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50 Years of MLB Rule Changes

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

TAMPA BAY, FL– In recent years Major League Baseball has undergone changes, not only in rules, but also in administration. And so, 50 Years of MLB Rule Changes is on the agenda today as we head into Spring Training with teams preparing for Opening Day.

I will list a timeline of some of the more “interesting” rules that either shortens the game, increases safety or was administrative in nature. In some cases, I have offered a comment based on my opinion as you will see.

1973: American League begins use of designated hitter.
Comment: I believe this change takes some “strategic” moves away from the manager.

1975: Three game suspension for use of “altered” bat; filled, doctored or flattened.
Comment: I think the use of “corked” bats increased the distance of batted balls resulting in more home runs and hard hits.

1978: A pitcher cannot intentionally throw at a batter.
Comment: A rule that was adopted as a safety measure. If the umpire ruled the pitch was intentional, the pitcher was ejected from the game and the other team’s pitcher was issued a warning.

1988: Catchers must wear protective helmets while on offense.
Comment: Another rule that promoted safety.

2008: Limited use of “instant replay”. (Only to be used to determine fair or foul balls and home runs).

2016: On double play attempts, the runner must make an effort to reach the base.
Comment: This rule was designed partly as a safety measure and also to prevent a runner from “interfering” with the defensive player.

2020: In extra inning games, use of a “ghost runner” on second base. (Placing a runner on second base to start each inning/half inning).
Comment: Designed to speed the game up; I think it is ridiculous and is an administrative rule that is not generated by “playing the game”.

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

– Pitcher must face at least three batters per appearance or pitch to the end of the inning.
Comment: Another rule to speed up the game. Takes strategic moves out of the game.

– Seven inning doubleheaders.
Comment: Ridiculous, game was meant to play NINE innings.

2022: Designated hitter adopted by the National League.
Comment: See my comment in the 1973 rule above. “I believe this change takes some “strategic” moves away from the manager.”

– Postseason expansion to 12 teams.
Comment: It’s all about the money.

2023: Size of bases increase from 15 square inches to 18 square inches.
Comment: Increase in base stealing (good thing) Could increase or decrease infield hits?

2023 Yankees Spring Camp – New Size of Bases – 2/16/2023 – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

– Defensive shifts banned.
Comment: Good thing with a surplus of offense and more acrobatic plays on defense. 

– Pitch timer (clock) implemented.
Comment: Terrible. Rule also includes pickoff attempts which could result in balks. 

Shortening the game accomplishes one thing. It gives the fans less (baseball) for more (money)! 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bill C

    February 18, 2023 at 1:17 am

    Many good observations. maybe a pitching machine to replace pitchers would speed up the game even more!

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