A candid conversation with a diehard baseball fan in 2023
A Review of Major League Baseball’s New Rules So Far
We’re about a quarter of the way through this historic MLB season and I thought I’d check in with Reviews.org’s resident baseball expert and Padres fanatic on his thoughts thus far. Ryan Parker, our web designer, is a lifelong Padres fan and probably the only millennial I know that is a diehard fan of major league baseball. He has been my guru through my journey to become an MLB fan for the first time in my life.
Here’s a Slack exchange between me and Ryan where I ask him his thoughts on the new rule changes in the MLB, and the general state of the league so far 25% of the way through this season. (Apologies for The Simpsons references right off the bat—we can’t help ourselves.)
Tyler Abbott: You ready to talk some baseball?
Ryan Parker: Yes!
TA: We're talkin' baseball,
From Maine to San Diego,
Mattingly and Canseco,
Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw,
Steve Sax and his run-in with the law,
We're talkin' Homer,
Ozzie and the Straw.
First question for my go-to baseball guru: What do you think of the softball episode of The Simpsons?
RP: Homer at the Bat holds a special place in the hearts of many baseball fans!
There have been tons of retrospectives on it over the years. There's a guy on twitter who draws current MLB players in the style of The Simpsons, as if they were in that episode.
Personally I love it when The Simpsons do big guest stars episodes like that, and that one has all the right baseball jokes. I will say that the era of baseball it was made in is older than the era I grew up on, so I don't have quite the same nostalgia for those players as others do. Maybe Ken Griffey and McGwire, but that's about it. Mostly I just love it as a Simpsons episode, and a baseball episode second. I never in a million years thought I’d get all the classic Simpsons episodes on Disney+, but here we are.
TA: Same. I guess that naturally brings us to the next question: Who is England's greatest prime minister, Lord Palmerston, or Pitt the Elder?
RP: Gotta go with Wade Boggs on that one, Pitt the Elder.
TA: Agreed. Okay, you're the only fellow millennial I know who's passionate about major league baseball. I wrote an article about how the new baseball rules, including the pitch clock would revolutionize the game, and I wanted to check in with you and see what your thoughts are about the new rules so far?
RP: I love ‘em.
TA: Me too.
RP: I had some concerns about it going in, mostly from the player's perspective. Would having less time between pitches lead to more injuries for pitchers? Would players be able to adjust? How fast is too fast?
So far, most people in the game love it, including players. It cuts out a lot of dead time that's been growing in the game over the last few decades. As pitchers start throwing harder, they want more time to build up their stamina between pitches, so they take their time on the mound, then hitters get used to that routine, etc etc. They needed to do something about it at some point.
Games are down 30 minutes on average, which is huge! I've had to adjust my own "baseball clock" as a viewer, but I'm happy to do so. Before I could walk away from a game for 20 minutes and not feel like I missed anything, but now I could miss several innings and key plays. It keeps people's attention on the game in an era of wandering viewer attention.
Besides the pitch clock, the other rules have helped increase offense and stolen bases and "game action," but the pitch clock has been the biggest change by far. And I'm all for it.
Even if several of my Padres have complained about it already (Machado, Soto, Snell).
TA: Haha, I have Padres questions for you in a second.
But just curious if you think the general vibe of baseball is different now. Do you feel like the hitter/pitcher drama is still as intense as it used to be? I remember watching Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías during the title run in 2020, it felt like a stand-off in a film every time he went to pitch. Just checking to see if old-school baseball fans feel like any of the drama is sped up too much?
Might be hard to know for sure until the World Series starts.
RP: That has definitely come up among fans. Some people have proposed turning off the pitch clock in the 9th inning, to let that drama unfold. Some have suggested increasing the default timer to 20 seconds instead of 15 when there are no runners on base.
One example came in the World Baseball Classic this year when Ohtani faced Trout in the final inning of the championship game. Some pointed out that that drama would've been shortened considerably if there was a pitch clock.
TA: Oh, you mean the two best players in baseball who are somehow on the same team and they've somehow never won a playoff series?
I'm not sure if that's true, but I'm pretty sure it's true.
RP: My thought is that those moments will be dramatic no matter how much time there is between pitches. In the few "high stakes" at bats I've watched so far, I still felt like the drama and tension was there even with the pitch clock.
Oh yes, those guys!
It is 100% true. Mike Trout has won 1 playoff game as an Angel. Ohtani hasn't played in a single playoff game as an Angel.
And because of that, he'll likely be playing for another team next year.
TA: It would be like if Nikola Jokic and Giannis were on the same team in the NBA.
That's a good segue.
RP: Sure! Yes!
TA: How much of your actual money would you pay to get Ohtani on the Padres next season?
RP: I’d chip in $5.
TA: Haha, okay, so not THAT much.
RP: Only because I know my owner could afford it :)
TA: I would pay $500 if it meant Jokic would come to the Lakers. And I barely have more than $500 in my bank account.
It's different in baseball though with no salary cap! The sky's the limit for owners to spend, so they should just do it! Any of them could afford Ohtani!
TA: I guess a better question would be what would be your reaction upon reading the tweet that Ohtani is signing a long-term deal with the Padres?
RP: I mean, if they were like "we need every fan to pay $100 so we can afford Ohtani" I would absolutely do my part.
TA: That answers my question. "Very excited" is the answer.
RP: The same reaction I have with any big trade/signing they make: OMG YESSS followed by all the ways it could go wrong and if we overpaid and if he's going to age well and how long will he remain a two-way player and so on.
Transactions are so fun and exciting but they stress me out lol.
TA: Okay, so Padres are in the inner-circle of true title contenders this year, right? Give me where your head is at as a Padres fan this far through the season.
RP: On paper, yes.
Even though they're still over .500 the Padres have definitely underperformed so far. Many of the big contending teams have as well (Yankees, Mets, Cardinals), but that's no excuse. They've remained pretty healthy so we can't blame injuries. It's mostly just been really slow starts from two of their biggest hitters, Manny Machado and Juan Soto, plus some concerns in their bullpen. It hasn't been the "coming out party" I was hoping would start in 2023, but it's a long season, as they say.
This is legit the best team the Padres have ever had, which isn't saying much, but you would hope for a better start to the season than this if you have expectations like that.
TA: Who’s your MVP for the Padres so far?
RP: I'm not freaking out yet, and Juan Soto is coming out of the slump that basically started the day he became a Padre, but I'm not necessarily in a happy place right now.
MVP would be Xander Bogaerts, easily.
TA: Haha, WHO??? I’ve never heard of him.
RP: He was their big free agent signing this year, signed to an 11-year deal after playing for 10 years in Boston.
He's their shortstop!
He was a pretty big deal in Boston but they short-changed him in the offseason with a lousy contract offer, and he jumped over to San Diego.
TA: Oh nice! An 11-year deal is nuts. I hope he's not already in his 30's…
RP: He's been totally worth the money.
He is 30 right now I think. Or 31.
It's a long contract for sure, but that's been a storyline in MLB lately. Teams going for long-term deals to keep the annual average value down, to stay under the luxury tax.
The last 3-4 years of the contract will be ugly, but teams are making that trade-off!
Especially the Padres.
TA: So if you were to pick a World Series champion thus far in the season, who would get your pick?
RP: As a prediction? Or, like, who’s been the best team so far?
RP: Ah. That's tough! A lot of the big contenders going into the season have underperformed, like I said earlier. The defending champ Astros might be the most complete team but they're just one game over .500! The Rays have been the best team so far, but I'm skeptical they can keep it up. The Padres were picked by several experts to win it all, so I would have to stick with them, but if I had to pick a non-Padres team I'd go with the Astros or Braves. The Braves have looked like a championship team already, and the NL East might not be as tough as we all thought.
TA: Ugh, the Astros. Is it safe to say they're the most hated team in baseball still?
RP: Probably, but even then I think most fans are starting to move on from the 2017 scandal, especially after they won the World Series again last year in a (theoretically) legitimate fashion. And as more stuff comes out about other teams stealing signs and playing fast and loose with the rules (looking squarely at the Dodgers).
But yeah, the Astros still get booed and probably will for a long time. They're easily a top ten team in any power rankings.
TA: How have you been watching the games?
RP: Yeah, since I’m a Padres fan living in Utah, I’ve been using MLB.TV to watch almost all the games. When we have nationally-televised games on ESPN or FOX Sports, I use fuboTV. The only thing that sucks about MLB.TV is that I can’t stream games against the Rockies or the Diamondbacks. I hate blackout rules.
TA: Same, as a Lakers fan living in Utah, I always use NBA League Pass, at least until the Lakers play the hated Jazz.
RP: So have the new rules finally made you a fan of baseball?
TA: I’m not going to lie to you, my baseball fandom is still in its infant stages, but I actually watch games on my own for the first time in my life. I still don’t love how many games there are in a season, and I wouldn’t mind speeding things up a tiny bit even more, but baseball went from borderline unwatchable to a TV staple for me.
RP: I’m assuming you just catch the games on ESPN?
TA: Yep, and thankfully the Dodgers get tons of nationally televised games, so it’s been pretty easy to keep up with the team.
RP: Might need to take a quick break to take Lucy on a walk, she's whining at me.
TA: Hi Lucy!!! I think that’s all the questions I got today anyways, let’s reconvene around the all-star break and see how we feel about the new baseball rules.
RP: Sounds good.