In the last few years, there have been a lot of things that have changed in MLB. And they have been met with mixed reviews from fans and even Baseball Hall of Famers, like Cincinnati Reds legend Barry Larkin.
The National League has adopted the designated hitter. 25-man rosters have been expanded to 26-man rosters with a limit of 13 pitchers on them. September rosters have been reduced from a maximum of 40 players to a maximum of 28.
A runner is on second base to start extra innings in regular season games. Relievers must face at least three batters (as long as they aren’t ending an innings). There are limits on when position players can pitch. There is a limit on mound visits. Collision rules have been changed at the plate and on the bases when trying to break up a double play, for example.
Even more changes will be coming in 2023. A pitch clock will be on the books (15 seconds with no runners on base, 20 seconds with runners on). There will be no defensive shifts (two infielders must be on each side of second base and with their feet on the infield dirt) and the bases (excluding home plate) will be bigger.
The bases will go from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. As a result, there will be a 4.5-inch reduction in the distance between first and second base and between second base and third base.
In a recent conversation with Call To The Pen, Baseball Hall of Famer and Cincinnati Reds legend Barry Larkin expressed mixed thoughts on the rule changes throughout baseball in recent years.
Baseball Hall of Famer and Cincinnati Reds legend Barry Larkin on MLB rule changes
Barry Larkin, who spent 19 years in MLB with the Reds from 1986 through 2004, has stayed involved with the game by broadcasting games with the Reds, working in their front office, and being part of the ownership of Baseball United, a new baseball league that has the goal of expanding the sport of baseball into the Middle East for a massive audience, one that is larger than both the United States and Canada combined.
He also previously spent time with ESPN and MLB Network, among other things so Larkin is one of the most qualified people to speak on what the game of baseball has been like in the last 35 years and how things need to change for the game to keep growing globally.
“[I have m]ixed feelings, to be quite honest,” Larkin told Call To The Pen about MLB’s recent rule changes. “I’m all about rule changes, being progressive, listening to the fans, and trying to deliver a greater fan experience. I assume that is why the rule changes have been made. [But] I’m not huge on the time it takes for the replay. I’m not huge on some of the anti-collision rules that are in place right now.”
Larkin explained that part of the reason why he isn’t a fan of the anti-collision rules is because the game is inherently dangerous and the game has lost some of that exhilaration as a result of the changes.
"“I feel like it should be the most exhilarating (sport) and there’s a part of it that is dangerous,” Larkin said. “Sitting in the batter’s box (and facing) Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens or (John Smoltz) or somebody throwing a high and inside fastball was just part of growing up (in the game of baseball). Nolan Ryan decleating players was just part of growing up in the game of baseball. You understood it. You don’t see that so much anymore because guys take it personally. It’s just not part of the game. There’s a physicality that has changed in the game of baseball and I’m not huge fan of it.”"
As for the changes coming in 2023, he also has mixed feelings on those as well.
"“I think the pitch clock will work,” Larkin said. “I’m not a huge fan of the bases being larger simply because of the base stealing. I [stole] bases (379 stolen bases in his MLB career) and now for basestealer, it’s four and a half inches shorter. So the bang-bang plays where I was out are now bang-bang plays where the present-day player is safe. I’m thinking about a Rickey Henderson or someone who has a stolen base record. Or how if (former Reds outfielder) Billy Hamilton was in his prime right now … and he had the capability of getting on base, he would steal 200 bases in a season. It’s about continuing to make adjustments based on what the fans want. They want more offense. I think they’ll see more offense. And we’ll have to see how they play out. But there’s certain things I’m not a huge fan of, though.”"
After the 2023 season, MLB could see even more changes, the biggest being an electronic strike zone. However, MLB, after trying it out in the minor leagues in 2022, has determined that the technology is not quite there yet.
After all, the TV graphics sometimes disagree on what is right or wrong on the same exact pitch. And MLB also had at least one umpire with a perfect game with the public numbers (which are different then MLB’s numbers) … and that was even in the World Series.