John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's desire for more action and less dead time in baseball is at the heart of the rules changes that were announced on Thursday, and with that in mind, here are the three I believe are most noteworthy:
1) The three-batter minimum for relievers, which goes into effect in 2020, and makes for intriguing strategy decisions as well as fewer late-inning pitching changes.
2) A 28-man September roster, as of 2020, which will finally bring an end to the ridiculous practice of essentially having unlimited substitutions in the final month of the season.
3) One trade deadline means no more waiver deals in August, which should create even more intrigue and deal-making at the July 31 deadline.
Big picture, Thursday's announcement is good for baseball as it was the result of long-overdue communication between MLB and the Players Association, which could be seen as a first step toward reducing players' acrimony over the state of free agency -- and perhaps in eventually avoiding a work stoppage.
In fact, the two sides have agreed to appoint committees that will discuss and study potential ways to change the economic structure of the free-agent system, including ways to eliminate the incentive for teams tanking and changes that would keep teams from delaying the major-league debuts of top prospects because of service-time benefits.
In other words: hey, at least they're being proactive, and not waiting until a crisis is at hand come 2021, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.
The result, at least for now, are the changes that -- on the whole -- should be good for the game. Some are as simple as reducing TV commercial time between innings, which is obviously the easiest way to reduce dead time, and others are insignificant, such as creating an "election day" for fans to vote players into the All-Star game.
And let's not forget the Aaron Judge Millionaire Money.
Ok, technically, the $1 million that will now be the prize for winning the home-run derby at the All-Star Game doesn't have Judge's name attached to it, but clearly it's an attempt to get the Yankee behemoth, more so than anyone else, to re-enter the derby and captivate a nationwide TV audience as he did in 2017.
As for what's not in the rules announcement, thank goodness there is no mention of moving the mound back two feet, the one truly dumb idea of the many to be experimented with by MLB in the independent Atlantic League this season.
Ok, so let's get back to the three I mentioned at the top.
I like the three-man minimum for relievers because I do think that with managers matching up more than ever out of the bullpen in the late innings, pitching changes can slow the game to a crawl. And dominance by the high-velocity relievers has largely negated the drama of late-inning comebacks.
At least now the manager will have to think hard about whether he wants to bring in his lefty specialist with the nasty slider to face, say, Bryce Harper in a big spot if indeed the same lefty has to stay in face Rhys Hoskins.
Would it be the end of the lefty specialist? Not necessarily. For one thing, the rule doesn't carry over to the next inning, so if the lefty specialist comes in with two outs and the bases loaded and strikes out Harper, then he would face only one batter.
But such a gamble by the manager makes for great intrigue and potential second-guessing, which is part of the fun of watching baseball.
And, yes, there is the potential for controversy, specifically having a pitcher fake an injury so he doesn't have to face more than one hitter. Addressing that seems simple enough, however: if a pitcher leaves a game with an injury, he has to go on the 15-day injury list.
As for the September roster going to a limit of 28 players, well, it's about time.
Practically everyone in baseball has been screaming for years about the absurdity of teams expanding rosters to any number they see fit, and how it changes the nature of the sport during crucial pennant-race games.
As a tradeoff for the Players Association, teams will get a 26th roster spot for the full season, with the caveat being a limit on relief pitchers. As it is, the number of relievers teams carry these days has decreased the number of position-player subs, at times handcuffing managers in the late innings -- especially in the National League.
And that's fine. It seems likely the DH will be adopted by the NL at some point in the coming years, but until then there is nothing worse than a manager being forced to use a pitcher as a pinch-hitter because his bench is so limited.
Finally, eliminating the August waiver deals almost surely will create more drama at the July 31 trade deadline, if contending teams know they won't have the option of picking up players for weeks afterward as players pass through waivers.
More action, less waiting for something to happen; that's really the essence of these changes, and there's nothing wrong with that.