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MLB’s rule changes are more popular than you might think

MLB’s rule changes are polarizing, but they aren’t hated by fans yet

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Making any changes in the way a baseball game is played is certain to bring derision. For years, every rule in the MLB rulebook has been sacrosanct.

But with a boom, MLB has entered the 21st century, like it or not.

This year the league announced five major rule changes and the solidification of an already controversial rule. MLB hopes the changes will improve rate of play and the speed of the game. Now fans are going to find out just how different baseball will look.

In a possible surprise twist, MLB fans don’t necessarily hate the changes. Fans that spent decades debating if pitchers should hit or not – to the point where in one league there were two separate sets of rules – are split on the new rules, but have a slight level of favorability toward most.

To be fair, one of the most noticeable changes will actually make the game look more like it had for most of MLB history. This year teams won’t be allowed to move infielders back-and-forth across the infield, going in and out of shifts. Forcing teams to almost certainly play a standard defensive alignment with two fielders on either side of second base.

According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, a slight majority of fans are actually in favor of the rule change.

Similarly, another rule change may play to the favor of the hardline fan. The grumbling middle-aged fan who is always mad at a pitcher who doesn’t just get back on the mound or a hitter who takes too long to get ready will have to find something else to complain about. This season pitchers and hitters will have only 15 seconds between pitches.

Again, maybe as a result of strange bedfellows with fans looking for more action teaming up with fans who are tired of all the “extra” between pitches, nearly two-thirds of fans like the new rule.

The only other change that fans seem to be in majority support of is the newly sized bases. MLB will feature bigger bases this year, no longer allowing for 90-feet between each base, but hopefully opening up action on the base paths while simultaneously avoiding injuries. More than half of responding fans said they are in favor of the new bases.

Just on the other side of the voting ledger, fans aren’t as excited for the limits being put on pitchers checking runners on the bases. The league, again hoping to open up the running game while speeding up the game, will limit pitchers to stepping off the rubber only twice during each plate appearance.

In theory, this could open up situations where a pitcher isn’t allowed to step off the rubber for any reason in a crucial situation without risking penalty. Possibly with that in mind, fewer than half of fans said they support the rule change.

The one rule change that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with increasing action may also take away one of the game’s best moments for comic relief.

The always entertaining position-player-pitching will become a little more rare this season after the league felt teams were getting a little too free and easy with when they’d make the change. After a record-setting year of position players on the mound, MLB now has strict limits on when it can happen.

That change has support from just a hair over a third of fans.

The least surprising result came from the only rule that was already on the books. Despite reported support from both players and ownership, fans have been vocal over the hatred of the extra-inning “ghost runner” rule.

Since 2020, MLB extra innings have started with a runner on second base, theoretically to increase scoring and keep games from going deep into extras. The anecdotal results on that goal have been mixed, but the rule is now set in place for good.

But fewer than a third of fans said they like the rule.

Be on the lookout for next week’s survey to cast your vote and have your voice heard.

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