Shaking Up The Pastime


Image courtesy of Tage Olsin, found at Wikimedia Commons.

I was amazed to read on ESPN’s website on Saturday that Major League Baseball wants to make a couple of major changes to the way the play the game in 2017. One would concern the strike zone where a pitch can be a strike without being swung at, another involves the intentional walk.

Over history, the strike zone has consistently been lowered. Now, if rule changes are successfully implemented next season, the strike zone’s lowest point will correspond to the batter’s knees, which would be higher than the zone is currently interpreted. I’m okay with that actually, as the zone has always been played around with to institute some more offense into the game, or to make pitching and defense more a factor in the outcomes.

What I don’t like is the idea of making the intentional walk an automatic advancement by the batter without pitches being thrown, as is seen in fast-pitch softball. One reason I think this stinks is because it’s four less pitches a pitcher has to throw, with every pitch advancing the hurler to the point where they get fatigued in any given game.

Secondly, it takes the element of something going wrong out of the equation. I’ve seen pitchers throw wild pitches attempting to intentionally walk someone. If the batting team has a runner at 3rd, then that’s a scoring attempt for them. I’ve never seen a balk take place during an intentional walk, but I suppose theoretically that can happen.

I didn’t mind when the Major Leagues went to inter-league Play, and more recently, when umpiring calls could be reviewed via instant replay. But if the purpose, as MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has stated, is to speed up the length of time games are played, I don’t see how changing the strike zone does that necessarily.

My thinking is that television executives may be behind the scenes making this move, because they give MLB their purse strings. If I were a TV exec, I’d want to things: shorter games with more offense, so that they can get to their reruns of Friends quicker. Personally, I’d rather see my national pasttime stay unedited and non-condensed.


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