Baseball Returns: 162 Games at a Price

Max Scherzer is now a Met and on the cusp of joining the 200 win club this season. He has one career home run under his belt. How will fans react to the Universal DH? Photo Courtesy: All-Pro Reels

By Wiley Singleton

MLB and the MLB Players Association came to terms that ended the lockout today. The 99 day disaster was a testament to just how greedy the owners are. Thankfully for baseball fans the lockout did not drag into April. Opening Day will be April 7th. Meaning the Texas Rangers will miss their much anticipated Opening Day showdown with the hated New York Yankees. This series will be made up in the form of double headers later in the season. Same goes for the uninspired subsequent away series against the awful Marlins. It is a shame the Rangers will not get to face the Yanks on Opening Day in the new stadium with their new All Star middle infield. The Rangers could actually scare some teams this season. They are certainly not the laughing stock they were last year. Opening Day against the Yankees after such an active offseason would have been truly special. 

A few ideas are being floated for 2023: bigger bases, banning the shift, and a pitch clock. 

The pitch clock idea is not horrible, but it goes against the idea baseball is the only sport without a clock. It is a meandering pastime, not meant to be blurred by frenetic clock based plays. The play starts when the pitcher throws the ball. Tension mounts in and around that action. The shift ban is a joke. Ted Williams had to play against it and so should they. Just learn to hit it oppo. Stop mindlessly trying to pull everything for a homer. The metagame and mindless focus on the homer is the problem, not the shift. The bases are a non-issue compared to the other changes. 

MLB Owners did manage to ramrod through some changes, which was the whole point of the lockout to begin with. Here is what you need to know going into 2022:

The Good

162 Games – MLB will be making up games they said they canceled. It is important for the sanctity and history of the game to play the full schedule. The jokish 2020 sixty game season was repulsive and losing a mere two series is insanely important and game damaging. The fact that these games will come later in the season and not on the originally scheduled date is the only drawback. If the Rangers opened the season in New York, it would not even matter.

Extra Inning Gimmick Runner Removed – In an ostentatious effort to help “pace of play,” MLB instituted a terrible rule that allowed teams to start an inning with a runner on second base in extra innings. This of course did nothing to speed up the game and led to cheap, gimmicky outcomes. It led to pitchers pitching from the stretch and slowing every inning down to try to combat the gimmick runner. This idea was a repugnant disgrace and clearly an awful idea. This is one of those ideas that should have been laughed out of the room in its infancy. Thankfully for the baseball fan, it is now gone.

Doubleheaders Return to Nine Innings – MLB undid another terrible rule they implemented a couple years ago to “help the pace of play.” Doubleheaders have been nine innings, just like normal games, since the Civil War. MLB decided to shorten them to 7 innings… to save time or something. This moronic move was both perplexing and vexing. Out of all the dumb things MLB has done, this one was perhaps the most sacrilege. One of the cornerstones of baseball is each team is afforded 27 outs. 9 innings of play. The fact that MLB thought this was something they should be tinkering with shows how demented they are. Nothing is sacred to them. Any sense of morality or decency is absent.

Player Minimum Wage Increased – The players got around a 200k bump up, which is good for them. They can now also only be sent down to the minors five times in a season. They got a small bump to their arbitration pool too. 

The Bad

Universal DH – Since the mid-70’s the American League has used the Designated Hitter and the National League has not. This has given the two different brands of baseball two distinct flavors. The National League is far more complex. Playing around pinch hitting for the pitcher’s spot is very difficult. There is more strategy in the NL. They have to hit and run more to compensate for the pitcher’s weak spot in the order. Same with utilizing the steal and sac bunt. The AL offered a more bruising, casual viewing experience. The teams would have to play under the home teams rules in the World Series. This was a wonderful little twist that gave each home team an extra edge. The DH dichotomy, like a park’s dimensions affecting strategy, was one of the beautiful little quarks of baseball. This, like so many great things in the world, has been taken from us. The NL will now start a DH, meaning moments like Bartolo Colon’s 1st homer in his 40’s can never happen again. This makes the World Series a worse product and the NL less deep. This change was pedantically framed as inevitable for years, in order to prepare the public for the idea. The same can be said of gas and food shortages. This will hurt the game in a way the average fan will not appreciate. This is one of those things that only observant people will remember in a few years; like the old school Pizza Hut light fixtures and the safe, homogeneous environment that accompanied them. They will both become relics of a bygone era. 

Playoff Expansion – Baseball has the longest regular season by far. That is supposed to mean something. After 162 games, randomness is accounted for as much as humanly possible. Players get over 600 at bats nearly every season. Baseball is the biggest grind in sports. The owners do not seem to appreciate this. They want to cheapen and expand the playoffs. They asked for a 14 team format, complete with “ghost wins,” best of threes in one park only, and a general theme of gimmicky cluelessness. The MLBPA talked them down to one more Wild Card Round. Meaning there will be 3 WC seeds, with #3 having to play a BO1 at #2’s park, then the winner going to #1 seed’s park for another BO1. This is not good, but is about the least damaging playoff expansion that could have occurred. 

Ads on the Jerseys – Despite being wildly profitable, MLB owners decided nothing was sacred and voted to allow advertisements to be placed straight on the jerseys themselves. Players are whored out like billboards to the highest corporate bidder in another steep fall down the slippery slope that is excessive advertising. Nothing is sacred for the owners, not the mound itself where warriors like Mark Prior and David Cone left it all out there. Not the jerseys where players give everything for the city the jersey represents. The 100+ year history of the game means nothing to the owners, who preach a “take a paycut for Yankee Pride” mentality for the players but betray and defile the very jerseys they call on to be honored. The Owners are conniving, vile people. The sort of people you cannot reason with because they act in bad faith and without honor. That is the reason Opening Day was delayed. When ads are on the mound and the jerseys, there is pretty much nothing left. Soon the days of George Springer being obscured by an electronic Mastercard ad when fielding a ball will become a feature not a bug.

Baseball at a Cost

Although 162 games will be played this season, it comes at tremendous cost. It comes at the cost of strategic depth in the NL. It comes with a cheapened playoff format that makes the regular season mean less. It comes at the cost of the very jerseys the players wear. The symbol of the players unity and what they fight for: degraded so men who have more money than they know what to do with get a few million more. These changes are like programs in government: once they are instituted they are very hard to get rid of. The only two good things other than the season actually occurring were the terrible new rules being rescinded. The only time MLB can get rule changes right is when they are getting rid of dim things they just got done doing. The ads are never going away. That is a can of worms that has been completely emptied. The jerseys and the mound!? It is beyond parody at this point. The universal DH is probably never going away either. 

Baseball season is coming. They will play all 162 games. There will be a furious 4 week free agent signing period and Spring Training before they start. The Rangers will look to add another arm and another outfielder and maybe compete for the 3rd Wild Card spot. This season does not come without cost. Baseball’s future was forever altered by severe rule changes. A few years down the road, many will forget the 150 year history of the pitcher batting. With a public growing increasingly unobservant and vacuous, extreme degradations to our living conditions have become commonplace. Insane falloffs go unnoticed and the better days of not-so-recent yesteryear are forgotten quicker than a New York Mets season. 

We might have baseball this season, but it came as part of an increasing trend: getting a worse product and being expected to be happy about it.