By Brady Campbell, Staff Writer
Major League Baseball (MLB) has been trying for years to find a way to make the game more enjoyable for both the hardcore and the average fan. With constant discussion and little action for many years, it seems the league has finally hit its stride.
The first rule change came in 2020 and implemented a “ghost runner” on second base in extra innings to get a result to the games quicker. Two years later, the National League would finally adopt the Designated Hitter so the pitchers would not have to bat, something that the American League has been doing since 1973.
However, this season has changed the speed of the game by using a pitch clock to make the pace quicker. Both pitchers and batters now have to move faster, otherwise they will be given an automatic strike or ball respectively. Pickoff attempts and mound visits have also been heavily limited.
The bases have also expanded by three inches to reduce injuries and increase steal attempts. The defensive shifts have been banned, with a new requirement that you must have two infielders on each side of second base, and every infielder must be touching the infield dirt. While the rules have divided many baseball fans, they seemingly have gotten a positive reaction overall.
Broadcasting alumni Ryan Boettcher believes that the new rules have made the game more exciting.
“Steals are up, and there are more hits happening,” he said. “Even with all of these increases in pace, the game just flies by now.”
One major discussion has been to replace umpires with robots to get more accurate calls.
“If they start touching more rules like maybe robot umps, things could get bad, and the game will not feel the same,” Boettcher said.
As for the New York Mets and New York Yankees, both teams are once again looking to find the magic that has eluded them for about a decade.
The Mets have not won a World Series since 1986 and have only made the playoffs a few times since. After being three wins away from a championship in 2015, the team struggled to make any significant playoff runs, leading to current owner Steve Cohen going on a spending spree over the last couple of seasons since taking over to make the team a contender.
Junior broadcasting major Brendan Kaufman does not see much changing for the Mets in the near future.
“I think that the Mets are just eternally doomed for mediocrity. They got a new owner, but it does not seem to be changing much of the fate of their franchise. They spend as much money as they want, but they just can’t win,” he said.
After losing multiple-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom and starter Taijuan Walker in free agency, the Mets signed another multiple-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and Japanese superstar Kodai Senga.
The Mets also have top prospects Brett Baty, Francisco Alvarez and Mark Vientos barely seeing any playing time in the MLB. Boettcher believes that the time has come for the youngsters to play a larger role.
“Brett Baty has thrived in both spring training and Triple-A to the point where he undeniably has a higher upside than Eduardo Escobar. Alvarez should get playing time due to the injury to Narvaez, but Vientos could end up just being a trade piece for this team,” he said.
The Yankees’ last world championship was in 2009, and what was once a franchise known for fielding championship teams has not made it back to the fall classic since. They have constantly made it to the playoffs, only to come up short every time.
The Yankees may have found their future shortstop in Anthony Volpe, who is finally getting a chance with the big club this season. At just 21 years old, there are still a lot of questions surrounding Volpe.
“I don’t think that he is going to be the next Derek Jeter, but if he’s good, then they should give him a chance to prove himself,” Kaufman said.
Boettcher agrees with this sentiment.
“Volpe can definitely be the answer at shortstop for the Yankees,” he said. “He has the talent, I’m just worried about how he can handle the New York media and fanbase.”
With two starting pitchers in Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino out with injuries, as well as outfielder Harrison Bader, the Yankees are missing some key players at important positions. Meanwhile, the Mets lost All-Star closer Edwin Diaz for the season after his injury in the World Baseball Classic and starting pitcher Jose Quintana for the first half of the campaign.
Despite all of the injuries and slow starts for some players, neither Kaufman nor Boettcher are worried for either New York team.
“It’s the beginning of the season,” Kaufman said. “The Washington Nationals started 19-31 in 2019 and won the World Series. The Braves struggled early on in 2021 and won it all, as did the Phillies, who won the National League pennant last year. It is a 162-game season, so there is no reason to panic yet.”
Boettcher knows not to make any judgments too early based on the long and grueling season.
“I’m not worried for either New York team as the season has just started, and we’re so young into it all. I’ve seen the Mets blow countless 10 or more game leads to know that it is still early,” he said.