As Major League Baseball executives and players continue to discuss a wide range of potential rule changes, the one that should intrigue you the most is the proposal for a three-batter minimum for pitchers.
We should all be rooting for its passage because it would bring sensibility back to bullpen usage.
This controversial change would eliminate the job of one-out left-handed relief specialist. It would also help quicken baseball’s pace and reduce the average time of games.
Baseball’s pace is a far more important issue than game duration. The bullpen parade that occurs in almost every baseball game is threatening the long-term viability of the sport. We are losing millennials because the game seems too slow.
The NFL gives fans a play every 40 seconds. The action in the NBA and NHL is constant. When the game is on the line in baseball, we give fans mound visits and warm-up pitches.
Every sport has a problem with fans burying in their faces in their phones during games. But it is a major problem in baseball. Look around when you are at a game as managers begin moving relievers like they are re-positioning pieces on a chess board. Fans start scanning Facebook and Twitter and you don’t get them back until they hear a crack of the bat
The more relievers you use the more you destroy the pace and excitement of baseball. Taking one away would be the first important step in keeping fans constantly interested in what is happening on the field.
According to multiple reports, the rule change proposal has not received much backlash from the Players Association. It would apply to all relievers except those who finish an inning or are unexpectedly injured.
If the rule is passed, the allowance to waive the three-batter minimum for a pitcher who claims an injury would have to be closely monitored. Managers will try to beat the system with claims of hangnails, blisters and stomach aches.
The simplest way to prevent that would be institute a rule that says that any reliever who has to leave the game before pitching to three batters would have to go on the disabled list.
The first time it happens, he must go on the seven-day DL. The second, he must go on the 14-day DL. You can see where we are going with this. Guarantee this would discourage managers from trying to circumvent the rule.
Implementing this rule won’t instantly fix the sport’s “pace” issue. But the hope would be that it helps enough that we might consider other changes that will liven up the sport.
Should we limit teams to 11 pitchers to force teams to go longer with each of their relievers? Baseball isn’t close to considering that.