Letter to the Commissioner (RE: Nonsense Rule Changes)

Rob Manfred

Dear Mr. Commissioner,

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment in the new proposed rules to speed up the game. As a lifelong fan, I am very disheartened that you and your administration don’t respect the game the way it is. Baseball is America’s past time, the reason we love it is that it gives us an opportunity to pause our busy lives and enjoy a game not dictated by clocks, but by the talented players who have worked their whole lives to play 9 innings, no matter how long it takes. Baseball has been fine for over a hundred years. Lou Gehrig never complained about playing extra innings. Few people have lamented that Babe Ruth took too long to round the bases on his home run trot. I’ve never once heard anyone wish Randy Johnson would just throw the ball already. I don’t think a single person who watched the Cubs win the World Series would have wished that the tenth inning would just be over already because they had places to be. Half the country stayed up until midnight, glued to the TV, waiting to see history. Every pitch was awaited with bated breath, cell phones were left in pockets, and work could wait. 108 years is a long time to wait, 5 hours was like a single second. When Anthony Rizzo caught the ball no one wished they would have just gone to bed already. Can you imagine what a shame it would have been to start the tenth inning with runners on second base because we just couldn’t wait for the game to be over already?

Baseball fans do not watch the game with a time limit in mind, impatient to be moving on with their day. The people you are trying to attract to the game will never be interested in baseball. They won’t be wooed by an extra ten minutes shaved off the clock, nor will they care if an intentional walk signal saves 45 seconds of their time. Diluting the game with these rules will only serve to disrespect real fans and spit in the face of the legacy of players such as Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, and Jackie Robinson. You guys were sure fun to watch, but I wish you would have moved it along a little faster, I was getting bored. What does this say about us? If our current generation can’t pry themselves away from Twitter long enough to eat breakfast they sure as hell won’t be interested in watching 9 innings of baseball, no matter how much you speed up the game. You are pandering to people who will never be baseball fans, or maybe even fans of any sport, at the expense of those of us who see baseball as our chance to escape a world run by clocks and deadlines.

I am not completely opposed to any changes in the game, even some time limits. I think replay was a good idea, but it can be improved. This is where a clock is appropriate. Managers should have 20 seconds to decide if they want a play reviewed. If they can’t decide in that time, then they aren’t confident enough that they play could be overturned and the game needs to move along. I don’t have a problem with an unofficial time limit on mound visits. This should be left to the umpire’s discretion, but yes, sometimes it gets lengthy. I don’t even have a problem with encouraging a pitcher to speed up in between pitches, but I think this should also be something we leave to an umpire’s discretion when he feels a pitcher is taking too long. I think there should be a DH in both leagues, it adds an extra element of competition and makes the game more exciting than watching a pitcher hit, who is almost a guaranteed out. Kyle Schwarber made a difference in the World Series, but he wouldn’t have if we didn’t have the DH. If pitchers like Madison Bumgarner want to hit then they should be given the option to hit themselves or use a DH. This also takes away the risk of a pitcher getting injured in an at bat or running the bases.

Beyond these types of changes, however, we are altering the very core of the game that you claim to love. I don’t agree with the strategy of using one pitcher for one batter, but it’s how the game is played and it was a natural evolution with the use of bullpens. Eliminating the intentional walk would mean we never got to see Gary Sanchez get a hit on one of them, or see wild pitches that result in potential runs or runners moving bases. It would save one minute at the expense of an element that sure, can be boring, but can also change the course of a game. Finally, starting extra innings with a runner on second is ludicrous. It is insulting to the men who played nine hard innings and fought to make it a tie score. Why even bother with extra innings at all? Why not just flip a coin if we’re so impatient? Hey, guys, this was fun, and I know you spent your whole career training for this, but my Twitter account won’t run itself, let’s get a move on.

I understand the desire, and need, to get kids and young adults interested and engaged with the game, but this isn’t it. The way we get kids to love baseball is to build fields, have little leagues, and take them to see their heroes at the stadium. We should be teaching them the rules, why we made those rules, and who the greatest players were. We should encourage teenagers to love the game by holding autograph sessions with players and Q&A sessions on social media. We should invite them to games and show footage of the Cubs winning the World Series over and over again to remind them why these teams play 162 regular season games to get to the pinnacle of the sport.

Game 7 of the World Series was the most watched game in 25 years, 5 million people showed up for the World Series parade in Chicago. It was the 7th largest gathering of people in recorded human history. With all due respect, Mr. Commissioner, these are not the signs of a dying game.


Rachel Ulfers

P.S. In case you took this to be the ranting of an out of touch Baby Boomer, I’m a 22 year old female who attends 20 Twins games a year, and I don’t intend on stopping because they had a bad year.