Rob Manfred is a man on a mission. He is going to put his mark on the game of baseball if it’s the last thing he does. He’s made pace-of-play his baby, and he’s motoring forward full steam ahead. The baseball season starts in just 54 days, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported that Manfred has proposed two new rules that would change the game.
First, Manfred is proposing that the four-pitch walk be eliminated. This would save time, since instead of awkwardly throwing four pitches to a standing catcher while the batter sort of waits there until it’s all over, the batter could just go to first base. The second change he’s proposing is a little more … intense. He wants to raise the strike zone several inches to above a player’s knee. Currently, the strike zone resides in “the hollow beneath the kneecap,” so this would be quite the change. It would eliminate the low strike, which has been called more in recent years.
But here’s the problem, and you may have already noticed it. Even though it might not save much, eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk is meant to save time during a game. But raising the strike zone is supposed to generate more offense, which actually makes games longer. You can’t have both. Well, you can, but they work at cross purposes. Any time saved on intentional walks you lose on non-intentional walks. You can have shorter games or more action. If you want both, Manfred needs to essentially cut an inning or two off of the end of every game.
It feels a little bit like Manfred is flailing around, trying to find a change that he can put his name on forever. He might not find it with either of these, and if he doesn’t, he’s going to keep looking. Looking, and tinkering, and adjusting until he makes baseball look exactly the way he wants it to.
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