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Major League Baseball | Will the new rules have the desired effect?

(Montreal) That’s it: it’s the day of the season when all Major League Baseball fans see their club have an equal chance of participating in the playoffs next fall. Some will become disillusioned very quickly, but will the new rules that came into force on Thursday have the effect expected by MLB on the level of competitiveness? That remains to be seen, say two experts consulted by The Canadian Press.

Posted April 7

Frederic Daigle
The Canadian Press

A brief reminder: the 30 clubs will be able to have 28 players instead of 26; six teams per league will participate in the playoffs; the designated hitter will now be used in the National League; teams will no longer be able to constantly yo-yo with their players, who can only be traded or recalled a maximum of five times per season; teams will have strong incentives to play their best players in the Majors instead of controlling seniority, and a lottery has been introduced for the top six draft picks starting in 2023.

“It’s certain that the designated hitter will change what,” says Marc Griffin, MLB game analyst on RDS. In today’s baseball, about two “free” appearances per game will be avoided. On 35 departures, it is perhaps 50 “automatic” withdrawals less: it will have an impact on the earned run averages.

“On the other hand, it is perhaps not the regulations that will have the most influence on the season. I would have liked there to be 14 teams in the playoffs, but with 12, these are still four teams who will compete for a “2 of 3” to move on to the sectional playoffs. If you play for .500 halfway through the season, you’ll be in the game. I can’t wait to see what it will create after the All-Star Game break. It could be thefun. »

André Lachance, who now serves as Cirque du Soleil’s human performance director after serving as Canada’s national team manager and Baseball Canada’s technical director for nearly 20 years, believes this new playoff format will change the situation.

“Having more teams in the playoffs is going to change the dynamic in terms of the periodization of the season. […] When you add teams, you can allow yourself as an organization to pace your season differently. Some will try to enter the playoffs with more energy. A season of 162 games is super long and super difficult, which makes recovery management very important. We have this phenomenon here at Cirque, where certain athletes give 450 performances a year. »

According to Lachance, this playoff format and the expanded roster of 28 players will help change athlete development at all levels.

“We’re going to see more multi-position players, like the Yankees last year. This means that every two or three days, you can give your pillars an extra day off, which allows for better recovery.

“If we extrapolate, in 5-10 years, this kind of multi-position player is likely to be very important. It could change the dynamics of player development, both in minor league baseball, in college, and in the minor leagues. These players, who had no real position and therefore no real place in the Majors, you will now be able to keep them with a formation of 28 players to give your stars a break.

“People often ask me how we managed to be second in the world with my women’s team. I always come back to multi-position: we always had options. I think this is a trend that will become more and more important. »

No more endless reminders

Teams that are constantly yo-yoing their pitchers or their players “on the threshold of the Majors” with infinite recalls and demotions will no longer have that luxury, since a player cannot be moved more than five times per season.

“It’s going to hurt the Rays!” They used 37 pitchers last year; 14 different guys got a save, Griffin notes. I don’t think it’s going to change anything for the Blue Jays, Yankees or Red Sox, but a little more creative teams on development, it can have an effect. It’s like any rule, some have abused it. »

The manipulation of service time has also been addressed with the introduction of strong incentives so that young stars reach Major League Baseball more quickly.

“Baseball careers are generally short,” says Lachance. The peak performance of a player in a team sport is between 26-28 years old. It takes longer. But there are always exceptional people who are able to contribute more quickly. To count them in your training is beneficial. »

Baseball also found itself with a major problem, as some of the best athletes at the university level chose a sport other than baseball.

“It’s clear that financially, if you have the chance to break into football or basketball right now instead of spending three or four years in the minors, with your baloney sandwich, your soft bar and your orange for lunch, you’re going to choose one of these two sports,” says Lachance of gifted athletes who actually have a chance to break into more than one sport, which is not uncommon in the United States.

MLB has also missed a great opportunity to solve its most serious problem: the disparity between the payrolls of the teams. It even exacerbated it by pushing up the salary limit resulting in a penalty, what is commonly called the luxury tax.

Despite a very advantageous revenue sharing – the clubs all receive from 200 to 225 million US before starting their season – 10 teams have a projected salary bill of less than 100 million for 2022, according to the site spotrac.com. The Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles only plan to spend $32 million and $30 million respectively.

“Oakland is a disgrace,” laments Griffin. That the Expos had a fire sale in 1995 is one thing. But with the current revenue sharing, it’s outrageous. In 1991, the A’s had the highest payroll in baseball at 35 million. In 2022, they will have practically the same one, which is going to be one of the smallest.

“Could a wage floor have been the solution? Oblige these teams at the bottom of the table to spend a minimum? I do not understand: it is the players who did not want a floor and a salary cap. However, if you have 10 teams that spend more, it’s more money for the players. »

A few details about the rules

  • Teams with the two best records among the Section Champions will be seeded Nos. 1 and 2 and will enjoy a first-round bye. The other four will play a best-of-three series to move on to the sectional series. The No. 6 team will face the No. 3 team, and the No. 5 team will face the No. 4 team. All three matches are played at the stadium of the highest-ranked club.
  • Teams no longer have any reason not to keep their best hopes in the Majors. The new agreement provides compensatory choices for a club whose rookie would finish in the top-3 of the ballot for the most valuable player, rookie of the year and Cy Young trophy. In addition, finishing first or second in the title of rookie par excellence automatically grants a full year of service to the player. If a club believes that one of its recruits will be part of the discussion for this honor, it no longer makes sense to keep them waiting in the minors until May or June, as we have seen in the past with Mike Trout and Kris Bryant, for example.

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