MLB To Test Changes in Atlantic League

… and, hopefully, not the 62 feet, 2 inches that goes into effect when the Atlantic League adds 2 inches to the mound-plate distance during the 2nd half of their 2019 season.

MLB has contracted with the independent Atlanta League (the league that’s home to our Sugar Land Skeeters) to put into play their “up-the-tempo” package of changes for the 2019 season to get a practical idea of how these alterations may help baseball pick up the time-flow of games in ways that shorten game times, but still maintain the flow of that baseball infinity-feel about time ~ while they also implement modern technology for helping the umpires do a better job of accurately getting the balls and strikes calls done more accurately and closer to one standard of the zone from game to game.


Fox News ~

Houston Chronicle ~

Some managerial strategy will be lost. Best example ~ managers will no longer be able to call in a left-handed reliever to pitch to one killer lefty hitter and then take him out in favor of using a righty to pitch to a string of good right-handed batters. Under the trial period rules, any pitcher entering a game, unless he is subsequently injured or taken sick, must pitch to a minimum of three batters before he can be taken out of the game.

Oh really?

Well, how long do you think it’s going to take before the former one-trick pony pitcher comes into a game and now claims illness or muscle-tweaking injury after pitching to only one batter and then demands to be taken out for the sake of his career investment? ~ No umpire can overrule a pitcher’s complaint of new disability and force him to keep pitching under those circumstances, could he? No way.

If they haven’t thought of it already, the rule makers may have to impose an automatic loss of eligibility over the next course of several games when a relief pitcher cannot stand and face his three batter minimum. Maybe one game out for each batter missed would be fair. (Pitch to the minimum 3 batters, no problem; pitch to 2 batters only and he’s ineligible for the next game that’s actually played; pitch to only one batter and the reliever is ineligible for use in the next 2 actually played games.) Sounds fair as a move to hold down bogus injury claims in the first place.

At any rate, watching the total package put into play surely supplies another good reason for watching the Skeeters and their Atlantic League brethren play ball this season. They are doing organized baseball a very important service by allowing themselves to be the Guinean pigs of this trial measure.

If you can spare the time, we’d love to have you leave a comment in the section that follows this column. How do you feel about the trials it undertakes? How do you feel about a digital calls of balls and strikes? Do you think the effort to increase the pace of play will tamper with elements that made baseball great in the first place?

By picking up the game’s tempo of play, is MLB really trying to make the game better? ~ Or is it more a matter of finding a way to make live baseball more compatible with today’s shorter fan attention span? Are we hoping to teach the fans what they should look for in the game on the field? Or are we really trying to lure them away from their cell phones long enough to be entertained by a game that moves quickly and gets them home earlier?

Live baseball strategy only unfolds clearly on television, where you can see what happens between pitcher, catcher, and batter on every single pitch. What happens at the ballpark is a whole lot of other stuff, which is just part of the live experience of being there ~ and for 90% of the wired ballpark fans, whatever takes you away from your always ever-working call phone conversation with “elsewhere” ~ by sudden distraction or attempted ballpark entertainment.

What’s all that got to do with anything? For me it’s the belief that all of this need for change in the flow of a baseball game is more about refining the ballpark entertainment experience for millennial-age digitally indulgent fans. Larry Dierker expressed it best in a comment he left at another recent Pecan Park Eagle column. “If you want to watch the game, watch TV,” said Larry Dierker. “If you want to be entertained while a game is in progress, go to it.”

Even if we do not like and may have to fight certain changes, adaptation certainly not a bad thing. It’s just how it is. Baseball is governed by the same laws governing all living things ~ and that includes the games we play. If people don’t want the game, it cannot survive using a presentation format that was first introduced in the 19th century.

Those of us who don’t so much need a change of tempo format can live with an increase in tee-shirt blasts at the ball park ~ as long as we remain free to watch the real game unfold on television at home ~ and they have not added two feet to the mound-plate pitching distance. Changes of distance there and on the baselines are the changes that turn me rapidly into a dinosaur. To those I am compelled to shout loudly:

“Leave Our Game Alone!”



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher







2 Responses to “MLB To Test Changes in Atlantic League”

  1. Sumner Gary Hunnewell Says:


    I have been to a few Atlantic League games and hundreds of Frontier League games. Rarely, do I see a pitcher come in to pitch to one guy, unless it is to try to end the inning, and then sit down for the rest of the game. I don’t know how often this comes into play w/in the Atlantic League since the quality of play is higher there. Still, like the intentional walk, which saves two minutes every other game in a three hour game, I can’t say that this thrills me.

    However, during MLB games that I went to “in the day,” it seemed that when we would be getting out *well* before the three hour mark, Tony LaRussa would make five pitching changes and ruin it.

    I would never feel cheated to see a two hour professional league game. It just means that I’d have to drink my beer faster.


    P. S. If you want to “watch” the game, do it in your head over the radio.

  2. bobcopus Says:

    Should the batting team be able to pinch hit for any of the 3 batters?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: