Baseball, also known as America's past time. The beautiful game of baseball was once the staple of American culture and epitomized all that was right with American sports. Many people have had several complaints about the game of baseball and thus led to several rule changes in the MLB. While this may not be the most popular of thoughts, the game of baseball was once perfect. As a kid I can remember going to the field in the hot summer. Blistering heat so bad that just standing around made everyone sweat. Pine tar was melting in the bags and all the water bottles had a frosted view from the cold refreshing drink that was inside.
The youth of today is starting to shy away from playing the wonderful game and many people are wondering why. Many children will never be able to understand what it was like to hit a baseball with a frozen bat in the early days of April, and the kind of sting that it has on the hands. Others will never experience trying to fit an entire package of big league chew in their mouth as they take the field. However the worst part about the youth of America becoming rather disengaged with the game of baseball is that nobody will step up to the plate and try to emulate their favorite player's batting stance. The old saying is 'adapt or die' yet nobody every answers what happens when you die while you try to adapt. The game is dying and interest is decreasing with every move made by baseball. Similar to the 'sometimes the best trades are the ones not made' cliche, sometimes the best change is to not change at all. With that here are the top 15 worst rule changes in the MLB. A quick note; these changes have either been implemented or tested at the professional level. You may disagree with some of these points, but it's all about opinion.
15 The Designated Hitter
Yes I know this is not a popular belief but the designated hitter is not at all what the game of baseball was meant to be for. The nine players that take the field should be able to come up to the plate and bat. The reason why this is number 15 is because I can understand and appreciate the art of a David Ortiz or Edgar Martinez. It is not a terrible rule that was put in place in 1973, but the fact that one league does it and the other does not, hurts the rule.
We've seen the conflicts of this rule on full display in the World Series year after year, as the DH exists in American League ballparks, then switch back to tradition once the series shifts to the National League team's ballpark. With Ortiz set to retire, perhaps the DH rule should be retired as well.
Again, expansion is an exciting rule change, or league change, from recent memory that many people find to be exciting and beneficial to the game. However the 15 American League and 15 National League teams hurts my head to think about. Logically it makes sense to have an equal amount of teams per league, but the problem with expansion is that it caused a National League team to have to adjust their roster and rebuild.
The Houston Astros have had mild success as the newest AL team, however they were forced to change course when they were told they were switching leagues. This segues perfectly to the next topic. Commissioner Robert Manfred has hinted that further expansion in the majors is inevitable, with markets like Montreal, Portland, Charlotte and even Mexico City being tossed into the mix for possible expansion sites. Perhaps the MLB should focus on keeping its current teams financially healthy.
13 Inter League
This rule piggybacks off the expansion rule. Growing up, inter league play was arguably the most exciting time of the regular season. The Subway Series (Beltway/Windy City/All California teams) where cross town rivals played each other was such a great moment for fans because it happened in mid June and teams had an identity. Or in July teams would play in parks they rarely, if ever, play in. However inter league today is played every day which in turns makes the idea of inter league no longer exciting and new. It makes it like every other baseball game.
The unique thing about baseball compared to every other major sport is that the highest level of the game involves two leagues. With the expansion of inter-league play, it no longer feels like that's the case and it only makes you wonder if the concept of two separate leagues is going to be scrapped altogether.
12 Playoff Format
For whatever reason the baseball executives decided to make their play of format different from the other sports. Football is excluded because they do not do playoff series, they do one game elimination. Basketball and Hockey do a 2-2-1-1-1 format for playoffs which actually involves a legitimate home field advantage. However the 2-3-2 format hinders definitive home field advantage when the lower seeded team gets three consecutive home games, which just happen to be the three most important games of a series. This rule may have an asterisk next to it because it was implemented in 1924 so it is not actually a recent change.
The move just has no logic, besides saving the teams an extra couple of travel days. Theoretically, you as the higher seeded team could be facing elimination in a series even though you haven't lost a home game. It just doesn't feel right and it's a rule change that should take place.
11 The Jeff Nelson Move
The fake to third fake to first move was one of the best moves a pitcher could make when they found themselves in a jam. The former Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson made it a vital tool for himself during his tenure with the pinstripes. This move would help neutralize the runner from first taking off for second and helped keep the double play in order. As of the beginning of the 2013 campaign this move is now deemed a balk and both runners advance a base.
Nelson, a contributor for MLB.com, offered his thoughts on the rule change back in 2013. “The managers say it’s all about speeding up the game,” said the former reliever. “I think now, the runner at first might get a little bit of an advantage. All it’s used for is to keep the runner at first close. I might have done it 100 times and gotten two guys on it.”
10 Intentional Walks
This is one of the most boring plays in baseball and I absolutely understand why many fans want it banned/altered. My reason for the intentional walk is also for the new belief that teams should not have to actually throw 4 straight balls to walk a batter. Instead they would just signal and the batter would be awarded the base, like in video games. This potential rule change makes it so there is no chance for an error in a wild pitch or we are unable to have a Vladimir Guerrero situation where a batter reaches out over the plate and swings, or even a mistake where the ball is close to the plate and can be hit.
Overall, this is just incredibly frustrating for fans to watch. While there's an element of strategy to it, it takes away from a game that's supposed to be competitive.
9 Strike Zone
It is believed that in the next year there will be a new strike zone for the majors. The new strike zone would be from the bottom of the knees to the armpits. In 1950 it was the top of the knees to the armpits. In 1996 it became what it is today, many times the pitch high is not called a strike when it is at the letters and often the ball below the knee is called a strike so this causes problems when it comes to the consistency with the strike zone. More changes to the strike zone will only lead to more problems.
The shift in baseball to a focus on analytics has caused teams to target certain areas of the strike zone to create more efficiency in forcing out. While it's very prudent of these teams to look for new ways to win, the experience is not fun for the fans and takes away a lot of the spontaneity in baseball.
8 The Batter's Box
The next few rule changes stem from the desire baseball has to speed up the game. For all of them there will be the same situation, speeding up the game is changing the way the game was supposed to be played. The rule that was implemented in 2014 forces batters to keep one foot in the box at all times. However this takes away from the rhythm a batter has should they be like a Nomar Garciaparra type of rhythm player. Speeding up the game is really hurting the game overall and not accomplishing what they hoped it would.
Ortiz wasn't a fan of this rule when it surfaced and he made his opinion known. “I call that (B.S),” Ortiz said. "They don’t understand that when you come out of the box, you’re thinking about what the (pitcher’s) trying to do. This is not like you go up to the plate with an empty mind. No, no, no. When you see guys pitch, coming out of the box, we’re not doing it just to do it. Our minds are speeding up."
7 Time Limit (Batters)
This is another one of the rule changes that does not make sense. Between innings a batter has to enter the box when the clock is down to 30-15 seconds. Then the pitcher must pitch before the clock runs out before the umpire will call a ball. My problem is not necessarily with the idea of forcing a player to be ready quickly between innings. It is more about the idea of it not being enforced. There is an extra 15 seconds (ideally) left between when the batter is in the box set and when the pitcher haste deliver a pitch. It's hard to enforce a rule with such a lackadaisical approach to the rule.
You either have to make this a rule where an official clock is implemented or don't bother calling it a rule at all. It's confusing to everybody and has failed to serve a purpose.
6 The Speed Up Clock
This clock applies to many parts of the game. In between innings for a pitcher to warm up. When a pitching change occurs and the new pitcher comes in from the bullpen. When a batter is walking up to the plate. When a pitching coach goes out to meet with their pitcher. All of these aspects of the game that are trying to be sped up are influenced by the speed up clock. A problem with this clock is that it hinders many of the techniques used by teams and players.
Baseball is a sport where strategy has to be evident in trying to crack the other team's techniques. A lot of that is taken out when you enforce a clock like this. Baseball shouldn't have the rigidly timed sequences that you see in a sport like football. It's supposed to be a lot of what football isn't.
5 The All-Star Game
We can thank the 2002 All-Star Game for this debacle of a rule. The idea was that starting in 2003 all of the MLB All-Star Games must have a winner for they will decide which league gets home field advantage. Why this rule is terrible, is just because a team is in the victorious league does not at all mean that it should be given the advantage, especially if the other team had a better record. An All-Star Game MVP for the Tampa Bay Rays should not impact the World Series when they are not even in the playoffs.
The idea was all to give some meaning to the All-Star Game, and while baseball may have the best ASG, this is a really dumb way to generate interest in a game. How much incentive does it really give the players to try harder, unless they're on a World Series contender?
4 Instant Replay
Again, I am probably in the minority with this take but instant replay is such a problem in baseball that it causes more problems than it solves. Yes I think one of the biggest problems at the time was the constant problem with whether a ball was over the wall for a home run or if it was off the wall/ fair or foul. I have no problem with it being home run instant replay, however once it expanded to routine outs, this is where it hurts the game.
An example is a runner stealing second sliding head first and straddling the base (not over sliding) and being called out because they were not 'technically on the base'.
This all just feels so cheap and it takes away from the flow of the game. Again, the game is starting to feel too rigid.
The final three are the most recent changes and they are just terrible. Challenging is a rule where managers can challenge a previous play from the dugout after getting confirmation from upstairs that they have a case. I have less of a problem with challenges as I do with how a coach can challenge. A manager can take way too much time to make sure that they have a case that they can and should challenge. The only thing worse than the challenge in baseball is losing a challenge in baseball after all the research is done upstairs and the bench coach gives the okay.
Joe Maddon had the most success in the 2015 season with challenges and we'll see how managers are able to keep adapting to it. Overall though, there's just too many instances of replay in baseball today.
2 Plays at the Plate
Plays at the plate are now no longer as exciting as the once were. Thanks to the Posey Rule, named after San Francisco Giants superstar Buster Posey, home plate collisions are no more. Probably crazy to think that this is a terrible rule however I can honestly say that Posey blocked home plate incorrectly. It was not the fault of Logan Morrison that he got injured. Instead of banning the play, MLB should have just showed the right way to block the plate. It takes away from hard working hustle plays at the plate.
Some of the most exciting moments in our lifetimes of watching baseball has been that pivotal play at the plate where it comes down to the catcher and the runner. A huge joy has been taken out of the game. Baseball should be looking for ways to make the game more enjoyable, rather than faster.
1 The Slide Rule
Implemented before this season the slide rule or the Chase Utley rule forces players to slide before second base without making any contact with the defender. This is used to keep players safe, but it hurts the game because again it hurts the hard fought play that has been such an important part of the game of baseball. Breaking up a double play was a huge role in being a ball player and now it is not even allowed. I am all for keeping players safe, but if the last two rule changes were any evidence, I am more for hard fought baseball to be a part of the game forever.
There just seems to be so much tradition being stripped from the game today. There's adapting with the times and there's ruining what's worked for so many years. In this case, it's the latter.