In recent days I’ve written about proposals from Commissioner Rob Manfred about possible rule changes to baseball: eliminating having to throw four balls for an intentional walk, putting a runner on second base to start extra innings and raising the bottom of the strike zone.
The purpose of these proposals, supposedly, is to pick up the pace of play. Please note! I’m not here to write about that again, only to note that there have been many proposals for change and now a number of MLB executives have been asked about what rule changes they would make if they could.
They range from the very possible (adding a pitch clock) to intriguing (making relievers face at least three batters) to the ridiculous (shortening games to seven innings).
Some of you might argue that baseball’s perfect just the way it is and you wouldn’t make any changes at all.
I think baseball’s great, but some tweaks or adjustments couldn’t hurt. One of the reasons I’ve written about pace of play is that I think that could be improved. The answer to that, as I noted the other day, is pretty simple. No changes need to be made, just enforce baseball rules (12-second pitch rule, no stepping out rule) that are already on the books and empower umpires to enforce them strictly. I think MLB executives would be surprised at how much effect that would have.
Today, though, I’m going to ask you: If you were commissioner for one day and could make one and only one decision about a rule change to baseball that would stick forever after your day was over, what would it be?
Please note here that I’m asking you about a change in the way the game is actually played, not something like TV blackout rules (which ought to eventually be modified, but that’s a discussion for another day).
In the article asking MLB executives what they’d do, there was a bit of a surprise. Chaim Bloom, vice president of baseball operations for the Rays — an A.L. team — said he wanted to eliminate the DH:
"I think if we did allow our pitchers to hit more often, they would all find that to be awesome," he said. "It would be extremely popular to let them hit."
Actually, perhaps a Rays rep isn't a surprising source for this one, given the realities of small-market club construction.
"I do think, from our standpoint, as a small-market team in a division with big-market clubs, they're able to capitalize on the DH from a financial perspective in a way that we haven't been," Bloom said. "Although with Big Papi retired, it's probably less of a sensitivity than it's been in the past."
Some of you likely agree with Bloom. As you well know, I don’t. Pitchers can’t hit and this is nothing new — the DH was first proposed as early as 1929 and nearly adopted by the N.L. in the early 1980s.
I’m a proponent of having one set of rules for all of baseball. So my change would be to have the DH universal across all of baseball. I acknowledge that this would eliminate some fun things, like this:
The problem is, those are so few and far between that in my view, it’s not worth it. John Lackey hit .095 (6-for-63) last year with 31 strikeouts. Jon Lester hit .102 (6-for-59). Wouldn’t you rather see Kyle Schwarber taking those at-bats? (Yes, I’m aware that Jake Arrieta hit .262 with two home runs last year. In 2015 he hit .152.)
All MLB pitchers hit .133/.164/.171 in 2016, with 24 home runs — in 4,677 at-bats. That’s four-tenths of one percent of all home runs hit in 2016.
Anyway, this isn’t intended to be another DH/not-DH discussion. It’s just the change I would make if I were Commissioner for a day and my decision could stick.
What would yours be?