March 30, 2023

Baseball Changes

 Major League Baseball begins a new season today. And the season begins with new rules intended to increase scoring and get games over with faster. A sport that was distinctive for lacking a clock will now have a pitch clock, larger bases, restrictions on pickoff plays, and a prohibition of the defensive shifts that have frustrated batters. The universal introductions of the designated hitter and video replays seem like minor tweaks compared to the rule changes that will color the 2023 season.

Baseball rules have been remarkably stable over the game’s long history. Past changes have primarily been made to increase safety or fairness. (Changes to the mound height and the introduction of pitchless intentional walks are exceptions.) I have always thought that the size of the diamond and its bases are perfect. The dimensions make scoring a single or stealing a base difficult, which makes them more exciting when they occur.

I am not looking forward to the new MLB season. In fact, I think the game should no longer be called baseball. Like the reformulation that produced New Coke, the MLB game should be called New Baseball. We can hope that the history of New Baseball will be a replay of the history of New Coke.

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