Potential changes are made for shortened MLB season

Marquee+Sports+Networks+Jim+Deshaies+%28left%29+and+Len+Kasper+at+a+Chicago+Cubs+spring+training+game+at+Sloan+Park+in+Mesa%2C+AZ.+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+22.

Photo Courtesy of Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Marquee Sports Network’s Jim Deshaies (left) and Len Kasper at a Chicago Cubs spring training game at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ. on Saturday, Feb. 22.

By Rich Eberwein, Staff Writer

With the MLB season very likely to be shortened, if there’s a season at all, this is the perfect time to experiment before the collective bargaining agreement expires in December of 2021.

So what are we talking about with experimentation? Well, with Rob Manfred waging a questionable war for quickening the pace of play, maybe it’s time to look at things that might actually solve that problem instead of limiting manager options, a-la-the three batter rule and reduced mound visits.

Throwing Over to First

So let’s start with the change with the most potential. Cubs TV play-by-play man Len Kasper proposed a rule that would help pace of play in a way that should appease everyone.  The theoretical rule calls for a line to be drawn somewhere along the base path between first base and second base, and if a runner is not past that line when a pitcher throws to first base, a balk is called, and the runner is awarded second base.

This tweak would aim to avoid pitchers from throwing over to first base several times, which unnecessarily adds time to the game.  The line would be anywhere from 10-12 feet away from the first base bag, theoretically preventing pitchers from throwing over without a real threat of second base being stolen.

Extra Innings

Another pace of play issue that could easily be avoided is games going into extra innings. When MLB goes longer than nine innings, bullpens get exhausted, positions players are on the field for potentially hours longer than usual and ball clubs are completely thrown out of whack with the annual 18 inning marathon that inevitably happens every year.

Dodger third baseman Justin Turner proposed holding a mini home run derby if teams are tied after nine innings. It’s hard to imagine someone having a problem watching their team’s sluggers heading to the plate to belt homers into the bleachers to decide a contest.  This change would not only provide a clear cut end to extra-inning games but also give an incentive for fans to stick around for the chance to watch a spectacle that only happens once a year.

Universal DH

This one is not as much a pace of play issue but interesting to think about nonetheless. The universal DH is probably inevitable at this point, but some old school baseball fans and industry people will still not like it. While it is always fun to watch pitchers crank that home run or drive in a big run once in a while, the harsh truth is that pitchers are at more risk of injury when they grab a bat or run the bases.

This is nothing new, and it’s frankly surprising that the universal DH has not been implemented yet. Back in 1962, San Francisco Giants manager Alvin Dark infamously gave ace Juan Marichal the bunt sign with two strikes in game four of the World Series against the Yankees.  Marichal broke his finger and was shut down for the rest of the series, which the Giants would end up losing in seven games.  Pitchers suffering unnecessary injury has plagued the National League for decades.

The universal DH will give National League lineups a boost in offensive production, lower risk of pitcher injury and give guys who excel in hitting as opposed to fielding more chances of making it to big league ball clubs. This one is a no brainer.

With the high likelihood of a shortened season, the MLB could be given a golden opportunity to take advantage of an irregular situation and test out these adjustments in real games with major league players.  The changes will be on display for everyone to see, and we would have a better idea which ones would change the game for the better.

@ebs_rich

[email protected]