By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
We live in a world where very few people are ever content with what they have. They often feel the need to make changes to a system that is already true. Despite the fact baseball revenue league-wide has gone from $18B to $46B in the last decade, plus the fact we are coming off the two highest rated World Series’ of all time, Commissioner Manfred is very discontent with the direction of Major League Baseball.
After assuming the office of Commissioner of MLB in 2014, one of the key issues Manfred wanted to tackle was “pace of play.” His primary solution to this “problem” was to implement a pitch clock at the minor league levels, with the ultimate goal of utilizing it within the majors. Yesterday (Thursday) the MLB Player’s Union led by Tony Clark, formally rejected the proposal. However, due to provisions added to the most recent collective bargaining agreement, Commissioner Manfred has the legal authority to unilaterally create and enforce new rules regardless of the Union’s approval, which could result in a dangerous and slippery slope. And second of all, why have a labor contract at all if you’re going to give the commissioner the power to not abide by it?
The pitch clock in and of itself is NOT a big deal. It’s possible players will adapt just fine, and fans will notice little difference. However, there is a MUCH bigger picture hanging in the back drop. Once these first set of rules get implemented and enforced, and the Commissioner has used his authority to override the players and it’s union , it will then set the precedence for many more rules to be drafted and enforced. This could spark a much broader overhaul which could drastically change the way the game is played, and forever damage it’s integrity and tradition. Here are some other idea’s the Commissioner has talked about exploring:
Limiting teams to using only one reliever per inning:
This is one of the more frightening changes that has been proposed, which I fear might take place. If implemented, this rule would take the late game strategy completely out of the hands of each team and manager. Relief pitchers who were signed to contracts to be used in certain roles could suddenly be negated. Righty-Lefty match ups will become a thing of the past. If a player like Carson Smith for example, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, were to get absolutely shelled to the point where he is forced to throw 50 pitches in order to end the inning, this could make him highly susceptible to re-injuring his elbow. I have pretty grave concerns with this rule as far as player safety, and its damage to the integrity of the game.
Raising the strike zone two to three inches:
If implemented, it would severely diminish the art of pitching. Those epic pitching match ups against the sports most elite offensive hitters suddenly won’t be an even fight, let alone a fair one. Several teams already have some of the largest contracts in the sport invested among their top starting pitchers. David Price has made a dominant career of dotting the lower corners of the strike zone, it’s what he is paid $31M a year to do. If Commissioner Manfred gets his way, and decides to swing the pendulum to the hitter’s side of the spectrum, many of these expensive contracts will suddenly lose most of their value.
Automated Strike Zones:
More than any other sport in America, baseball is rich with tradition and history. It’s a human sport which should be officiated by human beings. It adds an element of suspense and drama. Implementing an automated strike zone could water it down and create a disconnect between it’s players and fans. It has no impact whatsoever on pace of play.
What could baseball do to improve interest and involvement for it’s fans? For starters, lower the prices for tickets across the league. Myself as a Red Sox fan, who lives two hours north of Fenway Park, it costs me around $300 to go see a game with my girlfriend once tickets, parking, and food has been added up. Fenway generally has no trouble selling out, but what about the smaller markets who constantly suffer from low attendance? Making games more affordable will be a giant step in the right direction.
Another thing that has slowed games down are the new rules pertaining to how a player slides into second base. Before the infamous “Utley Incident,” the neighborhood play at second base was not reviewable. Now that it is, several minutes during every game is spent looking at slides into second base. Most aggravatingly of all, the chances of that same Chase Utley incident happening again are extremely slim. Major League Baseball shouldn’t be compromising rules and natural components of the game for such low percentage scenarios.
The average baseball game is completed in less than three hours. This is pretty standard with most sports. Football and Basketball games typically take AT LEAST three hours. Even if a pitch clock is implemented, if the score of a game gets out of hand, say 9 to 2 by the fifth inning, nobody is will be watching the remainder of that game anyway. They’re going to flip to another game, sporting event, or other forms of entertainment on TV. If a game is getting dragged on due to extra innings, or various factors, I might decide to call it a night early regardless. Baseball has a 162 game season, there will always be at least five games per week for us to get our fix.
The NFL and NASCAR were once great products who have seen declines in it’s viewership due to over-saturation of new rules. MLB does not need to be overhauled. It is a healthy sport which already puts out a great product.
We as a society are easily manipulated and brainwashed. The Commissioner uses the MLB network to spread his propaganda amongst it’s fans. Don’t buy into it. If you do not like the sounds of the above proposed ideas, by all means PROTEST. Get your voices heard. If everyone refuses to buy tickets to these games, it will force team owners to crack down on the commissioner to uphold the game’s tradition and integrity.
I realize I do not speak for everyone. But I hope I speak for most of you. I am uncomfortable with the direction this game is headed. Especially since the Commissioner seems very content to disrespect the wishes of the sport’s player’s union. At present, there are no talks of a strike of any sort. If one were to take place, I would highly support it, and I hope you would too. The player’s union should carry the most influence.
There was never in my mind any realm of possibility that I would ever hate Commissioner Manfred more than Commissioner Goodell, but he’s quickly ascending to that level. Why can’t we be the most aggressive of any other fan base to try and prevent it?
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