EDITORIAL: Changes to shorten games swing in fans' favor
Mar. 6—"The one constant through all the years," James Earl Jones famously intoned in "Field of Dreams," "has been baseball."
So it has. But this year, Major League Baseball will impose its most sweeping rules changes since 1969, when it lowered the pitching mound and narrowed the strike zone in quest of offense.
This year's new rules also promote offense but even more so, deal with time itself. Recognizing that games drag to the point of sapping fans' endurance —an average of 3 hours, 3 minutes in 2022 — MLB has devised rules to produce more runs in less time.
MLB has banned defensive "shifts" that have converted screaming line drives into mundane outs. This year, there must be two infielders on each side of second base with their feet on the infield dirt rather than outfield grass.
Also, bases will grow from 15 inches square to 18 inches. Bigger bases are certain to produce more runners and restore base-stealing as a major offensive tactic. That's especially so because pitchers will be limited to two pick-off attempts to first base.
The biggest change is the pitch clock. A ball will be assessed if a pitchers does not begin to windup within 15 seconds of receiving the ball, or 20 seconds with runners on base. Batters must be in the box, ready to hit, with eight seconds on the clock. The clock has reduced the length of this year's spring-training games by nearly 30 minutes.
Shorter games with more action will help baseball compete for fans. The changes are great for the game, fans and players.