The late, great Rogers Hornsby of the St. Louis Cardinals once said, “People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, there is reason to believe that spring is upon us.
Major League Baseball begins a new era this season with Rob Manfred taking over as league commissioner after Bud Selig held the post for 17 years. Selig made several changes to the league during his final years in office, including the implementation of a second wild card and enhanced instant replay.
Now there are talks of more changes coming to Major League Baseball. Manfred’s desk is being filled with proposed changes to help the old ball game adapt to the modern world.
Manfred recently announced that among these changes will be a bidding style selection for the All-Star game location. In an interview with ESPN’s Jayson Stark, Manfred stated, “I am looking to be in more of a competitive-bidding, Super Bowl-awarding-type mode, as opposed to [saying], ‘You know, I think Chicago is a good idea.”
I think this is a change that Major League Baseball could live without. The midsummer classic is unique because it takes us to a different part of the country every year. Last year, it took us to small market Minneapolis for a successful All-Star celebration.
If Major League Baseball reverts to a bidding style, some cities and ballparks will be missing out on the opportunity to shine in the national spotlight. Since the game is played in mid-July when most locations across the country are experiencing exceptional weather, there is no reason to treat this game like a Super Bowl.
In addition to All-Star selection, some rule changes have been brought to the table. Among these changes include cutting down on the number of relievers entering the game, instituting a pitch clock, and bringing designated hitters to the National League.
Critics have called baseball too slow for an audience that desires action and excitement. This is why fans are seeking a rule change where relievers would have to stay in the game to face at least 3 batters. Similarly, a pitch clock was tested in the Arizona this past fall. With 20 seconds on the clock, pitchers would not be able to stand on the mound for nearly a minute and fumble with the ball in their glove.
Despite the possible benefits, I think these rules would do too much to hurt the beauty of baseball. Pitching changes can be long and boring, but what is better than a summer night at the ballpark when your favorite song plays over the intercom as a team is making a pitching change?
Fans in Boston cannot leave Fenway without singing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th. Similarly, Baltimoreans know an Orioles game is not complete without “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” after the seventh inning stretch. Temporary stoppages in play are a part of baseball; they help define America’s pastime.
To slow down the dominance of pitchers would be taking away something that is slowly becoming great about Major League Baseball. Last year’s season ended with some October heroics on the mound that left any true baseball fan asking for more. Madison Bumgarner literally put the San Francisco Giants on his back throughout the postseason. He pitched a record 52 2/3 innings in the postseason, which included two World Series wins and a 5-inning save in game 7. Why would we make rules that could stop a player from achieving a feat like this?
As far as the proposal to bring designated hitters to the NL, I am all for it. If viewers want more hitting and home runs, then bring on the big bats. If rule makers are trying to make it more of a slugfest, they should not be making the game tougher for the pitchers. Instead, they should be giving more opportunities for hitters to display their talents.
Of course, debate is what makes any sport widespread and highly publicized. As a huge baseball advocate, all I want is for the game to flourish and touch the lives of many. Here’s to spring, the boys of summer, and 2,430 games of greatness!