As seems to happen every offseason lately, Major League Baseball recently announced a series of rules changes. Some will take effect for the 2019 season, others in 2020. Most are minor, but some will significantly impact the game for the worse. The new changes being pushed by Commissioner Rob Manfred will further solidify a corporate culture of rules-tinkering that introduces one of the worst elements from the NFL: uncertainty about how the game is played. This movement replaces baseball’s timeless, adaptable ways with the hidebound legalism that is already strangling the life out of football.
Minor Changes (For Now)
Some of baseball’s new rules are little different from the old. The total number of visits to the pitcher’s mound, currently six, will now be limited to five. That’s intended to speed up the game, and it might shave a minute from the total time. Breaks between innings will be reduced by five seconds, too; again, not too drastic and enough to reduce the dead time by a minute or so.
The biggest change in 2019, though, hints at something worse. From now on, teams will start the tenth inning of the All-Star Game (and each subsequent extra inning), with a runner on second base. If necessary, these runners could be players who were already removed from the game through substitution. This is something Manfred has proposed before and failed to enact.
The goal is to prevent an All-Star Game from dragging on forever, and that is understandable. Team owners who pay huge salaries to their players do not want them to exhaust themselves—or worse, injure themselves—in a twenty-inning exhibition game. But if it still feels wrong (and it does), it may be because the All-Star Game used to be a baseball game. It was an exhibition of baseball’s best playing the game they love; now they will be playing baseball lite.