Rob Manfred is clearly embarking on a rule change campaign of late. Or, at the very least, he is laying the rhetorical groundwork for some pretty major rule changes in the future.
Yesterday he spoke of regulating defensive shifts and a pitch clock. Both of those were extensions of conversations started in the media, so you can probably assume that he’s treating those conversations as an ice breaker and will expand the conversation to other proposed rules eventually. Or, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might claim that he planted those theoretical rules changes with the media in the first place as a means of making them sound less radical when he, in fact, proposes them. After all, he wrote a guest column about all of this in the very same space where that stuff was first floated a few weeks back. Synergy!
We always have and always will argue about changes in baseball, but that change is almost always incremental and pretty minor. A little change here and there. Manfred’s recent comments and the changes made in the couple of years he’s been on the job seem somewhat radical, but that’s only by comparison. Bud Selig’s regime and the regimes which came before messed around with a lot of baseball context, but outside of the DH and a once-every-decade-or-so strike zone tweak, they left the on-the-field game largely alone. Manfred’s regime obviously thinks the field is not off-limits, so it’s naturally going to seem like crazy change at first, even if no single move is a terribly big deal.
Or maybe one will be a terribly big deal. That Buster Olney piece I linked above talks about seven inning games and limits on the number of pitchers a team could use. Those would be pretty dang major. Many — myself included — have proposed a universal DH for years now. That shouldn’t be a major thing given we’ve had a DH for 43 years, but the topic is basically like religion to some people so it would throw many into a tizzy. Some have talked about reducing the length of the season. There are always some kooky ideas floating around and, being a politician by temperament, Manfred has never and likely will never rule any one of them out unequivocally.
So I ask: what rule or context change could baseball make that would cause you to just give up on it? To stop watching or caring about baseball. To say “that’s it, this is no longer the sport I love” and to spend your summer evenings reading books or something similarly ill-advised?
Given what I do for a living I’ll never stop watching baseball and, that aside, I’m in the bag for baseball enough and comfortable enough with crazy crap that I’d probably never actually quit it, but I have to say that a seven inning game would seriously test me. Relief pitcher limits or other things which take the game out of the hands of managers and players more so than has already occurred would likewise cause me pain and might make me consider if what I’m watching is something I love or, rather, merely a function of inertia. Maybe I don’t give it up, but there is likely some thing that might make me ask myself if I truly care like I once did.
I want to hear yours. Honestly: what change could baseball make, be it to the rules or the general context of the game, that would make you say “I’m out!” Tell me in the comments. If Rob Manfred can float trial balloons over at ESPN, we can fire trial rocks from our trial slingshot over here at the Blue Network.