Maybe baseball can embrace change after all? MLB's managers come down in favor of new rules
Don Mattingly had experienced the worst and best of summer 2020 after mastering a coronavirus outbreak at his clubhouse and leading the Miami Marlins to their first postseason in 17 years. He went home after two rounds. The thoughts of the game, the season and everything that went with it were still fresh. He turned on his television to see how it would turn out.
Baseball has overcome health, competitive, labor, and economic uncertainties well enough and has proven to be always resilient, if not flawless. It crowned a champion most agreed upon to be worthy and legitimate. Coronavirus cases decreased as players and other staff became familiar with and became more dedicated to the protocols and lifestyle requirements. In the field, a number of rule adjustments - some subtle, some more drastic - have been seen as necessary in light of the national climate, and in some cases have been praised for their cleverness.
In the end, the players seemed tired and the owners let it be known that they had lost a small fortune due to the empty ballpark during the 60 game season, but they survived. The vaccine came on the other side of winter and if we just turned our heads and narrowed our eyes we could see a game that seemed normal again.
In the context of the games themselves, the nine-inning mini-dramas, the parts that make up the whole of what the game was and is and would be, should be comforting. Mattingly wondered, however. He wasn't alone.
"I've seen a lot of playoff games after we were eliminated and honestly it was a little hard to see," he said. “There was nothing going on. Innings go fast. Strikeout, strikeout, home run, a run. It was hard to see. It tells me we need to find a way to get our game moving. And I don't mean playing faster games, I mean more action. I think that way we can make a better game and see a better game. "
A season played on the thinnest edge of a mushroom racket and run alongside a series of mostly temporary regulations, and resulted in further reinforcement of the ball with three true outcomes, led Mattingly not to a return to normal, but to progress Better to think.
"Every time you apply [a new rule] everyone complains - it changes the game, it changes the world - and two weeks later nobody speaks about it," he said. "I'm only for anything that creates this action and makes our game a better game."
In a sign that baseball is more open to change, major league managers are in favor of permanently adopting the rules implemented during the 2020 season - including the universal batsman, free base runners during extra innings, and extended runners - according to a survey by Taken postseason 20 last week. Many added that they would agree to broader changes, including banning defensive postponements, also based on lessons from the game - and themselves - from summer 2020.
Dave Roberts, manager of Dodgers, is firm in favor of keeping the universal DH rule, which was temporarily implemented in 2020. (AP Photo / Ashley Landis)
In 20 conversations, most of them Zoom calls, managers were reminded of the five rules put in place for 20:
"I was definitely optimistic about the old school pitcher hits," said Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers manager. “But I liked the DH. I really want it."
A runner placed on the second base for each half of the additional innings
"I think we're getting some good, positive feedback from our fans," said Mike Matheny, Kansas City Royals manager. "There's an excitement. I'll tell you from the dugout that it happened in our first series of the season. It was, wow, that turns the volume up a bit here. It was different, but it was exciting."
Double header with seven innings
"The seven inning double headers that I've always thought were very good for player health, especially when played in the minor leagues," said David Ross, manager of the Chicago Cubs. “Why don't you just get them into the big leagues? It's been a long day. You can really cash in a staff and bullpen just because of some weather issues. I think everyone is okay with this. "
"I didn't think I'd like the seven innings double header, I didn't think so," said Dusty Baker, Houston Astros manager. "You know, because it's more from an era of machoism, kind of. I mean, let's see who's the strongest mentally and physically here. But when I look back, it really didn't make any sense other than being macho. You know what I mean? It wasn't good for the players and it wasn't good for the game. "
"I like that," said Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black. "Whether it's 16 teams or 14 or whatever works, I like the clubs added there." I think it's good for more teams in a pennant race. And I like the two-out-of-three scenario as opposed to a wild card for a game. Besides that, there are many variables if we need to put down a little bit to make this work in October. "
Minimum of three clubs for helpers
This rule was established prior to the original regular time and is designed to improve the pace of play and enforce the minimum, with the exception of injury cases or an earlier inning end.
"I've never exceeded the three-dough minimum," said Joe Maddon, manager of Los Angeles Angels. "I haven't passed the three-dough minimum yet."
"The three batter rule that I thought was extremely harmful," said Detroit Tiger manager A.J. Said Hinch. “It turned out it wasn't that big of a deal. We challenged our pitchers to be versatile. They want to get both sides of the racket out. There are ways that one can escape this at the end of an inning. Again, I wasn't afraid to get a guy out, "Man, I hope he gets this left guy out before Mike Trout." Or, "I hope he gets this guy out before Mookie Betts." There's a certain I have never seen danger like that. "
Which rules should remain?
Managers were asked which of these rules would make them permanent regardless of the season's makeup. The first four rules received overwhelming approval - 19-1 or 18-2 - for further use. The three-stroke rule was favored by a 12-8 vote, although many managers had admitted it was not accelerating the pace of the game and admitted that their own bullpens were less affected.
(These rules, with the exception of the three-stroke minimum, which Commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally implemented under the collective agreement, would require the consent of the players' union.)
The follow-up question: Which of the rules did you adopt before the season that you would not like but have come to appreciate?
Eight managers mentioned the extra inning procedures, six the universal batsman and five the three-stroke minimum. Some managers said they warmed to more than one or all of the rules.
"I think that's just human nature," said Rocco Baldelli, manager of the Minnesota Twins. “No matter how open-minded we all want to be, if you hear something that is completely out of the ordinary, I don't care who you are. Part of you thinks, 'Ugh, I don't know if this will work. “You are not particularly excited about it. But in the end, most of them worked out fine and I think we'll keep seeing these kind of changes in the game and most of them will work fine in my opinion. "
In some cases, rules with minor adjustments were preferred. For one, six managers believed that runners should be allowed after the 10th or 11th inning. One - Maddon - said that if there were free base runners in additional innings, bullpens should no longer be kept to a minimum of three thugs.
The most creative suggestion came from Rockies manager Black, who, in relation to the designated batsman spreading to the National League, suggested allowing the DH to run as long as there is a starting pitcher in play. If the starting pitcher is removed, subsequent pitchers will have to hit or hit for themselves, dampening the recent trend towards openers and bullpen games.
The old and new schools, Astros manager Dusty Baker and twin skipper Rocco Baldelli, both came to the new rules from 2020. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)
By and large, and perhaps surprisingly, managers have taken the twists and turns in a sport that often seems stuck in the past. People are slow to think about and / or accept change. Baseball seems slower than most. Maybe that's because he's content with himself as it is. Perhaps - so the conclusion - this is because older men and older men who run the game are less inclined to see the game as anything other than what it always was, the version they played and loved and protect them with every smoldering look.
In 2020, the baseball community - owners, players, managers, coaches, league, union, media, and fans - was forced to commit to something that wasn't much different, but slightly different in many areas. As a result, every future proposal may not be seen as an assault on the soul of the game.
"It's a balancing act, isn't it?" Mike Shildt, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, said. "You want to keep the integrity of the game and we're sticking to it with our dear life, but you look around our society and that's all it does is change. And our game has changed over the past five to seven years probably more internally changed with the metrics and analyzes and the measured values than in the previous 145. So the game has changed and developed - right, wrong, we can debate that too - but as far as the rules change, I found it good. I thought it would be wise to experiment a bit in a shortened season and I think we have some things that have teeth. "
[Decision on the rules: double header with seven innings | Extra Innings Rule | Universal DH]
Now, double headers with seven innings and an extra postseason round haven't changed a game that was limited to the arms of guys throwing fastballs at 98 mph and the hind legs of guys trying to do them 500 feet to hit. First of all, there are those who enjoy this game. The home run derby during the All Star celebrations is extremely popular. But this is also the game that Mattingly conjured up and that sidelined defense, grassroots and bat control in what he called "action".
On a recent call with 30 managers, Manfred was hired by at least one lobbyist to kill baseball. There are those who believe defensive shifts are harmful. Others would help lower the hill or move it back. Not every idea is justified. But it indicates a willingness to have ideas, offer them and - if only briefly, if necessary - to live with the consequences. The game doesn't seem quite as sacrosanct as it was six months ago, because people in and around it were moved to examine their own prejudices and assumptions during an extremely busy summer.
"When I went into it and can only talk about my personal feelings, I looked at a few [and thought] that didn't make sense," said Jayce Tingler, manager of San Diego Padres. "But then, to see how it plays out and being able to digest it after the end of the year and understanding, you know what, there were some things we all learned. And I think it were some things that made the game more exciting. So in general I would say that the majority of people are more open-minded. "
What needs to be answered is not what today's managers or players think about it, but what today's fans think about it. After a season in which you weren't allowed to go to the stadiums, what brings you to a season that could be the same? Is Baseball As Good As It Is? Is it as good as it can be? Is a change necessary? Also acceptable?
"What we always do is have an opinion," said Craig Counsell, manager of Milwaukee Brewers. "Or we're shocked. We're outraged. And then we generally get used to it and work with it and it's fine. Whatever we do, I'm kind of into it and ready to roll with it. I think we'll arrive a place in the game where we know there are some things that probably need to be changed. Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion on this and that is going to be the hard part. And we'll probably have to try some things that may not work and we have to agree to some things. Maybe we made a rule and it wasn't a great rule, maybe we should take that out. I think that's OK. I think we know there are some things that should be done and can to improve the game.
“I would like to see more action in the game I think. I don't know if I would call the game boring, especially the playoff games. But I think more action. We can bring more action into the game. More balls in play. So if we can get more balls into play, there will likely be different players on the field as it will bring speed and defense more to the fore. One will follow the other. But it's going to take something pretty substantial and pretty big to really get more balls into play I think. And it will likely require multiple rule changes, not just one. "
More than any other commissioner in history, Manfred welcomes the notion of change. Batters stole first base in the independent Atlantic League in the 2019 season. Robot referees named balls and punches. Shifts were illegal. Also, the pitcher's mound was due to be set back two feet, although this was scrapped when the league discovered pitchers, for the most part, were unwilling to sign with the league. Manfred already has limited hill visits and promoted the implementation of a pitch clock.
"I was thinking about it the other day," said Brian Snitker, manager of Atlanta Braves. "I'm a traditionalist if you go in that direction. But I don't know where the game is actually, is the tradition we all grew up with. The game has changed. The tradition we all talk about since I'm a traditionalist, I'm not sure if tradition is there anymore. It's a different game. And I think probably a lot of us have been exposed to change since July 3rd. When things were completely different than we were in went back to camp this COVID era. So we could have changed better. We better adapt to it because that is what we lived. You are right because we have experienced things and were forced to do them different way to look at it, you know what, maybe it's not that bad and it will help the game and get it there, you know we are concerned about the popularity in our game, the people who like it, the action. As we all sit back and over all talked about that, it's because we haven't talked about it in years. And the conversations are completely different from before. "
Bob Melvin, manager of Oakland A, said simply, “There are many changes now in every area of life. And if you don't take it, you will be stuck in the mud. You know, we had some rule changes again last year that worked out fine and I think that makes me feel a little more on board with more changes. "
Maybe that's all Mattingly can hope for is a sport that scouts itself and each other and seeks what it could be instead of what it always was or what it has become.
"I think on the rules in general we have to keep being progressive in MLB," he said. "We have to keep bringing a product to market that people want to see, that is active, and that continues to grab our attention." Everything we do about rules has to be open-minded in my opinion. I see it in the NFL, you see the rules change, you see it in the NBA. The games will continue to evolve. Of course, you don't want to change the core of the game. But I think we have to be open to change in order to make this a product that people will want to see too. "
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