What did it take to finally get me to write something for the site again? I wish I could say that it was because I am done with college and will be back to writing all time time. Alas, the reality is that I finished up the final semester for my Associate’s Degree early and am making it a point to use the eight or so weeks I have before I start working towards my Bachelor’s Degree to write about baseball again. The topic that brought me out of my shell isn’t one that I think most people would suspect, though I’m so out of the loop that perhaps everyone already thinks I’m a curmudgeon and was just waiting for me to shake my fist at the sky while yelling, “Damn these rule changes!”
Yes, I have returned to talk about everyone’s favorite unaffiliated baseball topic, rule changes. To be clear, I’m not interested in minor rule changes that I don’t feel impact the game being played to a great degree. You’re not about to read me whining about pitch clocks, for instance. I don’t think they’re needed myself, but I also can see the argument for them and recognize that it’s not likely to impact my enjoyment of the game. The same is true of something like oversized bases to protect players. These rule changes impact who wins or loses a game on, at best, a minuscule level, and thus I couldn’t care less about their implementation.
What I do want to talk about are bigger changes, like the Pioneer League (PION) instituting a pie-slice area of the infield to be situated from second base to the outfield grass that cannot be occupied by a fielder before a pitch is thrown. Or, the not-quite-professional Pecos Spring League adopting the Knickerbocker Project (for the sake of my own sanity I’m going to refer to it as the Knickerbocker Rule). The Knickerbocker Rule is the brainchild of Brad Kullman and Miles Wolff and at this moment it seems to mean that every hitter will start their at-bat with a 1-1 count. The Pecos Spring League isn’t professional, but it is obviously a part of the Pecos League (PECO) which means it is likely we see the Knickerbocker Rule eventually make its way to both PECO and the Western League (PECOWL).
I hate both of these rules, just as much as I hated all of the circus league experimentation with rules that took place in the Atlantic League (ALPB) in recent years. I view these, and other changes like the Frontier League (FRON) and PION deciding games via home run derby or the Australian Baseball League (ABL) utilizing seven-inning non-double header games in New Zealand as wholly unnecessary changes to the game of baseball. All of the rule changes I am griping about are committing the cardinal sin of being solutions in search of a problem.
One can easily understand any unaffiliated league implementing the pitch clock because it will cut down on the downtime during a baseball game and in unaffiliated baseball the less downtime the better. What problem is the pie slice rule solving? Teams don’t shift much in unaffiliated baseball, so what purpose does it serve to implement a rule to solve a problem that doesn’t exist 99% of the time? The Knickerbocker Rule is clearly being instituted under the guise of speeding up the game. However, it could easily stifle the stolen base or greatly reduce the opportunities for the hit and run. Anyone who watches unaffiliated baseball knows that action is the name of the game and if a rule is eliminating the opportunities for action plays then it’s not a rule worth implementing.
I made the joke earlier that I am an old man shaking his fist at the sky. It is true I am an old man and I am shaking my fist at the sky. I realize that I have no ability to influence these rule changes, but all the same, I don’t feel I’m being a curmudgeon when it comes to these rules. I’m all for rules changes that improve the game of baseball, and none of these rules changes will improve the product being presented to the fans. They are change for the sake of change and solutions that will never find a problem to solve. The experimentation with the game of baseball at the unaffiliated level needs to stop. Leagues and executives need to stop trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Present high-quality, fun, exciting baseball and the fans will be happy. A pie slice rule or starting an at-bat with a 1-1 count isn’t going to make the game more exciting and if that’s the case you’re wasting everyone’s time and actively harming the game.
Lead Photo Courtesy of John Minchilla – Associated Press