MLB proposed rule changes throw potential curveball


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Major League Baseball owners and players are seeking a plan for a shortened season.

Austin Bechtold, Podcast Editor

The baseball offseason finally got interesting this past week and news regarding the league is starting to heat up.

No, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have still not signed, but new rule proposals provide an in-depth look at the potential future of baseball.

Last week, reports said the players union and Major League Baseball have discussed multiple on-field issues and the topic of two-sport athletes.

The two sides have had dialogue on a three-batter minimum for pitchers, a 20-second pitch clock, a single trade deadline before the All Star break, and bringing the DH to the National League.

Also being talked about are the expansion of rosters to 26, with a 12 pitcher max; draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams; a study to potentially lower the mound; and a rule that would allow two-sport athletes, like Kyler Murray, to sign a major league baseball deal.

The proposed rules would create a major shift in baseball.

The DH coming to the National League would be the biggest game-altering move, providing a team like the Pirates an extra spot in the order to help increase offensive production. The designated hitter would eliminate the pitcher batting and would ease the pain of watching starting pitchers easily strikeout, the worst being when runners are on base.

Even though the union is pushing for the DH for the 2019 season, the idea is likely to gain momentum when the collective bargaining agreement is up in 2021.

The pitch clock is a move that will be coming to baseball sooner rather than later.

A clock is intended to speed up the game, with a 20-second max to enter the windup and deliver the pitch to home. The clock is used in the minors and younger pitchers have adapted to it, although veterans hold a stronger opinion on the matter.

A three-batter minimum for pitchers is probably the most likely move that could occur before the 2019 season.

This would require a pitcher to face three batters, baring injury or the end of an inning, before being able to be replaced by another pitcher. This would effectively kill the lefty specialist who comes in to face one or two left-handed hitters before getting the hook.

Finally, an interesting wrinkle thrown into rules discussions is the de facto “Kyler Murray Rule,” which would allow two-sport athletes selected in the baseball draft to receive a major league contract rather than a minor league deal. This would allow a player like Murray to receive major league money and have a quicker chance of playing in the big leagues.

All of these rule proposals are in the early stages of discussion but could ramp up soon. Most of the changes could apply in 2020, but it is a step in the right direction for the players and owners to be talking during this slow-moving free agency and offseason.

Baseball is a game in need of change to bring much needed fan interest back into the sport, and some of these changes could spark the league altogether.