Baseball rule changes capture fan interest, place higher stakes in games

Rules made by Major League Baseball in 2020 should be here to stay and need not be removed

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Photo Courtesy of Big Stock Photos

MLB needs to keep their rule changes from 2020 in order to drive fan interest in the game. Keeping the rule changes would result in more full stadiums.

Vijay Viswanathan, Opinions Editor

Remember when baseball games went 19 innings? When you had a whole day of baseball because of nine-inning doubleheaders?

Those days haven’t existed since 2020, when Major League Baseball (MLB) instituted rule changes in order to speed up the pace of play. One of the rules was when a game went into extra innings, the batter who made the last out of the previous inning would start the current inning on second base. The other rule was that doubleheader games would only last seven innings instead of the traditional nine innings. The final rule change for the 2020 season was that there would be a universal designated hitter (DH). A DH is a player who only bats, and because of this rule change, no pitchers batted in 2020.

However, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed interest in removing those rule changes for the 2022 season. It is important to note that all rule changes from 2020 carried over into the 2021 season, except for the universal DH rule. His reason? That the rule changes in 2020 were meant to be there because of the global pandemic.

That reason isn’t really a good reason. In fact, it’s a horrible reason. Both the seven-inning doubleheader rule and the extra-inning rule amp up the intensity of the game. The extra-inning rule now has the added pressure that the team in the field has to keep that runner at second base from scoring, but also to keep the batters from getting onto base. The seven-inning doubleheader rule forced teams to play baseball that was analytical at every moment in the game. It made teams realize that they had a shorter amount of time to score in and win a game in.

Another reason in favor of keeping the rule changes is that these rule changes speed up the pace of play. Before the extra-inning rule, games that went past nine innings sometimes went past four hours, with some games going into 16 or 20 innings and lasting six or seven hours, often ending past midnight. The extra-inning rule, so far, has kept games from going past 11 innings, with the exception being a 16-inning contest between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. That has shortened the game time by a lot. Games that could have possibly gone 15 innings or over now end after 10 innings, meaning that games are ending much earlier than midnight. The seven-inning rule means that doubleheaders are now zipping by, instead of teams having to play two games that are about three hours long.

Both these rule changes also do one very important thing: they are able to gain fans for the MLB. Because it increases the intensity of the game, it causes more fans to start paying attention to games. There are multiple videos of fans falling asleep at baseball games. The extra-inning rule would cause those sleepy fans to remain awake because they wouldn’t want to miss a pitch in case something happens. The same goes for the seven-inning doubleheader rule.

If the universal DH is implemented, the sport will lose one of its best parts, which is watching pitchers bat. While pitchers only bat in the National League, it’s entertaining to watch pitchers hit, since there are occasions where the pitchers actually do get hits and even more rare occasions where pitchers actually hit home runs. I mean, there already have been two pitcher grand slams this year. One by Huascar Ynoa of the Atlanta Braves on May 4, and one by Daniel Camarena of the San Diego Padres.

The main reason in favor of keeping these rule changes, however, is the economic aspect of them. Since the rule changes amp up the intensity of the game, that means that more fans are likely to buy tickets for the game, causing increased revenue from ticket sales for the team. The higher amount of fans attending the game also means increased revenue in the form of concessions and merchandise. What sports team wouldn’t like to see a jump in their revenue after an off-year?

Now, some people will say that removing these rule changes will return baseball to its traditional format. However, baseball has been moving away from the traditional form of the sport for many years. To me, baseball has always been a sport filled with intrigue and spectacle. It has become a sport that is more fast-paced and more energetic.

I ask Rob Manfred, why don’t you keep the rule changes? They proved effective when tested at the minor league level, and have proven more than effective at the major league level. Removing these rule changes would send MLB down the wrong rabbit hole. The adrenaline in the game would be removed, fans would actually become sleepy at games again and overall revenue would go down. Why would you want that? The answer to avoiding it is very simple; Keep the rule changes.