MLB Players Association says 2023 rule changes impact ‘the integrity of the game itself’

By | September 9, 2022

Three notable rule changes will be coming to Major League Baseball during the 2023 season, but representatives of the MLB Players’ Association voted unanimously against them. 

The changes – banning defensive shifts, implementing a pitch clock and larger bases – were passed after a vote on Friday by a new joint committee made up of players, club representatives and an umpire. 

After testing these new changes in the minor leagues and discussing the matter over several meetings, the vote passed. 

But the MLBPA issued a statement saying all players involved in the joint committee did not like the new rules. 

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“Players live the game – day in and day out. On-field rules and regulations impact their preparation, performance and, ultimately, the integrity of the game itself,” the statement on Twitter said. “Player leaders from across the league were engaged in on-field rules negotiations through the Competition Committee, and they provided specific and actionable feedback on the changes proposed by the Commissioner’s Office.

“Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern that Players raised, and as a result, Players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against the implementation of the rules covering defensive shifts and the use of a pitch timer.”

The biggest rule change of the three has to be the banning of defensive shifts, a topic that has been debated for some time in baseball. 

With this new rule, there must be two infielders on each side of the second base bag, and all four infielders must have both feet planted in the dirt while the pitcher is on the rubber. Infielders are also not permitted to switch sides, meaning the shortstop cannot switch to second base or any other variation. 

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MLB says these restrictions “will return the game to a more traditional aesthetic by governing defensive shifts, with the goals of encouraging more balls in play, giving players more opportunities to showcase their athleticism and offsetting the growing trend of alignments that feature four outfielders.”

As for the pitch clock, a pitcher must deliver the ball to home plate within 15 seconds when there are no runners on base. The clock will start at 20 seconds when a runner or runners are on base.

A pitcher is also permitted to step off the rubber twice per plate appearance without a penalty. If a pitcher steps off a third time, it will be considered a balk, “unless an out is recorded on a runner.”

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Hitters will be required to be standing in the batter’s box and ready to go with at least eight seconds remaining on the pitch clock. This rule is solely done to speed up the game. The rule, in place in the minor leagues, shortened the average game time by 26 minutes in 2022. 

The final change will increase the size of bases from a 15-inch square to 18 inches. This is a health-related move to prevent collisions and runners stepping on first basemen. In the minor leagues, base-related injuries decreased by 13.5% with the bigger bases. 

“These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans,” commissioner Rob Manfred said.