BY SIMON BRADY
“Baseball is a perfectly imperfect game and that’s what makes it so beautiful,” said Drew Ehrhard, freshman second-baseman for the baseball team. Ehrhard is a prime example of a true baseball traditionalist, thoroughly believing that the game’s old-school style of play should be kept because it’s so unique to their sport.
Unfortunately for Ehrhard and other proponents of maintaining the rules of the game, minor league baseball has just implemented to new rules in an attempt to speed up the game and potentially revive fans’ interest.
The changes include a 15-second pitch clock, beginning games that go to extra innings with the last batter from the previous inning or a pinch hitter on second base. In addition, mound visits will be limited to six per game at the Class AAA level, eight at the AA level, and 10 at the A level, according to USA Today. These are certainly just experimental rule changes for now, but if there’s enough positive feedback from them, expect the MLB to implement the same changes to their game.
Whether or not these changes will be implemented at the college level is unknown at this point. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made it clear he wants them in professional baseball very shortly, opening a door for alterations at all levels of baseball.
“I am hopeful the changes we make directed at downtime will eventually get us into a spot where we’re comfortable with pace of play and the length of the game,” Manfred said.
Ehrhard isn’t the only member of the UT baseball program that is upset with these potential rule changes and what it may do to the game. Assistant Coach of the baseball team Jose Jimenez believes these rules changes are unnecessary.
“Everyone knows baseball is not a timed event,” Jimenez said. “So they should know when they come to a game that it will take three or four hours to play unless we have a pitchers’ duel.”
The 15 second pitch clock rule would mark the first time in the sport’s history that players are up against the clock, effectively stripping baseball from being the one major professional sport that is played with no time restrictions.
Another potential rule change that has yet to be implemented but has been thrown out as a possibility is automated umpires to avoid all of the subjective judgement that could lead to incorrect strike or ball calls.
Other sports have really made instant replay more prominent recently, with the bottom line argument of “making sure we get the call right,” and baseball is following suit with that philosophy.
UT pitcher Colton Widdows would be directly impacted by this change and would like to see baseball pursue it further.
“I don’t mind them experimenting with automated umpires. It would make for more consistency and a better understanding of what’s a strike and what’s a ball,” Widdows said. “Certain umpires tend to have biases or things that they do differently than other umpires. This would eliminate that problem.”
On the contrary, a traditional pro-baseball fan would say human error is part of the game, humans who naturally make mistakes on the field are playing in the game. So the officiating in turn should also have the human error element involved as well.
“The human element in sports is a game changer,” Jimenez said. “Things happen and it’s great to see how people react and adapt. A robot calling strikes would not go well I believe.”
It’s 2018 and the world as a whole is rapidly evolving, particularly with advancements in modern day technology and social media. It’s has forced people to be extremely impatient, needing the product they’re watching to unfold immediately as its happening.
Baseball is recognizing and reacting to this trend, and they have a fair argument to go ahead and do so. On the other hand, for a baseball traditionalist who has grown up knowing the game to be played one way and one way only, it hurts to see that taken away from the game they love.
Simon Brady can be reached at email@example.com