These were initially going to be the regular Bullets, and then I started talking about all the proposed rules changes – in addition to the universal DH, which we discussed a little earlier – and I couldn’t stop going. So, now there’s a full set of Bullets on the proposals …
- Ken Rosenthal’s report included other proposed changes, most of which we’ve already been aware of: 20-second pitch clock, reduction in mound visit allowances, expansion of roster spots from 25 to 26, and reduction of available players in September from 40 to 28. I dig all of those, and always have.
- But there was one big, new one, in addition to the DH stuff, in Rosenthal’s piece: a three-batter minimum for all pitchers. In general, I do like the potential positive impact for both pace-of-play AND increased action on the field (harder to just use match-up relievers), though I do worry about pitcher health … and the flip-side abuse of the rule. You could curb abuse by saying that any “injured” pitcher who is pulled before facing his third batter automatically goes on the disabled list. But then you worry about managers not wanting to lose a pitcher for two weeks because of a minor affliction, leaving a guy in, and then he gets even more seriously hurt. It’s a tough balance.
- Joel Sherman reports that the players are generally on board with this idea, by the way, and it would be implemented in MiLB in 2019, then in MLB in 2020.
- Jeff Passan wrote about many of the other proposed changes that have come up in the dialogue between the players and the league:
Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are discussing a variety of potential rules changes that could drastically alter multiple facets of the game, including a three-batter minimum for pitchers, universal DH and a single trade deadline. The details at ESPN: https://t.co/Oylh4ET2Gb pic.twitter.com/fqaEMsPx8p
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 6, 2019
- So much to digest. A 12-pitcher maximum on the roster seems designed to curb the creeping reliance on “fungible” middle relievers, to the detriment of perceived starter value. And maybe you get the owners on board because it could also improve pace-of-play, with fewer pitching changes. Still, I don’t love the idea of expanding the roster to 26 and then mandating that teams can only have 12 pitchers on the roster at a time. The Cubs, for years now, have always carried 13 pitchers, and that’s with a 25-man roster.
- Oh, also: who counts as a “pitcher” anyway? Wouldn’t this dramatically increase the value of position players who could also toss an inning or two? Or would that be disallowed, because then they’re a “pitcher” and you’ve violated the roster rule?
- An earlier – and singular – trade deadline seems designed to get teams to boost their rosters in the offseason, since they are going to be less likely to be able to do so during the season at a time when you know whether you’re going to be competitive or not. As a lover of trades and trade rumors, I don’t much care for that one, even as I understand why the players would want it. Do we really want teams to have to decide whether they’re “in it” or “out of it” by mid-July?
- Lowering the mound could help reduce the absurd rise in strikeouts, which I would not hate to see overall. But I like the idea of studying the change first, before implementing it. Player safety would have to be a primary consideration.
- Draft advantages and penalties based on competitiveness, eh? That one REALLY stands out to me, given how teams have become so obsessed with the value of amateur acquisitions in the last 10 years. Having carrots and sticks in place that reward/punish teams based on competitiveness over a several year stretch could really work. One part I’m not sure about in Passan’s piece, though? There is an implication that the punishments would apply to all teams, but the rewards would apply only to low-revenue teams. I understand the point – get those revenue-sharing-recipient teams to spend some damn money – but you could start creating perverse incentives, like we’ve seen with so many other aspects of the CBA that treat larger and smaller-market clubs so differently. I’d proceed cautiously on that one.
- There’s also an indication in there, and in Sherman’s reporting, that players want to see service time tied to team success and/or awards – i.e., if a team does well, its young players get a service time boost; or if a young guy gets an award, he gets a service time boost. There might be something there, but I’d need to think about it. It *could* work, since teams would not have entire control over a player’s service clock, so they might decide to just let a guy like Vlad Guerrera Jr. or Eloy Jimenez start the season on the big league club, since you might lose that extra year of control later on anyway.
- Sherman adds that the players have offered more mic’ing opportunities in-game, which would be very fan-friendly. That could be quite fun.
- Oh, and how about this aside – the league’s rules committee DOES want to ban/limit extreme shifts:
The owners tend to move slower as a group toward changes. For example, I’m told that the Competition Commitee actually ended up voting to ban or limit shifts in 2019 but owners have yet to approve. Tbd if it could happen this year
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) February 6, 2019
- In the interest of improving action in the field (it could also increase defensive player value and fun play opportunities out there – just sayin’), I tend to favor limiting extreme shifts, but I know I’m likely in the significant minority on that one.
- Note that NONE OF THESE PROPOSALS is a sure-thing for implementation in the near future, or even upon the expiration of the current CBA in 2021. But this certainly does feel like the first time since these topics came up a couple years ago that the players and the league are very serious about implementing some changes.