The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and shortly, we’ll hear the sounds of live professional baseball being played. After an embarrassing 99-day lockout imposed by the owners, a new 5yr CBA has been agreed upon and baseball activities have begun. The season will begin about a week later than originally scheduled, but the expectation is for a full 162-game slate for all clubs. The news on Thursday was music to baseball fans ears and ends a really dark and ugly period in the history of baseball. There will be lasting damage from this public fight, but some of that will be tamped down by salvaging a normal-ish season. It’s time to play ball.
There are some notable changes in the new CBA including an increase from 10 playoff teams to 12. This is one that I feel could have a significant impact on the game. While on one hand it will afford more opportunities for teams to compete in the postseason, it will also impact the trade deadline and bigger in-season moves as more teams will be within striking distance of playoff contention. Also, by adding a team in each league to the postseason, it eliminates the thrilling 1-game playoff between the 2 Wild Card teams that has been fun to watch the last few seasons. I’m not sure how I feel on this shift, but know it’s better than the 14-team postseason proposal that was on the table during the negotiations. Let’s see how it plays out this season.
Additionally, they removed the runner on 2nd to start extra innings (thankfully). This was one of the dumbest rules the league has implemented over the past few seasons and I’m glad it’s gone. It was ridiculous that games were decided by whether the last batter to get an out in the 9th was fast or not. Yes, it may lead to some longer games, but it’s worth it. They also switched double-headers back to 9 innings vs 7, which I’m actually a bit bummed about. I really enjoyed the shift to 7 innings with double-headers, but understand why it makes sense to switch back to 9. It will be interesting in a slightly more compressed season and fewer off-days if there are a significant rise in double-headers throughout the year.
Some of the other shifts for this season are the universal DH (which has been discussed at length), a limit to the number of players you can option to the minor leagues (could play a significant role in roster makeup), a draft lottery to discourage teams from tanking for draft picks, and the ability for teams to sell advertising patches on their uniforms (who will be the first to sell rights?). For the 2023 season, there are a few bigger changes that will impact the game significantly. The elimination of shifts, a pitch clock, an automatic strike zone, and a more balanced schedule will fundamentally change the game. Whether the changes make the game better or not is yet to be seen, considering there is a lot of time to determine the exact details of each piece. I’m sure there will be thousands of hours of discussion on the 2023 changes as this season wears on (and that’s probably just on this blog).
Overall, there are changes that make sense and some that don’t (and I’ll surely dig deeper into all of them), but as long as the MLB can play a full season and we can watch professional baseball almost every night from April through September, I’m happy. I understand those who are complaining about this or that detail, but for me, I’m welcoming baseball back with open arms.