Baseball Will Survive Whatever Changes Rob Manfred Cooks Up
Rob Manfred has some strange ideas about baseball. Where he gets them I can't say, but you don't have to look any farther than the cash register for motivation.
Or simple misguidedness. Clearly, the free pass takes forever. Solution: the no-pitch intentional walk. Shaves seconds off game times. A three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, which begins this year? Genius. Except it's likely to create more hitting and longer innings with just as many pitching changes, which will take place only after an ineffective reliever blows up what was a perfectly fine game up to that point. Oh well.
You know what's coming next, right? A rover. And a fifth base, which will come in handy when the ump says "take your base," a cue for a plunked batter to actually remove first base and throw it out of play.
But look, it's impossible to ruin baseball. It simply can't be done. The game has survived all manner of odd rule changes without skipping a beat. I find that in general whenever we learn about an incoming new rule, our first instinct is to throw up our hands. "Stop trying to change baseball," is the common refrain. And I get it. I'm right there with you. But time marches on and the game remains glorious. Our favorite thing.
The designated hitter was once considered blasphemy. Still is in some parts. Two 12-team leagues with two divisions each seems quaint by today's standards. But we survived. Night games at Wrigley Field? "How dare you!"
I wasn't crazy about interleague play when it was introduced in 1997 and it doesn't interest me much now, but it was never going to be the end-all people (see Bob Costas) made it out to be. Same deal with wild cards. And replay review.
New rules sound weird when we first hear them. Or read about them 140 years after the fact. Here's one quoted directly from "The Baseball Encyclopedia, Ninth Edition, Appendix C, Major Changes in Playing Rules":
1880 – Base on balls on eight balls instead of nine.
1882 – Base on balls on seven balls.
1887 – Batter no longer allowed to call for a high or low pitch. Base on balls on five balls. Strikeout on four strikes instead of three, where the first called strike did not count.
An oldie but a goodie:
1920 – The spitball and other unorthodox deliveries abolished. Special provisions made to allow two pitchers as spitball pitchers for the 1920 season and thereafter no spitballers will be allowed.
Baseball will survive an extended playoff system. I promise you it will.
And remember, glove conquers all.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.