 18 year-olds have higher ceilings in many cases, but developing for a few years in college first could help to work out some kinks in their skillsets that could be potential career-enders in pro ball.
I’m not proposing anything too crazy here. If it can be done in football, where you’re much more likely to have a career-ending injury, it can be done in baseball.
Metal is the Move – Out With Wood Bats
Now we’re going to get into some more “off the wall” changes. In this proposal, the MLB gets rid of wood bats and allows players to use metal.
One of the main issues for developing players in pro ball is making the transition from metal to wood. Wood bats have a much smaller sweet spot and aren’t as forgiving as metal bats, which is why some of those guys are never able to make the transition, no matter how good they were in college. Every year leading up to the draft, I hear the analysts questioning some of the top amateur talents on their ability to hit with wood because of their performances in the summer circuits, but making this transition would relieve scouts and executives of having to make that call.
The issue with this proposal is simple: player safety. If I was a third baseman or pitcher in the Majors, I would be scared out of my mind seeing Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge coming up to the plate a mere 60-90 feet away. I can only imagine how that fear would elevate if there was a large metal rod in their hands. There have been many instances of pitchers getting hit in the head by a screaming line drive coming right back at them over the years, and that would be much more dangerous with metal bats. Because of that issue, I question how good of an idea this really is.
Aside from the metal-wood transition factor, I would mainly like to see this change because of the entertainment factor. Not only would metal bats increase the number of home runs, but it would increase their distance. I would love nothing more than to see someone hit a 650-foot bomb at Coors Field. Most fans watching baseball want to see home runs and bat flips (me included). This rule change would oblige them. If the issue here is player safety, at least allow players to cork/modify their wood bats however they please.
This rule change is the one I would be by far the most shocked by if it were actually ever implemented. I think allowing players to cork or modify their bats is a nice happy medium.
Extra Inning Changes
I’ll start off by saying I’m personally not a fan of changing the game in any way just because it went past the normal 9 innings. I was very disappointed to see the MLB keep the runner on second to start every extra inning rule. I understand why they did this, as people are complaining about the length of the game, or how an 18 inning game can completely deplete your bullpen depth for a whole week. Nonetheless, if you’re going to do this, Manfred, get it right. I’ve come up with two alternatives to this rule.
Start every extra inning with the bases loaded:
If pace of play is the issue that’s being fixed, you might as well load the bases up. Not only is there more immediate tension and excitement with ducks on the pond than a lonely runner on second, but having 3 baserunners as opposed to one lowers the likelihood of more innings being played. With the runner on second, it’s too easy to advance the runner and have him on third with one out. Teams can go back and forth for innings doing this. With the bases loaded, there are so many different outcomes that I find it very unlikely that game will advance past the 11th.
Generate a random count for each batter:
I said we were going “off the wall” and I meant it. This is very unlikely, but let me have some fun here. If there was a random count generated before each batter comes to the plate, whether it be 3-0 or 0-2, not only would it expedite the pace of play, but once again it raises the level of excitement. Teams and players would absolutely get screwed over by this and I’m here for it.
Once again, I’m not in favor of any extra-inning rule changes, but I think these would add more excitement than simply putting a runner on second.
Allow Players to Fight
This is the last of my rule change proposals to the MLB, but it’s by far my favorite. It’s obviously plagiarized from the NHL, but as a very casual hockey viewer, that’s my favorite part of the game. If the MLB were to adopt it, I can only imagine how many more people would tune in for a Tuesday afternoon game, much less a primetime slot.
Fights and arguments are a part of baseball almost as much as fighting is a part of hockey. Whether it be because someone got thrown at, someone pimped a home run and the opposing team took it personally, a dirty slide, etc., fans love to see those benches clear. What we’re robbed of is seeing a true fight with a clear conclusion. Too often, the benches clear and it turns into a big scrum at home plate of threats and shoving. We need to see some punches thrown!
My proposal is if a batter were to charge the mound, for example, the first step would be to remove all gloves, helmets, hats, etc. Similar to hockey, the two players would be allowed to fight until someone hits the ground or the ump calls it off. When the fight has concluded, the players would be forced to sit out the remainder of the game. The key here is player suspensions. Normally in a fight, the main perpetrators are suspended anywhere from 6-10 games. With this rule change, after you sit out the rest of that game, you’re good to go!
There ya go, Rob. If you’re reading this, I think I made a good case for all of these rule changes. If you have any further questions or inquiries, drop a comment and I’ll get you my contact info. If you want to improve the game for the fans, ask a die hard fan their opinion first.