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MLB: Changing rules without changing the game

The sound of Velcro tearing apart over and over and over again begins the process as Nomar Garciaparra straps and unstraps each batting glove three times. Now, pushes dirt from one side of the batter’s box only to put it back with the opposite foot. He touches the shoulder then elbow then back for a second round before touching the bat head. The culmination of the tedious, if not obsessive compulsive, routine is waving the bat in a circular motion five or six times. Now, he’s ready for the first pitch.

Garciaparra’s at-bats go on forever, as he repeats the process after each and every pitch. Garciaparra was a great hitter for the Boston Red Sox, but he is exactly what Major League Baseball is trying to avoid this season.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the average game in 2014 lasted three hours and eight minutes, the longest yearly average in the history of baseball. This leaves baseball fans asking themselves one question. Can you speed up baseball games?

The Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are answering yes.

Opening day is less than one month away, and the league has taken steps to speed up the pace of play.

MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to a “pace of the game” program that will attempt to speed up baseball games this season. The following changes were put in place by MLB and take effect when the 2015 regular season begins on April 3:

-The batter’s box rule: All batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. Minor League Baseball started using this rule last season.

Exceptions to the batter’s box rule are a foul ball or foul tip; if a pitch forces a batter out of the batter’s box; “time” is called and granted; wild pitches and passed balls.

– The timer: Timers will be placed in every ballpark, one in the outfield and a smaller one behind home plate. The timers will be set for two minutes and 25 seconds and start running as soon as the third out of the inning is made. The clocks are to hold TV networks accountable for holding up play by showing too many commercials during inning breaks.

– Replay challenges: Managers will now request replays from the dugout.

Critics are in agreement that baseball should pick up the pace, but figuring out how to speed up the game while making sure all of the different nuances of baseball stay in the game will be a challenge.

Teams want their hitters to see a lot of pitches in an at-bat. Seeing more pitches means longer at-bats, longer at-bats mean longer innings and longer innings mean longer games. But teams can’t be at fault for using good hitting philosophy that just so happens to make the game longer.

Holding TV networks to a strict clock will help the most. Networks will still be able to show commercials, but will also have to be mindful to get viewers back to game action because of the clock.

Baseball is longer than most sports because it’s different from other sports. Baseball will always be a tedious sport, because of the intricacies like holding runners with pick-offs, pitching changes, double switches and the other characteristics that make the game so special.

Baseball isn’t changing entirely. The game baseball fans know and love will remain intact, but a few rules changes will make it better.

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