Speeding Up and Striking Out
There are new rules introduced in the MLB that are going to be put into effect this season. All of these rules aim to speed up the play of the game and decrease the total game time. In the past years, the average game length has increased to an all time high because of various factors.
Although baseball has been affectionately known as “America’s pastime,” the MLB is trying to appeal to a younger crowd. By picking up the pace of play, the MLB hopes to gain viewers in a younger demographic. The first rule that the MLB will start to enforce states that the batter must keep one foot in the box throughout the at-bat period, except for special situations (foul balls, wild pitches, stolen bases, etc. This will hopefully reduce the time between pitches, where batters usually adjust their batting gloves or engage in other pre-batting rituals. Another rule aims to cut down on the time between innings, when players are adjusting from offense to defense. In nationally broadcast games, this time will be limited to 2 min and 45 seconds, while locally broadcast games will be cut at 2 min and 25 seconds. In addition, pitchers have to end their warm-up pitches with at least 30 seconds remaining, and batters must enter the box with at least 5 seconds outside.
These rules will absolutely accelerate the game, but is it worth it? Baseball has been a very traditional game throughout history, so these changes will undoubtedly create bad sentiments among older fans. There’s a rule that already exists that the MLB will most likely start to enforce more strictly: the pitcher has 12 seconds to deliver the next pitch after he receives the ball, as long as the bases are empty. The average time between pitches has hovered around 21 seconds from 2008-2011, but has increased to 23 seconds in 2014.
As someone who grew up watching baseball and appreciating the sport, a part of me supports these rules. For fans watching the game on TV and listening on the radio, increasing the pace of play will increase viewership. It’s easy for these fans to switch to a different channel if they become bored with the game. Increasing the speed and excitement will make it more captivating for these audiences. For those watching live games at ballparks, I think the rules will have little to no effect on ticket sales or popularity of attendance. These fans come to the park for an event, most likely one where they plan to enjoy themselves eating, drinking, and watching a good game. For them, it’s not as if they have an important meeting after the game; they are there to enjoy themselves.