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Major League Baseball Implements Rule Changes To Speed Up Play

Apr 11, 2017
Originally published on April 11, 2017 6:38 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Major League Baseball is stuck between centuries. Just about everyone agrees that games drag on far too long for the distracted, modern audience. The average major league game takes about three hours and postseason games are much longer. But purists balk at any changes to the game.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And a lot of those purists are the players themselves. Commissioner Rob Manfred wanted to really shake things up for the season, like setting time limits between pitches and limiting how often a manager can visit the pitcher's mound. But the players didn't agree. A frustrated Manfred spoke to the press back in February.

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ROB MANFRED: I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change. I'm firmly convinced that our fans, both our avid fans and casual fans, want us to respond to and manage the change that's going on in the game.

CORNISH: There were some rule changes. The intentional walk is a lot snappier now. Instead of throwing four straight balls to put a dangerous batter on first base, teams now simply signal for the walk.

SHAPIRO: The Chicago Cubs were the first team to do this in a regular season game when they gave a free pass to St. Louis Cardinals star Yadier Molina.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Well, remember of course, if there is an intentional walk, there's no more four pitches. And Molina's going down to first. They just said to him, we're going to walk you. So Molina takes off the shin guard, hands the bat, got a little smirk on his face. This is the way it's going to be done now.

CORNISH: While players and apparently broadcasters try to wrap their heads around the no-pitch intentional walk, Jonah Keri says it won't impact the game much at all.

JONAH KERI: I think you save 39 seconds per major league game.

SHAPIRO: Keri covers baseball for Sports Illustrated. Commissioner Manfred can make unilateral changes without a blessing from the players' union next year. But Keri says even the most drastic rule changes aren't really going to make the game more appealing to younger fans.

KERI: You know, if we're sitting here talking about, should it be four pitches for an intentional walk, I think that by then, the - you know, the horse is kind of already out of the barn. You've got to really go to work on younger fans where they live. You've got to figure out, what are their digital tendencies? What do they do for entertainment? And you have to try to get in there and be a part of that conversation.

CORNISH: Yes, change comes slowly to a game steeped in tradition and statistics and the way it's been played for generations, especially if baseball wants more fans. Perhaps Rob Manfred can get an intern to show him how to make a meme to post on his Twitter feed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.