The first recorded baseball season took place in the Spring of 1876. Although Major League Baseball wasn’t official until 1903, baseball was the only sport of the big 3 (MLB, NBA, and NFL) that “modern history” orchestrated over 100 years ago. Baseball is a beautiful sport with constant rule changes that fans disagree with until they forget and it becomes the norm.
In 1950, MLB finally agreed to a raised pitcher’s mound that stood 15 inches taller than the remaining bases to create more pitching duels. In 1968 MLB decided that pitching was too dominant so the strike zone was truncated and as well as the pitcher’s mound was lowered. MLB fans despised this idea as batters should improve their batting skills over time instead of whining, the MLB ratings still went up and so did the scores.
This year MLB has issued some new rules and I’ll save the most controversial rule, the pitch clock for last.
The first rule is that every team will oppose every team in the league for at least one series. The cause for such a rule directly relates to the fans; they are exhausted watching the same 4 teams play each other 19 times a year. This includes 76 games out of 162 that include the same teams over and over again. Who wants to watch the Diamondbacks get blown out by the Dodgers 17 times and walk away with 2 wins? While other leagues like the NL Central don’t have a money dominant team they compete 19 times a year such as the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers. With these new rules the Diamondbacks will play against the Dodgers 13 times but you can also watch them play the Marlins in Miami and Arizona or the Cubs in Chicago and Arizona or the Mariners in Arizona. There is a lot more variety this year which will balance out the schedules more fairly.
The second major rule change (and I’m not sure how many fans have even noticed yet) includes larger bases. Casual fans may wonder why this matters; that’s a fair question. The concept of using larger-sized bases is significant due to the rate of stolen bases continuing to decline annually, and the fans love this. Also for non-power-hitting teams and more speed-reliant teams, this could even out the high payrolls and the low payrolls just a touch. Hugh Nichol, in 1887 had 138 stolen bases in a season, and a name more people will be familiar with is Ricky Henderson in 1982 had 130 stolen bases. Last year, the Texas Rangers had less stolen bases than Ricky Henderson in 1982 and Texas was number 1 in stolen bases. Jon Berti was the steals leader with a whopping 41 stolen bases.
The third major rule change eliminates that pesky shift. The shift when it was first drawn up was a genius defensive strategy that gave teams a great defensive edge. Now every team does the exact same shift every game allowing no one to get a defensive advantage and making the game slower-paced and a home run-or-bust league.
The fourth and most controversial rule change is the pitch clock. The pitch clock allows batters to only have one timeout, the hitter must be in the box and ready in 8 seconds, and the pitcher must pitch before the 20 seconds is up. Well, there goes the argument that baseball was beautiful because it was the only sport without a timer. Another argument can be made that basketball became more entertaining with a shot clock because the game moved faster. This has been in the works for a long time, if MLB really wants to fix the problem they would have fewer commercials (haha like they would ever) the next best solution is probably the pitch clock. If a game goes into extra innings, increasing game time, that’s one thing but making games 3.5 hours of regulation is a long time for the average fan.
Baseball in general is a beautiful game, it’s been around for 147 years and people are still breaking records and hitting major milestones. While you can’t compare players from decade to decade fairly, as rule changes occur, the best of the best will always adapt to the new guidelines and situations. Last year, Aaron Judge breaking the AL home run record was exciting and a lifetime memory for many fans. Miguel Cabrera recording his 3,000th career hit, or Yadier Molina retiring after 19 years as a catcher, every year MLB has memorable moments that fans can remember for the rest of their lives. While the rule changes you might feel may affect this, the history of baseball says otherwise. While I don’t know what this year will bring, I know memories and excitement will definitely be brought in the 147th baseball season.