With a crack of the bat and a roar from the crowd, baseball season swung into action on March 30.
It’s a wonderful time of the year, and Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is a sure sign of spring being right around the corner. I can almost smell the hotdogs being grilled and feel the sun beating down on me. I can’t wait to be in St. Louis and take in a Cardinals game.
The first official game of the season is always filled with pomp and circumstance, and I’m anxious to see how the season unfolds, especially for the Cardinals since the 2022 season concluded with Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina retiring.
If you haven’t heard about these, they include a pitch timer to speed up the game, eliminating the defensive shift so more balls are put into play and more runners get on base, and increasing the size of the bases to encourage base stealing.
Associated with these new rules, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, are a few other considerations, such as limits on position players coming in to pitch, pickoff throws by the catcher, and dealing with injuries and gear issues, among others. And don’t forget about the new replay rules.
Why? Because baseball executives thought people were losing interest in the sport due to long games that lacked action. They came to this conclusion through “extensive fan research” that asked what would make baseball more enticing, and the resulting “consensus was action, balls in play, athleticism on the basepaths and in the field, and, above all else, a faster pace,” according to MLB’s Anthony Castrovince.
Those things might be nice, but I’m not sold on the changes, despite what the head of the league believes.
For me, these changes degrade the game.
Baseball is a game of chess. Every decision is made strategically.
Pitchers control the pace of the game with how quickly or slowly they work. Coaches and managers make personnel adjustments to find the perfect matchups. Defenders use sabermetrics and other analytical tools made famous in “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis to put themselves into the best position possible to catch the ball, which forces batters to attempt to hit the ball where the defenders aren’t.
It’s poetry in motion. It’s a choreographed dance. It’s beautiful, and it needs time to unfurl its rich tapestry of activity.
Sure, stolen bases, hits and home runs, and spectacular catches are exciting. However, so is the subtlety and art of the game, which happens between plays as much as it does during.
Rushing the game won’t improve the game. It is going to hurt it.
In an apparent attempt to capture society’s declining attention span for the sake of profit, MLB is sacrificing what makes baseball special.
How can the sport be America’s pastime if the focus is on the game passing in as little time as possible?
Todd Vogts is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.