Rozner: MLB is just asking you to abandon the game
Baseball hates you.
More specifically, Major League Baseball hates you.
What else are you supposed to think? After all, the players and owners are determined to shut down the game after this season, while they spend most of 2021 sniping at each other and forecasting calamity.
Really makes you want to love the game.
Thing is, baseball is great. The game of baseball is as great as ever, played at a higher level and with greater precision than at any time in its history, but at the major league level they're doing everything they can to make you sick whenever they speak.
And they just can't leave the game alone.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, a labor lawyer at heart and someone who seems to have no love for baseball, wants to tinker every year, wants to put his stamp on the game as if adding gimmicks will gets kids away from video games and watching their favorite team again.
He will never understand that attendance and ratings come from the heart, a deep desire to be a part of the game that is born at home, moms and dads, grandparents and siblings, watching games together.
The natural result is a desire to play the game, and that leads to a need -- a need -- to attend games.
The biggest problem there is the expense.
That's it. That's the entire story. Kids who play the game and watch the game want to go to games and will do so if affordable.
But Manfred can't see the shortstop for the trees, thinking every year that shortening games and adding circus stunts will have the desired effect.
I've yet to encounter a fan who said, "Please give me less for my money."
Yet, Manfred would shorten every game to 7 innings if he could. Someone, someday explain that math to me. Last I looked, 9 was more than 7. Then again, math has never been my thing, as you well know.
So now Manfred is tossing out more experiments in the minors, in part to see how it works and in part to pile up bargaining chips as he preps for a fight that the players want this time much more than the owners.
Among the nonsense in the minors this season will be:
• Bigger bases in Triple-A. This could mean more players on base and more stolen bases. That means more scoring and -- wait for it -- longer games.
• Double-A will attempt to eliminate the shift with a rule that forces a team to have a minimum of four players on the infield, each of whom must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt.
In addition, the MLB statement read, in the future MLB may require two infielders to be positioned entirely on each side of second base.
This should increase scoring and more scoring means -- wait for it -- longer games.
One can foresee MLB limiting the number of players in the infield, restricting teams that have used five infielders in certain situations and against certain hitters.
Shifts have taken some fun out of the game, but they shouldn't be limited if a team sees an advantage and is willing to take the risk. There is no risk, however, if players are unable to hit the ball the other way.
This is the fault of players, coaches, managers and GMs that have allowed players to be so predictable. You telling me in Little League or high school you never hit the ball the other way?
• In high Class-A, "Pitchers are required to disengage the rubber prior to throwing to any base, with the penalty of a balk in the event the pitcher fails to comply."
This is supposed to result in an increase in stolen base attempts and an improved success rate, which means more scoring and -- wait for it -- longer games.
Again, why aren't players being taught how to run the bases?
• In low Class-A, the step-off and pickoff rules will change even more. With runners on base, pitchers can throw a maximum of 2 pickoffs or make 2 step-offs per plate appearance.
The pitcher can attempt a third pickoff or step-off, but the play must result in the baserunner being retired. If the runner gets back to his original base, the play is called a balk and the runner advances.
This should result in more scoring and -- wait for it -- longer games.
• In low Class-A Southeast, a computerized system will be used to assist home plate umpires with calling balls and strikes.
Manfred wants a higher strike zone. Know what that means? Fewer low strikes, more scoring and -- wait for it -- longer games.
We all understand the natural result of metrics and the avalanche of information is going to slow the game down. You can't stop progress, and information is progress.
It slows players' thinking. They need more time on the mound and at the plate to process information. It means more strikeouts and walks, less running, little movement and a lack of action.
Eventually, this will probably change to some extent as GMs understand the value of moving runners again. They just need evidence and they will adjust.
Baseball isn't meant to be played at a video game pace. It's not hockey. It's measured, leisurely and intellectual. The way to fix the game's problems are not in tactics. It's in creating a love for the game at a young age.
This happens through playing and watching. Fix that and you've fixed the problems. But you have to love the game to understand that.
In the meantime, if he could do it Manfred would use Home Run Derby to decide every game tied after 5 innings and limit every game to two hours.
He can't help it. He wants you to hate baseball.