Joe Posnanski for Esquire has a great overview of the changes to baseball this season. I only got to watch a handful of games before (weirdly) my 2022 subscription to MLB.TV expired, but I think this all will be for the best.
(I’m still listening to games because I took a month of their audio streaming package while waiting for T-Mobile to trigger their MLB.TV codes for the season, but it’s tougher to get a feel for the changes this way.)
Last year, I distinctly remember becoming more excited about the pitch clock when I learned that it’s also a clock for the batter—in addition to limiting them to one timeout request per plate appearance.
Nothing infuriates me more when watching baseball than having to sit through batters who step out between each and every pitch. One of the worst offenders? Christian Vasquez—at the time, a catcher on my own team, for Christ’s sake—leaving the batter’s box between every pitch, and seemingly loosening and adjusting every piece of equipment he was wearing.
For much of the year, I’d yell at any pitcher who wasn’t Rich Hill, who routinely was set to throw the next pitch within moments of getting the ball back from the catcher. I’m sure I especially yelled a lot at Nick Pivetta because at some point he forgot that he pitched better when he worked quickly; it seemed like every time he slowed down, he got hammered.
I’m also very much in favor of ending the shift. I’ve wondered if maybe infielders should be required to be within X feet of their position at the start of play. This is not quite that (and that would be pretty unworkable), but this is good.
I hasn’t realized that much of this push actually to implement change was coming from baseball advisor Theo Epstein, but I guess if you’re going to turn to someone why not the person who ended curses in both Boston and Chicago?
Posnanski’s right that there will be some vocal grousing and grumbling about “tradition”. Consider this post to be my counter. I’m looking forward to being able to put my own grousing and grumbling aside as some of the more ridiculous abuses of playing time finally are set down.
(I’d even go one further: I’m arguably in favor of games ending at the end of nine innings, with a possible exception for post-season. We’ve ended games on ties during spring training and, to be honest, I’ve been okay with that. I might be more okay with that than with the Covid-era, extra-innings holdover of the “ghost runner”.)
There’s a quote early in the article from Bob Costas: “Baseball is supposed to have a pleasing, leisurely pace. […] But baseball is not supposed to have a lethargic pace […].”
That’s it, right there.
Already my own stupid team is exploiting a loophole in the new shift rules by shifting their outfield.
In their game against the Minnesota Twins on Friday, with left-handed hitter Joey Gallo at the plate, the Red Sox moved center-fielder Adam Duvall to shallow right field.
Raimel Tapia switched from left to center, Alex Verdugo stayed in his typical position in right, and left field was totally open, as the Red Sox created their own custom shift.
This is ridiculous. To my mind, the spirit of the shift ban is that fielders should have to start every play in their actual position. This outfield loophole needs to be closed.