Baseball 101: What Rules Changes Can Dodgers’ Fans Expect in 2017

Feb 21, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred during Spring Training Media Day at The Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred during Spring Training Media Day at The Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

We all know the basics. We all know the “one, two, three strikes you’re out” routine from the 7th-inning stretch song as children. But what exactly is the MLB doing this year that is going to change the way the game is played? We will take an in-depth look at these changes and how they will affect our beloved Dodgers.

To understand the future, fans of the Dodgers (as well as every other fan base) must first understand the past. We are not going to go into detail of the currently 2016 MLB approved rules and regulations. If you’d like to go through all of these rules, you are more than welcome to read the 172-page document posted on the MLB website.

At the start of March is when we saw these rule changes get etched into the stone. The MLB Communications tweet gives us the correct verbiage used by the MLB & Players Association.

But, what does this really mean for us, as the viewers? Well, it means – for the majority of the rules changes – that MLB is attempting to improve the pace of play.

First and foremost, the no-pitch intentional walk rule. This new rule allows a manager to simply provide a signal to the umpire that he wishes for the batter to take an intentional walk. This rule change is meant to save the “dead” time between four unhittable pitches. But the reality is, it won’t save that much time, as last year there were only 932 intentional walks all season. That averages out to about one every three games. So, the truth is this rule may not come into effect often but it will lower the potential for errors like this happening during an intentional walk.

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The other important rule change to note is the upgrade to replay. They are putting a 30-second time clock for managers to make challenges and are also allowing managers to challenge through the seventh inning.

I would like to go ahead and share my bias with all of you that I do not believe replay should be a part of Major League Baseball. I know many of you may jump back in horror and give me examples of obvious blown plays at the cause of the umpire. However, in my mind, that’s the part of the game that is human error. It adds another level of unpredictability and drama to already one of the most challenging sports in the world.

The new replay rules will allow for the manager to have 30 seconds to challenge a call. Seems straight forward enough, but this just adds more delays if a manager holds up the game. I prefer the way college football has addressed replays. If anyone is going to challenge the call on the field, said person has the opportunity to do so until the next play begins. This would work well, I think, in baseball. Add a pitch clock on the pitcher (we know this works well in reducing the length of games in the minor leagues), then the manager has this length of time to make a challenge.

The manager can now also make challenges through the 7th inning, whereas in 2016, the rule stated challenges could only be made through the 6th inning. I understand the desire to get the game correct, but replays are the largest slowdowns that the game faces today. The time doesn’t seem worth the wait to me. I know others will feel differently, but that’s just my opinion.

The next rule change specifically correlates with an accusation made against the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. I think everyone remembers when Mets General Manager Sandy Alderman accused the Dodgers of using lasers to mark defensive positions on the field, according to Fox Sports. Dave Roberts denied the use of lasers being used and even cited that use of markings is a common practice for many clubs around the league, via NY Daily News. Whether or not we as the public believe this “he said she said” routine that the Dodgers and Mets waltzed with in the middle of last year, the MLB has officially made any action of marking the field for defensive purposes illegal for the 2017 year and beyond.

Mansur Shaheen of SB Nation believes this next rule change is specifically “targeting Padres reliever Carter Capps.” I have to say that I believe Shaheen in that the MLB was going after Capps, and rightly so. I mean have you seen Capps’ delivery? The Pades showed off Capps delivery on Twitter in mid February. I have to say it is clearly illegal. Just take a look for yourself:

The new rule allows the umpire to formulate his “interpretation by stipulating that a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot (clearly an act Capps performs) in his delivery of the pitch.” Consequences for such actions appear just. With a runner on base, the pitch is deemed a balk. With no runners on base the pitch is determined to be illegal and a ball to be rewarded to the batter.

The last rule change is an amendment to Rule 5.03. This new rule requires base coaches to remain inside the painted lines indicating the coach’s box adjacent to first and third base prior to the ball being pitched. Upon the batter’s contact with the pitch, the coach may then leave the box to “signal a player so long as the coach does not interfere with play.” Honestly, I thought this was already a rule, but I suppose it was not worded just so.

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Overall, the rule changes are exactly what they are, changes to the rules. We as the audience do not get a say so in the rules, therefore we just have to wait and see how their effects will truly be played out onto the field. We shall see how 2017 will go.

Go Dodgers!