MLB Commentary: The Tinkering With The Game Has To Stop

Aye Aye MLB, Anything You Say On Rule Changes - No!

As with MLB, too much of anything is not healthy, nor is it productive. Good ideas get overwhelmed by bad ones, and it has to stop – now.

Major League Baseball (MLB), the suits in New York City, not the players and coaches, has always been a reactive entity, too late to every party.

Nearly all of MLB’s time and attention goes to goes to answering, not anticipating, reaction to changes it makes to the game of baseball.

MLB Embarrassment: Joe Girardi Versus Max Scherzer
MLB Embarrassment: Joe Girardi Versus Max Scherzer

The whirlwind surrounding MLB’s latest intrusion on the game has not reached its apex (as meant to be shown in the featured image’s Aye Aye, Sir as MLB approach to rule changes).

Already there have been at least two incidents on the field that are, or should be, just plain embarrassing to Rob Manfred and his lieutenants at MLB.

A manager charging from his dugout with fists raised as a challenge to a Hall Of Fame pitcher, because he suspected the pitcher of using the sticky stuff, or some other foreign substance cannot be tolerated, except for the fact that MLB has once again dug its own hole, and they see no way out.

Before going further though, because some may be thinking, “Oh, here we go with another of those baseball purists who don’t want to baseball change at all”, I am not, even though I’ll soon be 74 and have been an avid fan for more than a half-century.

Moreover, it’s not some of the changes themselves that annoy me as detrimental to the game or even the ones that improve the game, both on and off the field.

MLB’s Lack Of Execution And Implementation On Changes

Instead, it’s the way MLB executes the changes once they become “law”.

MLB: Hall Of Famer Larry Doby
MLB: Hall Of Famer Larry Doby

MLB’s lack of follow-up action impresses me the same way as when Congress passes a controversial law and then proceeds to dump it on the President’s desk, saying, “Here ya go, make it happen”.

MLB has done this forever, and as an example, we have Bill Veeck and Branch Rickey, the respective owners of the Cleveland Indians and Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 acting to break the color line in baseball.

Larry Doby (Indians) was a 23 year-year-old kid when Veeck (pronounced v-e-c-k) signed him to a major league contract, and Jackie Robinson was only 28 when they were “welcomed” from the Negro Leagues, but only up to a point by MLB.

MLB wasn’t there, for instance, to ensure they could stay in the same hotel as the rest of their team without incident, or drink from the same water fountain at the train station.

No, MLB stayed on the sidelines hoping for the best, and fortunately for baseball, both Doby and Robinson had the character to do it all on their own.

We saw the same when MLB stepped in during the Steroid Era, late to the party and with no idea as to how to ensure the guilty are charged and the rest are proven to be innocent.

MLB: Chaos And More To Come

In those situations, only chaos can follow, and it prevails over baseball today as MLB sits back hoping its umpires can rescue them in the middle of a crisis, and a poorly conceived rule change in the middle of a season.

It’s not like MLB’s most recent rule change is an oddity because there has been a litany of rule changes made in the recent past as well, with more being tested in the minor leagues as you read these words (the Robot Umpire, moving the rubber back six inches restrictions on the employment of the shift, and even one that increases the size of bases from 15 to 18 inches).

Sure to be a major topic during the Owner/Player negotiations when the current agreement expires in December, is also the controversial move to introduce the universal designated hitter to the National League, permanently.

Think about what we’ve seen in the last few years and the volume of change is astounding. We have seven-inning doubleheaders, a runner on second base to start each half of extra-inning games, the 20-second clock (that no one pays attention to), limiting the number of trips to the pitcher’s mound, and the introduction of the NFL-like Taxi Squad that allows teams to travel with 27 players for all road trips.

Readers will have opinions, good and bad, for all. But again, where is MLB as far as conducting analytical and critical studies (not polls – the data can be skewed to “prove” anything you want it to) as to how each change is affecting the game? There are none as far as I know.

So, what tends to happen, especially when you have a volume of changes to deal with, is they get accepted into the culture of baseball in the same way that Social Security is now firmly embedded in our American Culture, with little or no chance of changing or deleting it.

MLB can’t and will never please everyone, no matter what they do or don’t do.

MLB: Where Are The Best And The Brightest?

Still, I have to wonder if the best and the brightest in the game are assembled in MLB’s offices.

Joe Torre, MLB's Chief Baseball Officer (Photo: Wikipedia)
Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer (Photo: Wikipedia)

MLB is purely a networking organization in which reputation and past experience in the game can vault a person like Theo Epstein, a successful GM, quickly to a post as a “Special Consultant” at MLB when he announced he was leaving his post with the Cubs.

Joe Torre is an exception, but time has passed him by as he is now 80 and not able to travel as he used to do.

Torre would be on the front lines, in attendance at ballparks across the country, conversing with umpires, players, and managers about the implementation of MLB’s actions to do away with the sticky stuff.

Torre, for example, or someone he sent to represent him, would have there to intercede and provide resolution and interference to the Girardi/Scherzer fiasco.

Missing in action, as far as I know, is Rob Manfred or any of his subordinates to help adjudicate the new rule, as it is being implemented each night.

Rob Manfred: Beholden To Team Owners

Rob Manfred feeling the Stress (Dallas Morning News)
Rob Manfred feeling the Stress (Dallas Morning News)

Now, let’s remember too that Rob Manfred’s job is wholly dependant on the whims of team owners who can hire and fire any commissioner at will.

Thus, he is beholden to the owners regardless of the words that flow so easily from his mouth about “doing things” for the betterment of the game and its fans.

As such, Manfred is the CEO representing team owners who first considers the financial impact on revenue before anything else.

Thus, we see, for example, his decision to leave it for teams to individually decide on single or separate admission to doubleheaders, even though fans are being “cheated” on two innings for each game.

MLB: Summing Up

Major League Baseball is and will always be our National Pastime. But there’s only so much any sport can take before it breaks from bending, and MLB is coming dangerously close to that end of the pendulum.

Therefore, MLB needs to take a deep breath, calling for a time-out to any more changes to baseball in the near future, even the ones currently in the lab in the minor leagues this year.

For me, it’s almost like MLB should call for a retreat (of sorts) immediately following this year’s World Series, and tuned to a single goal which is to take each of the changes noted above, tearing them apart, along with the “Almighty” analytical data assessing each rule change.

Owners, players, managers, umpires, the MLBPA, GM’s, the Commissioner’s office, and dare I say a contest to select a few fans to be in attendance, sitting down for a few days can only help to clear up the confusion and displeasure we see now.

But that’s something only a “Pro-Active” commissioner would think of doing…

Author’s Postscript

Wait, that’s not all. Have you seen MLB’s latest unilateral change to the game?

This one’s a real doozy and it has fans, the media, and players in an uproar. For reasons known only to MLB, we’ll be treated to new uniforms worn by players at this year’s All-Star Game at Coors Field in Colorado.

Except for the cap, a player’s allegiance to his team is obliterated, and the uniforms are being deemed as an abomination – but you can see for yourself…

MLB's latest change to "improve" the game
MLB’s latest change to “improve” the game

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Joshua Kaufman 💯 agree

Maryann Newman The commissioner needs to go. You can’t screw with the perfect game. He has done too much. We need to go back to the way baseball was before he started tinkering with it.

Janelle Falcone Absolutely agree 💯

Brett J. Patron Well we have tons of fans, and a bazillion sports pundits, who are not yet satisfied.

Michael Azadian Get used to it. Have you seen what else they are gonna test in the minors in the next few years? Moving the mound back a foot. Limiting each team to 11-12 pitchers. robot strike zone That’s just a few I’ve read about. There are 5-6 other ideas as well.

Not all change is bad. They fixed the mound in the late 60’s, they improved the ball and bats. When the game was first invented a game-winning HR was just a single if there were men on base and the winning run was on base. Some of the rules change are the result of the burgeoning K rate. Others are that the owners want young new fans and society has changed into a fast-paced short attention span public.
The lovers of the game may not like the changes. But the owners know we will still watch. They are going after the younger fans

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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.