Over the past few years, a popular debate in the sport of baseball has been whether rule changes are necessary to keep the game relevant. This debate was born from the fact that baseball’s popularity numbers are steadily declining. While many changes have already taken place (instant replay, pace of play, etc.), new rules and methods to update the game are constantly being thought of and proposed to help save the game of baseball.
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The two parties debating this issue include baseball purists who wish to keep the rules baseball has always followed, versus the fans of the game who believe the rules must be changed to help keep the sport relevant to the public.
So the question is, would you rather maintain the traditional rules of baseball or update the rules to appeal to the majority?
Traditional Rules Argument
The sport of baseball is very traditional in nature. Founded in 1869, Major League Baseball has long held a place in the hearts of sports fans around the world. The culture, stories, and traditions of baseball’s rich history have been passed down from generation to generation.
For almost 200 years, baseball has been played virtually under the same rules. However, over recent years, the sport is being pushed to change in significant ways. By changing rules and adding in new aspects to the game, the deep connection to the history of the sport feels as though it is being stripped away.
Photo courtesy of Sporting News
If small changes are continually allowed to the sport of baseball, over time the sport could become unrecognizable. While the sport may be losing popularity, it is more important for the sport to maintain its integrity than change so more people will like it.
Human error is an important aspect of baseball. Blown calls by umpires impose an extra layer of difficulty and adversity on players, coaches, and fans. This adversity is an important aspect that allows a baseball team to display their greatness or lack thereof. By implementing instant replay, it eliminates the threat of bad calls thus lowering the adversity and difficulty of the sport. Not to mention the nearly complete elimination of entertaining arguments between umpires and players/coaches.
Photo courtesy of USA Today
Another concern of adjusting the rules is the fact that the ability to compare historical statistics will be affected. The game of baseball revolves around numbers; some of the rule changes being proposed, shorter season in particular, will change the standards in baseball statistics and make it difficult to make historical comparisons.
Pace of play rules are seen by many as the solution to engaging more fans. However, one of the unique features of baseball is that there is no time limit. There is beauty and drama in seeing how the slower pace of baseball tests the mental toughness of a player. In comparison to simply reacting, baseball’s natural pace of play adds an element of mental fortitude unseen in any other sport.
As instant replay was implemented in 2008 and has expanded in the subsequent years, the average game time has increased. It seemingly appears that rule changes aimed to improve the sport, may actually be harming it.
The aspects of baseball that make it unique should be praised and maintained, not uprooted to please unhappy fans. Each change made to baseball must be carefully examined, as these changes may be doing more harm than good.
Update Rules Argument
The popularity of baseball is declining. If baseball does not change, it could become irrelevant. In Gallup’s most recent poll asking what is your favorite sport to watch, only 9% said that baseball is their favorite sport. This is an astonishing rate when compared to the fact that in 1945, baseball was the most popular sport in America.
Photo courtesy of Gallup
To help save the sport of baseball, something must change. The rulebook is a great place to make effective updates and help bring the game into the 21st century.
Some of the most recent rule changes include a decrease in the number of mound visits, batters must remain in the box in between pitches, and adjustments to instant replay have been made. The main goal of the recent changes is to speed the game up to appeal to a generation accustomed to immediate results.
A controversial topic, most recently brought to light in Ben Zobrist’s 1st career ejection, is the idea of implementing an electronic strike zone. Although umpires are very skilled, it is still too common for them to impact the game by making the wrong call. By using technology now available, every call can be correct and the best team can be determined without an umpire having an effect.
Another common complaint is the overwhelming length of the MLB season. The season packs 162 games between approximately 6 months. With a seemingly diminishing attention span, the baseball fan base appears to be rejecting the current MLB schedule. By shortening the season, each game would mean much more and the sport would be much easier to follow.
Some people are reluctant to change. However, the game is losing popularity seemingly daily. In order to make baseball America’s sport again, changes must be made.
With so much history, it is easy to understand why some baseball fans are hesitant to change rules of this storied sport. At the same time, the decline in the sport’s popularity gives a reason for passionate baseball fans to make changes to save their sport. A compromise between the two parties of this debate is the most viable solution.
Effective changes, that still maintain the integrity of America’s Pastime, must be put into action as soon as possible to help save the sport and hopefully make it stronger than ever. While it may be tough to swallow, the true baseball fan understands that in order to save the game they love, changes must be made.
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