Change tested across the Atlantic

Potential changes in baseball are constantly swirling around and always threatening ideas of what the game should look like, while traditionalists cling to what the game was like when they fell in love with it. This tension has never been more evident than now, as rule changes – to evolve the game and address its pace of play problem – are seen as improvements by its supporters..

These changes, while imperceptible to untrained eyes, were being used as bargaining chips in an all-out war of attrition by millionaires and billionaires as fans collectively held their breath for the green light to be excited about. 2022 season.

Fortunately, the feeling of relief came mid-afternoon on March 10 and replaced the uncertainty about whether we would have baseball or not.

But we are left with a question: what will these changes mean for the game of baseball?

Change is in the air

The Atlantic Professional Baseball League recently entered the national consciousness for the first time since its inception in 1998, when it was announced that it would be the testing ground for these once hypothetical ideas. This originally happened in the 2019 season when MLB reached an agreement with the Atlantic League for the independent league to use automated umpires this season.

No longer would hypothetical, hypothetical rule changes be shot in a conference room, as fans could actually see these proposed changes live and in action by seeing their local teams play in front of less than a nighttime minor league crowd.

Under the bright lights of promotional nights, with giveaways and fireworks to lure people into the stadium, experiments were carried out with serious ramifications. Most of the changes discussed behind closed doors were officially launched in the lab of a baseball stadium above the Triple-A standard. They were:

  • Robot referees
  • Check Swings will be more hitter friendly
  • Reduced time between rounds (from 2 min 5 sec to 1 min 45 sec)
  • 3 dough throwers minimum
  • Ability to steal first (any dropped ball is treated as a dropped third strike)
  • Completely ban mound visits
  • Move the pitcher’s mound back 1 foot (from 60’6″ to 61’6″)
  • Offset restriction (2 infielders on either side of second base)
  • Increased base size (from 15 to 18 inches, excluding home plate)

With the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, the data became less plentiful than originally expected in the 2022 ABC stalemate, but it was nonetheless helpful. The data ultimately helped decide whether these changes have a place in the field. It also helped fans and players develop expectations in case these changes were agreed upon in the future. Think of it as a form of exposure therapy.

That future, once considered too distant to worry about, has arrived. The owners were originally looking for the ability to implement any on-field rule changes 45 days after they officially offered it to players. They were looking for a pitch clock, bigger bases and the elimination of lag for the 2023 season, which has proven itself in the Atlantic League since 2019.

However, the Players Association wanted to grant MLB the ability to lock in three specific on-field changes (with 45 days notice), all starting with the 2023 season. These changes include a height clock, longer bases large and a lag restriction.

It seems that what was launched as hypothetical years ago is now an inevitability that must be accepted. The bigger revenue issues had owners and players far apart. This had diverted attention from the burning issue of rule changes. The traditionalists are no longer able to hold their own because they just wanted the game to return to the field. Or maybe they’re just too tired to fight back, exhausted from holding the line. The change is here, and it seems like it’s everyone’s job to embrace it now.

The Atlantic League returns to the future

With the role it played in the rule changes during this CBA negotiation, the Atlantic League can now be seen more as a window to the future than just an isolated proving ground.

Armed with data from the 2019 and 2021 seasons, players and fans can at least approach these proposed and potentially agreed-upon changes with some semblance of knowledge of what it would be like if it were to happen in MLB. According to ESPN, more than 40% of Atlantic League players have major league service time, and most of those players have spent time with an affiliate of a major league team. Although it is an independent baseball league, the Atlantic League nevertheless sees many former MLB players taking its turf and having to adapt to these changes. Their opinions and comments matter.

Heading into the 2022 season, the Atlantic League announced it would revert to traditional baseball rules by reducing the pitcher’s mound to 60’6″ and reinstating umpires from home plate to call balls and pitches. strikes behind home plate.

“As we enter 2022, we reaffirm to players and fans that ball calls and throwing rubber distance will return to accepted standards,” said Atlantic League President Rick White. “We are retaining several past MLB test features, such as 17-inch bases, extra innings tie-breaking, and anti-shift rules, among others. Rules and test equipment are by definition transitory: some elements remain, others are refined, and still others are abandoned. That’s why MLB and the ALPB are doing the testing.

The Atlantic League and MLB partnership will announce proposed changes for 2022 and potential experiments later this spring:

“We are honored to pioneer the future of the game with Major League Baseball,” said White. “We are proud that many of the tests today will find their way into the major leagues in the future. We will continue to closely corroborate the tests with MLB.”

Compromise is the key

What the data says is subjective to whoever is looking at it. For some, baseball’s leisurely pace is the draw, while others will argue that’s what makes it hard to watch. The casual fan is often the squeaky wheel, so their input carries more weight.

Much like the ABC took forever to agree, visions for the future of baseball also differ among its fans, each with a unique love of the game and a unique perspective of what they value in the game. game. It’s a compromise and a delicate balance to appeal to casual fans without alienating diehards. It’s the same in all forms of entertainment. How do you bridge the gap between these two groups while expanding the audience and keeping everyone happy with the product in the field?

Another important question that needs to be asked is: how do we feel about the Atlantic League reverting to traditional standards while MLB is potentially moving forward with these changes? MLB as a whole should be the benchmark and standard for all things baseball, so shouldn’t these rule changes be kept if they were indeed beneficial?

It looks like the toothpaste is out of the tube and there is no going back now. But just like the owners and players representing the union, a compromise had to be made to get and keep the game we love on the pitch.

But forget all that for now…we have the return of baseball and it replaces all those feelings of uncertainty.

Graph by Shawn Palmer (@Palmerdesigns_ on Twitter)

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