MLB is working with the Atlantic League to test moving the pitching rubber back a foot to make it 61' 6" from home plate in hopes of evaluating the impact of such a change on strikeout rates. The idea is to "fix" the game by reducing the frequency of the three true outcomes in favor of meaningful contact because a ball in play equates to excitement and strikeouts are boring.
Of course, the change will be implemented halfway through the minor league season for the Atlantic League because that's obviously the best time to force pitchers to make a significant adjustment. The Atlantic League is a partner of MLB ostensibly so that it can act as a Petri dish for dumb ideas that MLB wants to test on independent league guinea pigs rather than on the majority of big league prospects.
That's not a knock on the league itself. It's more of an indictment on the way MLB values players that aren't on the fast track to MLB debuts. The Atlantic League is actually way ahead of MLB in terms of trying to improve the game in a way that improves the fan experience without completely disrupting play. The league has an automated ball/strike identification system, and this year it's making a change to the strike zone to treat it as a two-dimensional field - basically a plane perpendicular to the front of the plate as opposed to the three-dimensional strike zone that we all sort of know and probably don't love.
These are good things which is why MLB probably won't be adopting them anytime soon. Here are another ten rule changes MLB could consider but won't.
Make all plays reviewable. Challenges must be initiated from the dugout by a coach throwing a red baseball at the nearest umpire. Each team gets 3 challenges, and if they lose all 3 challenges the home plate umpire gets to use a taser on the manager. This is a fair and just system.
Expand the active rosters to 30 players. If MLB is serious about the health-and-safety rules, then adding extra arms to the bullpen gives managers a way of avoiding overuse. Roster expansion would also provide some opportunities for many players who would otherwise be held back to avoid starting their service time clocks. The downside is taking away power from The Man to hold people down.
Get rid of the ridiculous extra inning rule that puts a runner on second base to start the inning (actually every half inning) when a game goes into extras. If MLB really wants to shorten games, then do something about the strike zone. Alternatively, make the runner on second base a "ghost runner" because I grew up playing baseball in the 90s, and this was a thing. For each inning after the 10th remove one position player from the field.
Continue use of alternate training sites beyond this year. It's not that I necessarily see value in this idea, but I do enjoy referring to "alternate sites" which is how I'm describing both our basement and one of the guest bathrooms in our house. "I'm recalling dirty towels from the alternate site and designating extra toilet paper for assignment in a corresponding move."
Ditch the archaic broadcast blackout rules and embrace 2021. Fans now consume entertainment content much differently than 10 years ago, and limiting consumption options does not fit the trend. Read the room, please. Also, the streaming options available to regional viewers are crap, so while it's truthful to say that those options exist, they really aren't viable ones. I'd happily pay a fee to have Cardinal games on MLBtv without blackout restrictions with the caveat that the entirety of that fee go to the regional sports network. Or not. Actually, I don't care where the money goes because this is all about me and what I want.
As an addendum to the previous point, allow viewers to select the broadcast for a particular game and even flip back-and-forth between broadcasts. I'd very much like to avoid games when Jim Edmonds is in the booth. I'd probably pay extra for this feature. Also, it can be very interesting to hear the take from the opposing broadcast like when the Reds do their weekly "clear the benches" shtick.
Bring back bullpen carts for all teams, make their use mandatory, and hold a lottery for each home game to select a fan from the stands to drive it. There is no room to maneuver on this one. It's a good idea (minus the part about letting a fan drive it).
Institute a minimum innings pitched rule for position players - maybe 16 innings per season. In terms of baseball entertainment value, there are few things more enjoyable than watching a position player pitch. Anthony Rizzo striking out Freddie Freeman is one of the highlights of the season so far.
Return doubleheaders to the full 9 innings instead of 7. Much like Imo's pizza the 7-inning game is neither satisfying nor desirable, and shortening the length of games can be accomplished in a myriad of ways without simply whacking a percentage off the top. FYI - Provel is crap, and this is The Hill I choose to avoid completely.
Make the strike zone dynamic so that the zone expands the more quickly a pitcher works and begins shrinking after a certain point. Yes, it's a stupid idea, but I'd argue that it's really no worse than allowing humans to continue making ball/strike calls from a position several feet behind where the ball crosses the plate with vision slightly obscured by the catcher's shoulder. Also, it would be really entertaining to watch pitchers like Verlander and Scherzer getting squeezed after 20 seconds of searching for animal shapes in the clouds.
Some/most/all of these ideas are brutally stupid, but as is often the case many a true word is spoken in jest. At the heart of each suggestion is the notion that improving entertainment quality is in the best interest of the game, and MLB seems to be failing miserably in that regard.
-#dennis (aka Plain Brown Rapper)
Bit of tid: The origin of the aphorism "many a true word is spoken in jest" is often credited to Geoffrey Chaucer who threw out the first pitch at a Reds game in 1390.