The First Chicago Cubs Game Under the New Rules, and an Attendance Record

The first Spring Training game of the year is in the books, and that means the Cubs’ first ever game under the new rules is also in the books.

The Cubs-Giants game yesterday was tied for the longest of the day (3:06), but like I mentioned in the Miscellany, it felt like it moved along at a good pace thanks to the pitch clock, which is exactly what you want.

Of note, that 3:06 game featured 18 runs, 25 hits, 13 walks, and 6 errors. Packed a whole lot into the game. (Also, good lord the Giants were TERRIBLE yesterday. It’s spring, and it wasn’t their regulars. But just terrible defense, terrible pitching.)

There was no major auto-ball or auto-strike drama – no game ending on an auto-strike call with the bases loaded.

One thing I noticed that I really liked about the pace is summed up this way: there was a stretch during the game where the grandparents came to visit us, and my attention was understandably divided. I mostly focused on them, but periodically I’d want to check in on the game and watch just a little bit. Thanks to the pace, when I would do a quick two or three minute check-in, I would actually get to see a full plate appearance or three, instead of just half of one at bat. That was certainly nice, because the realities of life mean I’m sometimes having to dip in-and-out of games live like that. I hope the pitch clock means I get to experience more game action in those dips.

As for the shift restrictions, although I do feel like I saw a couple grounders get through that wouldn’t have in the old regime, it didn’t really stick out as a feature. I imagine that’ll fluctuate in our minds based on game situation, especially when the games actually count, and a ball gets through the right side to score a key run.

Larger bases: didn’t notice at all. Three stolen bases in the game total, nobody caught stealing. Not sure that means anything.

Pick-off limits: didn’t notice at all, EXCEPT for the fact that the Giants had their catcher throwing a crapload of back-picks. I wonder if that’s how some teams will try to help their pitchers control the running game. Remember, pitchers can disengage from the rubber just twice. If they do it a third time, they HAVE to pick the guy off at first, otherwise he automatically gets second base.

As for the consumption of the game live, a record number of fans got to see this first spring game:

The Cactus League record had already belonged to the Cubs. The Cubs set the previous record in 2019, the last truly normal Spring Training, in a March 25 game against the Red Sox (16,100).

It’ll be very interesting to see how attendance plays out for the Cubs throughout the spring. I think the positivity associated with, and excitement about, this year’s team is higher at this point than it has been any year since 2018 or 2019. That isn’t saying much when you really think about those interim years and how fan attitudes evolved in tandem with team performance and composition. But it does feel like there is more energy among fans than there has been in a while, and maybe yesterday’s attendance record is a reflection.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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