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MLB to experiment with stealing first more, and other rule changes in Atlantic League

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Baseball fans are divided on many things. Most are affiliated with one team or another, which separates them from most other fans. Some love analytics, while others have disdain for them. A few favor retaliatory fastballs to the tush of those deemed deserving, while others prefer to handle things with a more pacifism-based approach.

Some fans like the Designated Hitter, while other fans choose to be right.

But one thing most baseball fans can agree on is this: Stealing first base is stupid.

Yet here we are. Over the All-Star break, MLB announced that four new rules will be experimented with in the Atlantic League, to be used in the second half of the 2019 season. Chief among them is the expansion - yes, you read that word correctly - of the stealing first base rule.

Let’s check out all four rules, see what MLB is thinking, and more importantly, see what I’m thinking.

Rule 1: Batters can steal first base on any pitch that isn’t caught

MLB’s presumed reasoning: Ummmm . . . more excitement, I guess? Force pitchers to throw more strikes?

My take: In addition to the rule being ridiculous, I find it hilariously hypocritical. As you’ll see with the next rules - and with everything baseball has been doing over the last few years - MLB is all-in on hitting the ball as hard as possible, as often as possible.

So now they’re experimenting with increasing the number of plays that end without the bat actually being used. That seems antithetical to their general philosophy.

Furthermore, this rule would only further punish and reward players incorrectly. Stealing first on strike three is ridiculous enough as it is - why should a player be rewarded for swinging at a pitch so far outside the strike zone that it can’t be caught?

But now you punish pitchers for throwing bad pitches early in the count, when that’s part of their strategy? Please.

There’s a correct way to change the stealing first base rule, and that is to eliminate it entirely.

Rule 2: One foul bunt is allowed with two strikes

MLB’s presumed reasoning: Fewer boring strikeouts.

My take: This is way too half-assed. Batters who are bunting are now allowed four strikes, as long as the third is a foul ball.

Why stop there? A normal at-bat can last forever, as long as the batter keeps fouling off pitches. But a bunt at-bat can last a little longer, but not much longer? Way too arbitrary, way too compromised.

If you can strike out on a foul ball, have it be on strike three. If you don’t like that, then eliminate foul ball strikeouts altogether. It’s not that hard.

Baseball is simple. Mindlessly complicating it doesn’t help.

Rule 3: More batter-friendly check swings

MLB’s presumed reasoning: Offense > defense.

My take: Is there actually any room between a swing and what is currently the swing-end of the checked swing gray area? I’m not sure there is.

I understand the reasoning. MLB wants like to be a little easier for batters. But this is teetering dangerously close to just letting them swing with no ramifications.

Rule 4: Pitchers must step off the rubber before a pickoff attempt

MLB’s presumed reasoning: Offense > defense.

My take: Okay, we get it, MLB. You like batters and think all pitchers should pack up and move to a different country. “Hey pitchers, why don’t you start Major League Pitching if you like pitching so damn much,” they’ll shout.

The best thing about baseball (in my entirely correct opinion) is that the dimensions are utterly perfect. A ground ball will almost always result in an out if handled properly, and almost never be an out if at all bungled. The distance from the mound to the plate is such that it’s always a great battle, regardless of era. So on and so forth.

Stealing a base fits into the perfect dimensions. You can do it, if you’re the perfect combination of savvy, smart, and speedy. Fail even the tiniest bit in any category, and you’re out. It’s a perfect equation, and the numbers within it should not be messed with.

I realize this entire article comes off like a grumpy old man on the porch yelling at the kids, but in this case the kids are grumpy old men on their respective porches, yelling at the actual kids.

Stop doing that.