By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
After months of negotiating, fans of one of American’s pastimes began to doubt if there would be an actual baseball season this year. Not only did COVID-19 result in a delayed start to the season, but the league’s owners and players also couldn’t agree on the number of games to play, which made canceling the entire season a true possibility. Canceling the season for the first time since 1994 would have been a tragedy for Major League Baseball.
For some on the fence baseball fans, like myself, canceling the World Series in 1994 made it tough to watch the games again. It became apparent teams and their player was no longer playing for the love of the game which had morphed into too big business. Well, fast forward nearly 30 years the game has become a much bigger business.
While there are likely mixed feelings between player safety and wanting the season to begin, I’m sure there are fans, like myself, who questioned the motivation behind the owners wanting to cancel the season. When the 1994 World Series was canceled, I questioned if “baseball was less about the love of the game or big business?” Well, fast forward twenty-six years (26), and those feelings have returned; were thoughts to cancel about safety or money? With team salaries ranging from $50 million to over the $200 million, it’s not that difficult to understand why the owners don’t want to pay these exorbitant salaries, for a shortened season. an argument can be made for why owners don’t want to pay exorbitant salaries for a shortened season. If money is the true issue, versus safety, isn’t the real question becomes why owners agree to such high salaries in the first place? When we do a deeper dive into the business of baseball, the high profits owners make from local television deals play into the “big business” equation? If salaries and profits were lower, would there be different considerations with starting the 2020 season?
Regardless of the challenges, the owners and players agreed to get the season started in July for a shortened season. Since every game will matter towards each team’s postseason opportunities, this season has a chance to be one of the most exciting baseball seasons since the peak of the “long ball” era of 1998. The newly implemented rules the league has adopted will add to the uniqueness of this season.
For years MLB has looked for ways to speed up the game; even without COVID-19 shortening the season, the newly implemented rules will likely shorten the game. Requiring pitchers to pitch to a minimum of three (3) batters or end the inning would decrease the times a manager visits the mound and potentially fewer pitcher changes. The “designated hitter” rule will be in place for both American and National league play, allowing another player to bat in place of the pitcher, which will help avoid overtaxing pitchers. Additionally, managers will have ten (10) seconds less to challenge a play, reduced thirty (30) seconds to twenty (20).
The most extreme of these rule changes will be seen in the games that go to extra innings. After the ninth inning, the player who made the final out the last time his team was at bat (or a pinch-runner) will begin the inning on second base. This rule will not be implemented for the postseason.
Turning back to the pitchers, in place of licking their fingers, pitchers will be allowed to carry a small wet rag in their back pocket to be used for moisture. They will not be permitted to utilize the rag while on the rubber, and they must wipe their fingers off their pitching hand before touching the ball; this rule is in place to minimize the potential of spreading germs during a particular game.
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