The good and bad of MLB rule changes


Prasham Jobanputra

With spring training underway, Major League Baseball has announced a full new rules and changes.

The MLB is back in 42 days and counting and spring training has just begun.  Along with this, Major League Baseball has implemented a few new rules.  Here are my takes on the new rules.

Roster size and limits: There are a few changes here like two-way players being an official designation and position players can only pitch under certain scenarios, but the main change is that the roster size has increased.  The 25-man active roster will now be the 26-man active roster.  Teams will have one more spot on their rosters which is always a positive because that’s one more player on each team that gets to achieve their dream of playing in the big league.  On top of this, September rosters have been reduced to 28.

Injured List: Position players will stick to the 10-day IL, but pitchers and two-way players will be back to having the 15-day IL.  No big deal here as before the 10-day IL, it was the 15-day disabled list, so it’s just a return of the past for pitchers.

Challenging: Instant replay has really developed throughout the years.  Managers have been able to challenge plays since 2014 and the process usually is a close play happens, and managers get on the phone with someone who is reviewing the play for the team and they tell the manager if they should challenge or not.  Managers can still do this, but they will have to be fast about it because they will now have 20 seconds to challenge a call.  I like this change because I personally do not think managers should even be allowed to get on the phone.  If I had it my way, managers would have to use their eye to make the call themselves and either risk winning or losing a challenge.  Technology is nice and it is helping players develop more than ever before and I fully support that, but technology should be kept out as much as possible from the nation’s pastime when it comes to in-game play.  Managers should have to make decisions based on their judgement.

Pitching Substitutions: And here is the rule I really want to talk about.  Pitchers will now have to face a minimum of three batters or pitch until the end of an inning (unless there is an injury or illness judged by the umpires).  This is an awful rule and is bad for baseball and Marc Rzepczynski is one of the reasons why.  There are many lefty specialists in the MLB, in fact probably one on every team, but I think Rzepczynski is a perfect example.  Travel back to 2011 when the Cardinals won the World Series.  Well the opponents they faced in October of 2011 were the Phillies, Brewers, and Rangers.  In the NLDS Rzepczynski had to go and get big outs against Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.  In the NLCS it was Prince Fielder and in the World Series it was Josh Hamilton.  Those were some of the best left-handed sluggers in the game at the time.  Rzepczynski appeared in 12 games in the 2011 postseason but only had 8 and a third innings pitched, because he had one job, and that was to get big outs against lefty batters late in games.  I am positive that if Rzepczynski was not on the Cardinals or did not have that role, the Cardinals would not have won the 2011 World Series.  That’s how impactful this rule is, it is the difference between wins and losses.

I understand the rule is in place to speed up the pace of the game.  But does it make a big enough difference to make the change, do the benefits outweigh the costs.  In my opinion, the answer is no.  I don’t think the pace of play will be changed enough to make a difference on the MLB viewership of games.  It’s possible to think that this a step to eventually achieving a faster paced game but I disagree with that as well.  I don’t think there is any possible way to speed up the game to the point where all the sudden, baseball is must watch TV for those who think baseball is too slow.  At this point, you’re a fan and can sit through 9 innings or you can’t and that’s fine.  But speeding up the game should not come at the cost of how baseball is played and certainly not at the cost of wins and losses.