The Need to Fix Every Rule in Baseball
I’m really not sure why there is a pervasive need in baseball to make changes to how the game is played. I don’t remember hearing any complaints from fans about how taking some of the excitement out of the game is going to improve it. Or that a blown call from an umpire is going to drive them away from being a fan of the game.
First, MLB has all but eliminated the play at the plate. One of the most exciting plays in all of sports, and certainly in professional baseball, has now been watered down due to the catcher not being able to block the plate. If one grown man decides that he is going to try to score no matter what, and that a second grown man is going to do all that he can do to prevent that from happening, then by all means let that happen. Ray Fosse’s career was basically ended by a collision at the plate with Pete Rose in a meaningless All-Star game 46 years ago. Major League Baseball didn’t feel the need to change any rules after that play. Fast forward to 2011 and Buster Posey breaks his leg defending home plate against the Marlins’ Scott Cousins. The Posey Rule is created, and now the catcher basically has to roll out the red carpet for any runner coming his way. Ugh.
Second there’s instant replay. The thought here is that MLB wants to get every call right all of the time. How humiliating for umpires. Let’s have the manger stand at the top step while waiting for one of his staff to look at the play, in order to let the manager know whether or not to challenge it. So everyone’s eyes are on the manager who has to give the impression that he may want to request a replay. Meanwhile the umpires all huddle up waiting to see if they need to put on a headset, and talk to someone in a control room in another city. It’s awkward for the fan watching the game to have to have to watch this unnatural downtime. Then there’s more downtime waiting of the actual replay process to occur if requested by the manager. It slows down the game, it makes the umpires look inadequate, and it disenchants the fan.
Now one thing that MLB is trying to do, quite ironically, is to speed up the game. On the surface that is a good idea, as long as it is done within the confines of the regular flow of the game. Getting hitters to get back into the batters box between pitches in a reasonable amount of time, is a seamless and manageable way to accomplish this. Another time-saving method is a visible timer on the field that is being used for keeping track of inning breaks and pitching changes. These seem to be positive changes that make sense, and do not impact how the game looks in the fans eyes.
Already this season though, a game has ended with a rule-breaking walk-off slide into second base. During a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Houston Astros, Houston’s Colby Rasmus failed to touch the bag, and had a raised leg during his slide. This is now considered interference. The call ended up being a double play, the game was over, the Brewers win. The runner did not go after the player covering second base to try to “interfere” with the play. Player safety was not an issue here.
In a post-game tweet, Houston’s Dallas Keuchel had something to say about the umpire’s invoking of the Chase Utley Rule. ”Are we even playing baseball anymore??? Unbelievable.” As a fan, it’s hard to argue that point.