MLB’s bigger bases could lead to more steals, fewer injuries

2020 MLB season preview
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PEORIA, Ariz. – Like a violin virtuoso using a new music stand, San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado noticed a difference right away.

Not only are the bases bigger, but they feel different, too.

“It’s definitely different, for sure,” said Machado, a two-time Gold Glove winner. “They look better. I just got to kind of keep playing with it and stepping on it and kind of like getting the feel for it. But it’s definitely different for sure.”

The bigger bases – going from 15- to 18-inch squares – are part of a flurry of changes by Major League Baseball designed to put more action and athleticism back in the game and make it more appealing to a younger generation of potential fans.

When the new rules were adopted by baseball’s 11-person competition committee in September, the four players on the panel supported the bigger bases and voted against the use of a pitch clock and limits on defensive shifts.

The new bases – “They look like a pizza box,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora cracked – cut down the distance between the bases by 4 1/2 inches. The distance between third and home and home and first was trimmed by 3 inches.

It doesn’t sound like much, but the impact could be considerable.

Instead of waiting around for a three-run homer, big league teams could try a more aggressive approach on the basepaths. Coupled with new limits on what MLB calls disengagements – pickoff attempts or steps off the rubber – it’s more important than ever that pitchers are quick to the plate and strong-armed catchers stay alert with runners on.

“The run game, preventing the run game, is something that we’ve talked about, we’re going to continue to talk about, because … the stolen-base attempt should increase a good bit, I think,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

Major league teams finished with 2,486 steals in 3,297 attempts last year, up from 2,214 steals and 2,926 attempts in 2021, according to Sportradar, but much lower than 3,229 steals and 4,365 attempts a decade ago in 2012.

In testing in the minors, two Triple-A leagues used the bigger bases for half of the 2021 season. One experienced a 2.2% increase in successful steals, and the other posted 0.7% increase.

The 2012 season – when Mike Trout led the majors with 49 stolen bases – was the last time the big leagues surpassed 3,000 steals and 4,000 attempts.

“I’ve definitely been thrown out by less than (4 1/2) inches … so maybe that starts factoring into results,” said Chicago Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner, who swiped a career-best 20 bases in 22 attempts last year.

Of course, it also gives the majors’ top defensive first basemen an even better chance of keeping runners off base altogether.

“I think it could help. It’ll give me another inch or so of reach on a throw that wants to pull me off the base,” said Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker, who won his first Gold Glove last year.

Besides the activity on the basepaths, Major League Baseball is hoping the change will help reduce injuries. While testing the bigger bases in the minors, there was a 13% decline in what the league calls “injury events near the bases” from 2021 to 2022.

There’s more room for first basemen to avoid getting stepped on, or to pull their arm away in time to avoid a batter hustling up the line. It also should help avoid collisions all over the diamond.

“When you walk on the field, you don’t really notice it, and getting closer to the bag, you definitely do notice it,” said Cubs first baseman Eric Hosmer, a four-time Gold Glove winner. “It seems like a little flatter, too, as well. Not only bigger and longer, but definitely a little flatter.

“But yeah, I think it’s going to prevent some injuries, so I think anytime you can even knock that number down one or two guys, that’s well worth it.”

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.