FEB. 8: Another rule change being weighed by Major League Baseball is more radical and would put a runner on second base at the onset of extra innings, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The league is planning to test the scenario in the lowest levels of the minor leagues, according to Passan, and there’s already at least one proponent of the idea among the league’s top decision-makers: MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre.
“Let’s see what it looks like,” Torre told Passan. “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time. … What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves. I don’t know what inning is the right inning. Maybe the 11th or 12th inning. But there are a number of reasons.”
Passan notes that any implementation of this type of radical change to the course of play would likely take years, adding that adoption would be an easier sell to players that have become accustomed to the shift throughout their minor league career. Nonetheless, there figures to be strong opposition to a change of this magnitude, which could have far-reaching impacts ranging from scoring decisions to in-game strategy to actual roster construction.
FEB. 6: Major League Baseball has made formal proposals to the MLB Players Association for two rule changes, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. The proposed changes would affect the size of the official strike zone (raising the lower part of the zone to the top of the player’s knees from its present location at “the hollow beneath the kneecap,” as per the official wording) and allow a team to simply signal if it wants to intentionally walk a hitter, letting the batter advance to first base without the pitcher having to lob four balls wide of home plate.
The latter change would be largely symbolic of MLB’s efforts to increase the pace of play, as Stark notes that the actual time saved by eliminating the four tosses per intentional walk is fairly negligible. Reducing the size of the strike zone is also technically a time-saving proposal, as the move would theoretically cut down on strikeouts and produce more balls in play, and thus more action.
The MLBPA is weighing both rule change proposals with membership, with Stark reporting that the intentional walk elimination is the more likely of the two to be approved for this season. An automatic intentional walk is a cosmetic change, whereas altering the strike zone obviously has much more impact on the game itself. According to Stark, the new zone would be roughly two inches higher than the old one, as umpires have been calling strikes below the knees with more regularity.
There are “mixed feelings” amongst players about the strike zone proposal, Stark reports, and thus it could be difficult for a decision to be reached in time for the new regulation to be implemented for the start of the 2017 season. Since Spring Training is so close, a decision on either proposal for 2017 will need to come “sooner rather than later,” according to one Stark source.