Last week, Sports Illustrated reported that Major League Baseball is considering beginning extra-innings with a man on second-base, part of its continued effort to speed up the game.
The idea will be test-run in rookie ball starting this season. I want to pose a question to you, the readers, given the controversy surrounding this issue.
Do you think these speed-conscious changes are good for the game?
Are some changes okay, like the rule allowing teams to intentionally walk batters without throwing a pitch, while others are not?
John referenced the extra-inning idea in February 9th’s daily discussion, but I think this topic deserves its own thread and I would like to express my thoughts on the matter, as well.
My take: For me, what makes baseball special is its timelessness.
The game has undoubtedly changed in many ways throughout the years, from its inception when batters "called" what sort of pitches they desired in the late nineteenth century, to the "dead ball" era of the 1920s, to the lowering of the mound in 1969 after "The Year of the Pitcher."
Yes, it was easier to hit forty home runs in the 90s and rack up 300 wins in the 30s. But even with these changes, the rules and the game of baseball have remained fairly constant. 3,000 hits, 300 wins, 500 home runs, and a .300 batting average still mean something.
Conversely, look at what has happened to basketball and football, two sports in which viewership and profit trump history: their stats today are essentially meaningless. You cannot compare Y.A. Title to Eli Manning on the basis of stats, since the latter competes within the flag-throwing, quarterback-protecting, passing-heavy league that inflates offensive performance. Similarly, in the three-point-happy NBA, offensive records are being "shattered" with each passing week. A twenty-point-scorer now means something very different from a twenty-point-score a decade or two ago.
In my opinion, prioritizing short-term goals like viewership could risk undermining baseball’s unrivaled, rich history and timelessness.