I know someone who still uses dialup internet. Unsurprisingly, he is a hardcore MLB fan.
Hardcore MLB fans are about as receptive to change as Augusta National members are likely to play a round of golf with Gloria Steinem. They say the sport should be unchanging and its appeal is in its foundations.
They were up in arms in 1971 when batters were first required to wear helmets. They scoffed at the designated hitter rule, which was first run under an experiment in 1973. They said that baseball should never, under any circumstances, have instant replay reviews. But in all of those cases, the hardcore fans were forced to accept the changes, just like they had been since 1857.
Baseball is the only major sport whose rules have remained somewhat static in the past 30 years. While the NHL, NBA, NFL, NASCAR and other sports introduce rules in what feels like every three minutes, the MLB has stood like a grumpy child in a corner, arms folded.
But a new potential rule change seems to have the traditionalists upset more than the other few changes to the game in the past multiple decades.
The MLB has proposed testing a rule in the minor leagues that would place a free runner on second for each team when a game reaches extra innings. The MLB has stated it could begin testing the rule change in the minor leagues and could potentially make it way to the majors.
Unlike other proposed rule changes, which include a pitch clock that is similar to a shot clock in basketball, the free runner rule would not be in an effort to speed up the game so much as prevent long games from running even longer, such as the seven hour, 19-inning game between the Red Sox and Yankees in 2015.
According to BaseballProsepctus.com, the average MLB game ran over three hours in 2016. There were 80 games that went more than 10 innings.
Those numbers are the reason why I am all for the free runner rule.
Simply stated, I am not a hardcore fan of MLB because I would have to spend around three hours per game, 162 games a year, rooting for my team. That’s just too much of a commitment for me, and this is coming from a guy who has the Atlanta Thrashers logo tattooed on his leg (in my defense, they were still a team when I got the tattoo).
So, if we can impose rules that speed up the game, and can prevent a day game from turning into an all-day game, maybe I’d be more inclined to watch MLB more often.
I love baseball, and in fact, I sometimes even love a game that runs long. Last year I had the pleasure of covering a thrilling high school game between Mt. Pisgah and King’s Ridge that went 15 innings and was filled with both teams having the opportunity to win in extra innings.
But unlike high school baseball, MLB games are longer to begin with, given every pitcher must form a dissertation on his next pitch and every batter must have a pre-swing ritual that looks as if he is trying to summon a voodoo spirit. Couple that with the potential of a game going for seven hours and I’m out.
Some will say that winning as a result of getting a free runner in scoring position to open a half-inning is not a legitimate win. That it is an understandable argument, but baseball needs rule changes to expedite the games if it wants to attract bigger TV audiences and potential hardcore fans, like myself.
I know many fans are going to be in complete disagreement with me on this, but at least we can all agree on one thing — we all hate the designated hitter rule.