MLB’s new rules for the 2023 season are already working as intended.
It’s only spring training, but games are much shorter than they typically were in the past and they’re being played at a much quicker pace. However, some players have identified cracks in the new rulebook.
New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo was a guest on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” and gave his thoughts on the new rules, including a change he’d like to see for player safety.
“I think baseball’s in a transition period,” Nimmo said (7:20 in player above). “I think we’re in a period where they’re wanting to see the game be faster and make some fundamental changes to it that are definitely going to – you’re going to see this as a time when baseball changed, when it forked off a little bit from the traditionalism of leaving things unchanged.”
Nimmo mentioned that from a business standpoint, the league has to “adapt or you die.” Attention spans have gotten shorter and the league is trying to keep up with that by speeding up the game. It’s worked for other industries and other sports, but it may not have been fully thought out yet for baseball.
Players are warming up to the new rules a bit, however, with Nimmo explaining that the pitch clock keeps defensive players off their feet. Still, they’re not perfect.
“Especially for a guy like me that’s center field and I cover a lot of ground throughout the year,” he said. “It’s not a bad deal for me and so those kind of aspects I think guys are warming up to. It’s just sometimes where it’s like ‘Ooh, I’m not able to get some of these necessities done and I need like an extra five seconds for that,’ or something like that. That’s where they’re finding a little bit of a rub.”
Rich Hill suggested adding five seconds to the clock as a minor tweak to the rules. It would keep the pace of play about the same while eliminating some of the issues we’ve seen thus far.
Nimmo mentioned a problem he’s had with the new rules that hasn’t really been talked about.
“My one thing that I ran into was that I didn’t have enough time to get my equipment off – and like I sprint down to first base on a walk – and I didn’t have enough time to get my equipment off and get my sliding guard on and then get out,” he said. “I took my equipment off, gave it to him, grabbed the handguard, he was coming set, got out on my lead, and my handguard is just in my hand, and so then I’m like ‘OK,’ just panicking a little bit, like ‘can’t go on this pitch’ or anything like that.”
In the past, a player would have ample time to get their arm and ankle guards off at the plate, walk – not sprint, even though that’s Nimmo’s thing – down to first base, and put on their sliding mitts or guards. That’s not the case anymore.
“I went and I asked the umpires after the inning, I said ‘Hey, can I call time just to put on my handguard and then we go?’ They said if you do it’s a strike on the batter,” Nimmo continued. “So I said ‘So does that count as his one timeout?’ They said ‘No, it’s a strike on the batter.’
“So one thing I’d love to see is just like you get on base you get one timeout, right at the beginning. Because most people put on a handguard now, just to keep us on the field and protected. So just put on your handguard, now your timeout’s done. OK, now we can go into that 20 seconds and go go go. I just need that extra five seconds.”
If there aren’t any tweaks to the rules, players are going to need to get creative with their equipment – and not just in the way that Jazz Chisholm talks about.
“Right now it’s velcro so I have to un-velcro it off and then pull it on and velcro it on. So we’re thinking OK, should it be snap? Like a button or something like that and it’s already unbuttoned when I get it? That way I can just stick it in and now even if I don’t get that button on at least I’ve got something and that eliminates three, four, maybe five seconds right there,” Nimmo said. “So we’re trying to think of ways to cut that down.”
While fans sometimes scoff at players wearing so many different guards while batting – and baserunning –, each piece of equipment is there for a reason.
“But like my guards, I have a reason for every one. I’ve missed time because of being hit there,” Nimmo said. “So I cannot sacrifice those, so it’s like we got to figure out something else. Even if it’s not wearing the handguard. Even if it’s just OK, so now I’m not going to headfirst slide anywhere.”
Baseball is in a transition period as MLB tries to institute the new rules for 2023. It may take some tweaks to iron everything out, though.
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