The franchise is no longer debating, but baseball rules are changing.
After a nail-biting 99-day stalemate, the MLB and the MLBPA have come to a tentative agreement, allowing baseball to begin its 2022 season – and it’ll look slightly different than it did in 2021.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
Each team will embark on their regular 162-game journey for the 2022 season, beginning on April 7.
Players will take the field in a few short days with spring training starting this Sunday, March 13 and free agency kicking off as soon as ratification occurs tonight.
While normalcy has returned to the organization and millions of aching fans have finally been ensured their baseball, this season won’t be the same as the last. There are quite a few changes in the rulebook for the 2022 MLB season.
What new rules are reportedly included in the collective bargaining agreement?
Talks were majorly centered around labor and core economics, including the salaries of players. However, the agreement covers all aspects of the game.
It was decided that there would be a 45-day window for MLB to apply rule changes. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, here are some other elements implemented within the CBA:
General game play rules
- For the 2022 season: The National League will adopt the designated hitter.
- For the 2023 season: Pitch clocks will be used, there will be a ban on defensive shifts, an automatic ball/strike zone will exist and there will be larger bases.
- The postseason will expand to 12 teams.
- There will be no man on second base to start extra innings.
- A draft lottery will be implemented to discourage tanking.
- In order to prohibit service-time manipulation, draft picks will be induced.
Other changes implemented:
- For the first time, player uniforms will feature advertising, including patches on jerseys and decals on batting helmets.
- The number of times a player can be optioned to the minor leagues in one season will be limited.
- The 2023 schedule will be more balanced as teams will play at least one series against every opponent in both leagues.
Why are changes being placed for the 2022 MLB season and beyond?
Over the past four years, player salaries have dropped despite the growth of revenues. The franchise value has risen – almost quadrupled – and therefore players decided to speak out.
Besides economics, other aspects of the game have been questioned in the last few seasons. Bans on shifts have been pondered in order to keep the defense more honest. In the last five years, players have been utilizing this defensive shift tactic, and many people are arguing that original baseball rules permit players to shift anywhere they want. Then again, the shift prohibits line drives and sharp ground balls, so in order to increase balls in play, hits and baserunners, a ban on defensive shifts was proposed.
Additionally, the pitch clock was proposed to improve the pace of play. It would discourage the pitcher from stepping off the rubber and shorten at-bats.
And finally, larger bases would make base-stealing easier and more common. The stealing of a base has become less and less frequent because of replay rules so increasing the size of the base would at least make the act more compelling.
Why do rules change in professional sports?
The primary reason for rule changes in sports is to improve the actual play of the sport, helping it grow and evolve alongside society.
Rule changes can increase the attraction of the sport to fans. From a marketing perspective, rule changes can play a role in popularizing a sports brand by increasing consumer engagement. To serve the attraction of viewers, rule changes are intended to speed up the pace of the game so fans pay attention and are instantly gratified. Similarly, rule changes allow for more points to be scored so fans can celebrate their teams.
Other purposes of rule changes include safety and integrity through fair play. Sports are meant to be competitive and exciting, but above it all, safe and ethical.
Can we expect rule changes in the future?
Rule changes are part of a sports’ history. Sports are constantly evolving and part of that evolution is growing alongside the society we live in. As society advanced, so did sports – whether that be in the technological, physiological or ethical sense.
When baseball was first played in New Jersey’s Elysian Fields in 1846, do you think defensive shifts were questioned? In fact, they might not even have occurred. Designated hitters weren’t granted until the 1970s, and the spitball was banned after Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman died following being struck in the head by one in 1920.
In essence, rules have and will always change because society will always be developing in some way, shape or form. The longer sports are played, the more professionals discover aspects of the game that can be altered or improved. Since professional sports are composed of millions of different participants, including athletes, coaches, committees, organizations, and franchise owners, we will never stop seeing sports evolve. That you can count on.