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OTM Roundtable: What should be in the CBA?

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Focusing today on on-field changes.

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2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

It is a dark time in baseball right now, as the owners have implemented a lockout of the players and the sport is currently at a standstill as the league and players try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. For the most part, the focus and most intense negotiating is going to be with respect to the economic setup of the sport, including but not limited to things like how long it takes for players to reach free agency.

That is all very important and has a huge impact on how seasons play out as well as the development of the game. But as fans, the other part of the negotiations that many of us are going to be thinking about is what happens on the field, and what new rules come in (or perhaps are taken away) in this new agreement, whenever it may come. That’s the focus of our staff roundtable this week, in which I asked staff what on-field rule change they would like to see in this next CBA.

Scott Neville

I am not one to demand that the game gets faster. The game has never been fast and does not need to be. However, I am finally coming around to the idea of a 20-second pitch clock. Nothing is more frustrating than watching a pitcher take 30 seconds to adjust his hat and then do a two-minute breathing drill between every pitch. I’ve always been one to catch the ball with one foot on the rubber and get right to the next pitch. If I had the velocity to make it to the majors I would have been a joy to watch.

That said, I have one small change to the rule that I think would actually make a difference. Once the batter steps into the box for the first pitch, the pitcher no longer has to wait around for him to adjust his gloves. The batter can get his rituals out of the way while he approaches the box but will need to lock in during the duration of the at-bat. Instead of enforcing the batter having to stay in the box, I think the pitcher should just be allowed to throw the ball after say ten seconds on the rubber, regardless of whether the batter is in the box or not. Timeouts for both parties would still be allowed but at the umpire’s discretion and should really only be allowed when a batter gets something in their eye or the pitcher wants another ball.

The three-batter minimum is not going to speed up the game, speeding up the players will. The only reason high school and college games are so fast is because most hitters do not step out for thirty seconds and the majority of pitchers are ready to go through the signs the second they get the ball back. Both hitters and pitchers are slowing down the game immensely by going through the same rituals in-between each pitch. I believe this type of change is enough to cut down the total time of the game, while still feeling like a normal baseball game.

Keaton DeRocher

The runner on second in extras rule, I think, is dumb. I don’t feel like teams “earn” the win when given runner in scoring position from the jump, and the number of games that go into extras over the course of a season really isn’t an issue in terms of overall pace of play. Plus I’m a big fan of the occasional 19 inning marathon.

Championship Series - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Three Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Phil Neuffer

The universal DH, duh. Call me cold-hearted or whatever, but I don’t get all that worked up by pitcher hitting, even “good” pitcher hitting, unless Shohei Ohtani is involved. Going outside of that low-hanging fruit, as someone who has sat through many, many Red Sox/Yankees Sunday Night Baseball games that have gone on longer than it takes to watch Frodo get to Mount Doom, any rules that would cut down on the in-between pitch time would be great. A pitch clock is my preference, and while it might seem obtrusive to some, I think pitchers would get used to it to the point that we would barely notice it in a year or two.

Mike Carlucci

If I could make one on-field rule change it would be to restore the chaos of the intentional walk. This may be my personal bugaboo (I gave an entire presentation on this at SaberSeminar) but I do feel strongly about this issue! Sure, Miguel Cabrera hit one home run during an intentional walk - the ultimate outlier - but there are passed balls, wild pitches, bunt attempts...and we’re robbed of it all now. The intentional walk was sacrificed on the alter of pace of play for mere minutes a year in time saved per team. At the cost of players throwing and hitting and fielding the ball. You know, the baseball game part of the action.

Brendan Campbell

It’s a simple answer, but the one in-game rule change I would like to see implemented in the new CBA is a universal designated hitter. A universal DH would essentially create 15 more jobs for players in the National League while also making for a more entertaining product on the field. For those who enjoy the strategic battles that take place between managers in the National League, I’m sorry, but I don’t think too many people want to watch pitchers attempt to hit anymore.

Avery Hamel

While the new CBA is likely to take a long time to be implemented, there is one specific rule change that I would most like to see. And that is the elimination of the three-batter minimum rule. The rule was implemented in an attempt to shorten playing time, but since its implementation, MLB’s average game time has continued to increase. In my opinion, the implementation of the rule decreases competitiveness and the overall chance for strategic intelligence within the game. This is a major downfall of the rule, but along with this, the players have also continuously voiced their opinions against the rule. Hopefully, this means after the lengthy negotiation process, the rule will be out of sight and out of mind for the foreseeable future.

Let the platoon/split specialists rejoice!

Bayleigh Von Schneider

The rule change that I am 100 percent on board with for 2022 is the implementation of the universal designated hitter. Sure, some baseball purists will say it takes away some strategy, but to that I say it adds more offense, and most baseball fans are enjoyers of the offense, not to mention it levels the playing field. We’re entering the 2022 season, and let’s be honest, watching pitchers hit is brutal, and adds a whole other level of injury risk. So, please, oh, please, give me the universal DH. I personally cannot wait for it to happen!

Brady Childs

I want a universal DH. I feel spoiled to have grown up a fan of an American League team. Watching a pitcher hit is an automatic channel changer in the same way punts are for Red Zone. There’s no bigger drag when playing MLB The Show than when your pitcher comes up to hit. It hurts game flow, waste outs, is dangerous as evidenced by the number of pitchers who’ve blown out ligaments on the base paths, and costs aging sluggers who could fit on a bench jobs. It feels like a waste of column inches to rail against this since it’s likely happening, but it’s something that hasn’t made sense to me since I started watching in 2007. Here’s to hoping they pull this one through.

Stephen Thompson

If I was supreme ruler of baseball for an offseason, I’d keep the two seven-inning game doubleheaders. Baseball is a long season and it’s well documented the kind of toll it can exhibit on players. As you hit the dog days of summer, it becomes apparent how players’ bodies get worn down. If any changes are needed, it should be to the schedule and the amount of rest teams get in a season. Doubleheaders are rare enough and limited in such a way that they shouldn’t affect the bigger postseason picture. In exchange, you get relatively better rested players and, in theory, a better baseball product. If they want to keep nine inning games universal, they should space out the season and allow for more off days that can be used as makeup days.

Matt Collins

The universal DH is the obvious answer, but it seems like cheating because it sure feels like a given that it will come in 2022. I’ll go with the pitch clock, like some others have said. This, I believe, would solve a couple of issues. The pace of play one is obvious. I thought it would be unnecessary at the major-league level when so many pitchers have come up from the minors used to it, but that hasn’t happened. There are other reasons minor-league games fly in a way major-league ones don’t, but the pitch clock is one too. It should also help reduce the number of strikeouts, as pitchers won’t be able to pause long enough to throw at max velocity on every pitch. It feels like a no-brainer to me.

Also, replace the warning track with trampolines.

Bob Osgood

As I mute the word “Lockout” on my Twitter feed and accept the fact that I won’t be getting hourly notifications about game-changing free agent signings for the foreseeable future, the only result of the CBA that could affect my life is the pace of play in MLB. Therefore, a pitch clock is the no-brainer answer for me. If you’ve been to a minor league game over the last seven years, you know how quickly the game moves along. Pitchers aren’t taking a lap around the mound to let their arm re-charge, batters aren’t adjusting their batting gloves, the game moves at a reasonable pace as it did up until the ’90s.

With the majority of players in the league having already played with a pitch clock coming up through the minors, it would not be that much of a culture shock to implement at this time. Mound visit restrictions were a good start to shave a couple of minutes off of the game time, but I believe a pitch clock would make the experience more enjoyable for those of us at home, as well as the generation of fans that looks at their phone in the minute between pitches and misses the real action.

Jake Devereaux

The rule I want to see changed at negotiation of a new CBA is the addition and adherence to a pitch clock. The game needs to speed up and pitchers are taking longer than ever to throw between pitches. This not only destroys the rhythm of the game, but it also allows pitchers to rear back and throw harder than ever. Pitching doesn’t have to be a velocity game and many of my favorite pitchers of all time relied on deception and location to achieve success rather than overpowering their opponents. I’d love to see pitchers throw slower but go deeper into games actually pitching rather than throwing. Good Rick Porcello was an excellent pitcher and a great example of how the game can be played.