Major League Baseball integrated a variety of rule changes for the 2023 season, and for the most part, the new rules were embraced by both fans and players, making for a better game and more entertaining product.
Part of MLB's responsibility to the game of baseball is navigating the line between maintaining and upholding the spirit and tradition of the game, while also adapting to the times, advancement of technology, and new ideas that are thrown their way. All of the major professional sports leagues in America have evolved over time, and baseball must continue to do so in order to attract the next generation of fans.
I love attending St. Louis Cardinals games, and while the pitch clock, a limit on the number of pick-offs, and bigger bases were all welcomed additions. there is still more that MLB can do to enhance the game both on and off the field. Issues with umpires seem to be on the rise every single year, and the technology is now here to help bridge that gap. There are things that front offices and ownership groups are doing (or not doing) that need to change to help fans of teams in all market sizes have a chance at a competitive ballclub. And frankly, there's still some elements of the game that could be tweaked from a rules perspective to create a more engaging and entertaining product.
Here are five rule changes I would be interested in seeing Major League Baseball implement in the coming years.
Challenging ball-strike calls with the ABS system
This is a rule change that seems to be a matter of "if" and not "when" for Major League Baseball, and I am very interested to see it integrated into the game in the coming years.
MLB has already been experimenting with the use of it at events like the Futures Game and different levels of Minor League Baseball, and the system allows for teams to "challenge" balls and strike calls throughout the game while not fully transitioning over to robot umpires. The umpires still call balls and strikes, but depending on the set of rules they can on, a team or players are granted a certain amount of challenges in a game. If they choose to challenge, the umpire is quickly alerted by the ABS system if the call is correct or not, and then the play continues. If the player/team was successful in their challenge, they retain that one, and if not, they lose that challenge for the rest of the game.
Some versions give each batter/pitcher a certain amount of challenges per game and allow them to dictate the use of them. The method that it seems like we are headed towards is teams have three challenges per game but can continue to challenge if they keep winning their challenges.
I think we have all grown frustrated at the state of umpiring at times in today's game, and this system feels like the best way to keep the spirit of the game while also not allowing an umpire's mistakes to define a game. The way it is being implemented should keep the game moving at a fast pace, so it should not cause any stoppages beyond the two or three seconds it takes to relay the information.
Giving teams three challenges should also help with the flow of the game as well. They'll need to be strategic about when they use them, but it also gives them a little bit of room for error as well. There are occasional games where an umpire continuously makes bad calls at the plate, so having three challenges available (and regaining your challenge if you're correct) could actually help improve an umpire's zone if it's off that night.