It is officially springtime, and with spring comes baseball. As a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I have not been given much reason to watch the 162-game season the last seven or so years, but it’s hard not to get excited when that first pitch is thrown on opening day. There’s just something about the snap of a ball hitting a glove or the crack of a batter sending one out of the park — it’s so captivating that I have to watch every season. Baseball is a game of strategy, like a huge game of chess. However, with commissioner Rob Manfred Jr. instituting new “pace of play” rules, Major League Baseball (MLB) has given in to the demands of cable television. These rules put the strategy of baseball at risk and should be opposed by any sensible fan.
Baseball generates the third most TV revenue among the five major sports in the United States, clocking in at about $1.5 billion, more than a billion dollars behind football and basketball. As one of America’s oldest sports, one would think that baseball would be the most popular, but as the years have gone by, fewer and fewer people have become interested in the sport, with attendance dipping below 73 million. For many spectators, the games take too long because of the many ways a team can delay a game, such as a batter calling time while in the batter’s box, a pitcher stepping off the mound because he did not like how things felt or a coach or player coming out to speak with the pitcher about strategy multiple times an inning.
Per the new rules, teams will have a limited number of mound visits per game. This will make innings shorter and games quicker. Players and coaches have had a mostly positive reaction to the new rules. Both parties generally feel that cutting out the dead air in games that come with multiple mound visits could be a good idea. But this is foolish for one reason: it will put all clubs at a disadvantage in terms of personnel decisions. It is clear with these rules that the MLB simply wants to bring in more money, and they cannot do that if fans do not want to watch the long games. But money should not be the end all be all for any sport. There is a strategic integrity on the line that needs to be maintained over all else. This is a job for the players and coaches, and it should be treated as such. Athletes are not just there for our entertainment. They are trying to earn a living just like everyone else. When the strategy is taken out of a sport, it makes winning and earning a living that much more difficult. This is America’s past time, and it should be preserved as such.