Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agreed earlier this week to change the intentional walk from lobbing four pitches to a signal from the dugout. If you could change or add one rule to the game of baseball, what would it be and why?
For those who grew up playing cadets, American Legion, local beer league, or WIAA sanctioned baseball, you likely grew up with rules that pushed the pace of the game. No it wasn't because we didn't want to play longer, it was out of necessity to play as much as you could before it was too dark/dangerous to continue. So the coach said, "ump, intentional walk" so you saved an extra minute of daylight because you wanted to get the whole game in. So when MLB moved to a dugout signal for an intentional walk, my reaction was Meh....
Whether you think games last too long or not, to me it is the pace of the game that is more important. I'll gladly sit for 3+ hours if 20 of those minutes aren't consumed by Ryan Braun adjusting his batting gloves and taking half swings. (Sorry Brauny, I could also have gone with the BIll Hall called timeout and over blinking routine.....).
To me the pace of the game could be helped by enforcing (6.02(d)) "The Batter's Box Rule" differently. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2016/official_baseball_rules.pdf. At its core, the rule is pretty simple, you can't step out of the batters box. Well, there are nine exceptions that say you can, and there really is no punishment. Okay, a potential fine by the league president is at stake, but can anyone even name these fine persons? Something tells me Joe Torre won't be dealing out fines any time soon either. It is a lip service rule at best.
I revert back to my WIAA sanctioned days. If you didn't keep a foot in the batters box, you were putting your at bat at peril, as a strike could be given to someone who stepped out of the box, including being called out. I vividly remember a game where I was up with runners in scoring position and two down. I took strike one, stepped out to get the signs, and will go to my death bed hearing, "and strike two." I can't tell you 20 years later what happened the rest of the at bat, but my internal shame resonates to this day.
So you say to me, these are grown men who are highly payed and skilled athletes that need to be "right" in the box. I certainly don't disagree with that, however, if strikes were applied to batters in this situation, I believe you'd help the pace of the game. Additionally, can you imagine the fines in kangaroo court for taking a strike that wasn't thrown, or the first guy that gets rung up without a pitch being thrown? Players would make sure it didn't happen more than a couple times per team per year.
I don't think this is something that can be rolled out immediately in the majors, but with things like the pitch clock in the lower minors, it's about getting the younger kids playing at a better pace. I can't say this WIAA rule is used elsewhere around the country at the amateur level, I simply don't know, but it is something that could be implemented at the lower levels and start to help the pace in coming years without drastically changing the core of the game.