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SURPRISE, ARIZ. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists he's simply trying to be proactive, thinking that new rules to speed up his sport will provide more action and keep Millennials engaged.
Among those who play the game, however, Manfred has provoked only disgust.
Manfred wants the 20-second pitch clock that exists in the minors to be implemented in the big leagues. He wants limited visits to the pitcher's mound by catchers and infielders. He wants to eliminate the low strike in the strike zone. And if he doesn't get cooperation from the players union, he'll implement them himself in time for the 2018 season.
The players think these new rules will cause so much collateral damage to the sport that the game will become unrecognizable.
"If you put a clock on baseball, you take away the sanctity of the game and the character of it," Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy told USA TODAY Sports. "The game has been played like this way for 150 years, and now we're going to change it?
"I understand trying to speed up the game to create more action, but this isn't football. It doesn't make any sense."
Says Kansas City Royals slugger Brandon Moss: "I'm just very glad I will not be playing this game in 10 years. It won't be recognizable. It's going in a direction where it's not the same game. Every year they keep trying to think of some stupid new rule. It's getting old. Real old."
Similar reactions echoed throughout Arizona and Florida, with players weighing in on baseball's potential rule changes, which could be mandated without union approval in 2018. The new developmental league rule of extra innings beginning with a runner on second base, however, is not under consideration in the major leagues.
Yet Manfred and the executives on Park Avenue worry about the game's lack of action.
There were fewer balls put in play last season than at any other time in history. The ball was not in play during 30.8% of plate appearances last season, according to Sports Illustrated, with the ball entering play once every 3 minutes, 25 seconds. They stress over dominant relief pitching suffocating offenses. They're troubled by the lack of late-game lead changes. And they're scared to death that if they don't make changes, they'll lose the younger audience forever.
"You commend the commissioner for wanting to appeal to the younger generation," said 37-year-old Royals pitcher Chris Young, one of the game's most respected union leaders. "His mind is in the right place. He wants to make the game better, like we all do. It's good to have a progressive mind, but I just don't know if these are the right ideas.
"There's been a lot of dialogue by players, and the consensus is that nobody is assured this will truly speed up the game and make it better. There needs to be more of a discussion and less of a proposal."
The union did formally agree to eliminate the intentional walk, which now will be replaced by a signal without throwing four pitches. There will also be a two-minute limit on instant replay. Yet considering there's only one intentional walk issued every three games, we're talking about perhaps saving 2 1/2 minutes for an entire evening of games.
"That's the worst," Moss said. "What if it's Game 7 of the World Series, tie game in the bottom of the ninth? Someone hits a one-out triple, and Miguel Cabrera comes up to the plate. That pitcher should have to throw four pitches to Miguel Cabrera, whether they're intentional balls or not. That's a nerve-racking situation, and now it's gone.
"What is this, high school baseball?"
Nope, 38-year-old Royals reliever Peter Moylan said, "It's like PlayStation."