Are We Going To Love or Hate the Future of Baseball?
On Monday afternoon ESPN ran a story by Tim Kurkjian that detailed how the future of baseball could pan out in 20 years. Kurkjian polled 12 different people around baseball- general managers, coaches, players, and umpires- and asked them to guess what changes the game could see coming. And while much of baseball is destined to remain the mostly the same, many of the projections Kurkjian scripted were drastically different from the game we are so accustomed to. So I decided to take a look at some of these changes and rate them on a “Hate Meter” scaled 1-10, with 1 signifying indifference and 10 meaning that I am totally opposed to the change. Below are some of the estimates given to Kurkjian by the people with whom he spoke.
Prediction: “In 2037, there will be a pitch clock — 20 seconds between pitches, if a pitcher goes past that, a ball will be assessed.”
Hate Meter: 3
Why: While 20 seconds seem fast, this change would do nothing but expedite the speed of the game and make it more interesting. Especially in today’s era where attention spans are dwindling, it’s important that pace of play is picked up. I’m worried that this could mess with the rhythm and pitch selection for the pitchers, but they will adjust.
Prediction: “There will be a limit on trips to the mound during a game by a pitching coach, catcher or infielder — call them timeouts: five per game, more will result in the ejection of the player or coach.”
Hate Meter: 2
Why: This is an absolute must. Too often we see coaches and catchers take unnecessary trips to the mound that do nothing but slow the game down. A rule like this would ensure that pace of play continues and would add a new layer of strategy to the game.
Prediction: “Hitters will not be allowed to step out of the box after a pitch, the penalty being a strike added to the count. And the tradition of throwing the ball around the horn after an out will be eliminated. The catcher will just throw the ball to the pitcher.”
Hate Meter: 6
Why: This one would be tough to swallow. Anyone who has played baseball knows how difficult it would be to remain in the batter’s box for an entire at bat and the penalty of a strike seems a little drastic. I understand the idea behind it, but it does not seem like a rule that would be easy to enforce. Also going around the horn after a strikeout is a time honored tradition, even if it adds an extra seven seconds to the game.
Prediction: “There will be no ties in baseball, but the 12th inning will begin with a runner on second base. If the score is still tied after 12 innings, the 13th inning will begin with a runner on third base.”
Hate Meter: 8
Why: This is supposed to be baseball, not tiddlywinks.
Prediction: “And to help prevent rain delays, every ballpark built starting in 2030 will be required to have a retractable roof.”
Hate Meter: 1
Why: In fact, I love this proposal. I’ve wondered for years why a system like this is not already in place. This sort of technology is available to every team in Major League Baseball and should be used as such.
Prediction: “Instead of having a laser system at home plate to call balls and strikes because such a system can’t always account for the shifting size of a player’s strike zone or the element of a crouch, the home plate umpire will be standing behind the pitcher’s mound. Many in the game will acknowledge that is the best vantage point to call balls and strikes, especially the horizontal strike zone — inside and outside. For the vertical ball/strike call (high or low) advanced technology will provide an augmented reality for umpires, it will help them better see what they see.”
Hate Meter: 7
Why: It’s tough for me to make up my mind on this one. While I do value the human element of having real umpires, I do understand that some technology has already enhanced the game in so many ways- instant replay for example. Is something like this really practical? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Prediction: “Two-way players will be common; every team will have a couple who will DH on days that they don’t pitch, improving roster flexibility. The DH will be universal, ending what will be a half century of absurdity of having different rules in each league.”
Hate Meter: 3
Prediction: We are already seeing the potential for two-way players to emerge from this year’s draft class with athletes like Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay being selected in the top four. This is an exciting notion, and so is a universal DH. Enough with the argument about the beauty of National League strategy- let’s put the bat in the hands of the best hitters on the planet.
Prediction: “There will be no American League and National League, it will all be under one MLB. There will be no Oakland Athletics or Tampa Bay Rays. The game will not expand to Mexico or Japan or Las Vegas. Instead, it will contract from 30 to 28 teams. That will make scheduling easier and more equitable: All teams will play each other six times, 27 times six equals 162. The top 10 teams in the game will make the playoffs.”
Hate Meter: 10
Why: No American or National League? Give me a break.
Prediction: “Like any $10 billion industry, it will all be about revenue. That’s why, long before 2037, all that space on a player’s uniform will be used for free marketing and advertising purposes, à la NASCAR.”
Hate Meter: 10
Why: I’m cringing.