MLB introduces drastic changes to cut down length of games
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MLB introduces drastic changes to cut down length of games

Major League Baseball is saving itself from itself. And not a moment too soon.

For the 2023 season which begins on March 30, MLB is instituting even more drastic changes to cut down on the length of games, which have grown to alarming, interest-killing lengths.

The two-hour pitching duel has long ago gone the route of the dodo bird. Games had gradually evolved into drawn out snoozefests during the 21st century.

In the 2022 season, the average length of contests was three hours, three minutes and 44 seconds.

This represented a small drop from a season earlier when several minor adjustments were made to reduce the all-time high of three hours, 10 minutes and five seconds set in 2021.

Those changes (limiting mound visits, making a relief pitcher face a minimum of three batters etc) had helped a little, but were not nearly enough.

So MLB execs decided to make some bold, almost game-changing moves entering this campaign.

Among the most important are:

- A pitch clock has been implemented. Pitchers must now deliver the ball to home plate in 15 seconds, 20 ticks with a runner on base. If he does not, a ball is called.

- Pick-off throws to bases limited to three per runner. If the runner is safe on the third throw, a balk is called.

This was done in hopes of seeing an increase in the number of stolen bases -- pilfering bags is an exciting but dying art.

- A hitter must be in the box, facing the pitcher with eight seconds on the pitch clock. If he isn't, a strike is called. He is allowed only one time-out per at bat.

- Larger bases. As a result, the distance between first and second and second and third bases have been reduced by four and a half inches. This also is intended to return the stolen base to the game.

The distance between home plate and first base (and third) has been reduced by three inches which should result in more bang-bang safe calls.

- No more defensive shifts. Teams must now have two infielders on either side of second base.

No more taking an infielder from the left side and placing him in shallow right field.

This was done so that left-handed hitters (against whom the shifts were mostly employed) will have a sporting chance at the dish.

As a result, pitchers may no longer lollygag between tosses to the plate.

For example, New York Mets ace hurler Max Scherzer can no longer take a full lap around the mound after receiving the ball back from the catcher after every pitch.

And hitters like Bryce Harper, of Wiggins' World's hometown fave Philadelphia Phillies may no longer go OCD on us.

Harper cannot now step out of the batter's box after each pitch and make sure his batting helmet is on snugly, check to see if his neck chain is tucked in, make sure his batting gloves are on tight and that the strap to them is secure across his wrist prior to his squatting several times and then stretching his legs out.

All this before Harper finally steps into the batter's box hand and reaches out with his bat to touch the centre of home plate followed by him tapping all four of its quadrants. Harper then finished by taking several practice cuts.

All these changes are welcome news to Wiggins' World. We can't tell you the last time WW was able to sit through a ballgame in its entirety.

Most fans we spoke to felt the same. And these folks were, like WW, devoted followers of the game.

But the yawnfests had now become too much to take.

Results of the changes were encouraging early on. Length of spring training games had been reduced to the 2.30-hour range.

But they seemed shorter than that. The TV action seemed very crisp. One dared not look away for fear of missing something.

There was barely time to stick in an instant replay.

So, thankfully, the game looks like it is succeeding in its quest to save itself from itself.

Seemingly gone now are the previous delay-causing tactics of the pitchers, hitters and managers.

Those antics, however, have ruined one of the great things about the sport of baseball: No time limit. The game would be over when it had run its course -- and its length would NOT be determined by a clock.

Thus, for the first time in 146 years, baseball -- as we knew it -- has changed itself drastically.

Because it finally had to.

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