By Dan Schlossberg
Not all players like the long list of rules changes ushered in by vote of a special committee dominated by Rob Manfred appointees.
Red Sox reliever Matt Strahm, a seven-year vet pitching for his third different team, has been especially outspoken.
“We still got pitchers cheating left and right in this league and Manfred doesn’t give a s--- to turn that rock over," Strahm said.
" ... It's his reputation on the line of how he wants to be remembered in the game and how he ran this game and so far, in my opinion, it hasn’t been going good, and we’ll see how these rule changes affect it. I think it’s makeup over a black eye. It’s not changing anything."
Strahm, 30, is a 6-2, 190-pound southpaw with a 16-27 mark, 3.72 ERA, and three saves entering play Thursday. He’s in his first season with the Red Sox, who have used him exclusively in relief. Strahm previously pitched for the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres in a career that started in 2016.
But stats don’t make the man as much as statements do.
“I don’t know what they’re trying to do with this game," Strahm insisted. “It just seems petty.
"... My take from the whole thing is it’s a joke. From the way it’s going, they’re doing a pretty good job of killing the sport."
Among other things, the new rules enlarge the sizes of the three bases (not home plate), limit the number of pickoff throws pitchers can make, eliminate radical defensive shifts, and impose a pitch clock that was successful in the minors as a device to speed up the pace of the game.
Designed to improve the sagging overall offense as well as cut game-time, the rules don’t address such game-delaying tactics as musical introductions for batters and relief pitchers, added between-innings commercial time, incessant replay delays, or the godawful “Manfred Man” that starts every extra inning on second base.
Like Bud Selig before him, Manfred has been an advocate of extreme change while insisting he wants to preserve the game’s rich and cherished history.
In recent years, the list of innovations have included multiple wild-cards, expanded playoffs, seven-inning games during double-headers (since lifted), and another unwelcome surprise coming next year: schedules that show every team playing all 29 opponents, though not necessarily in a “balanced” format.
The Braves, for example, will host the Yankees for three games at Truist Park but won’t come to the Bronx at all unless the teams meet in the 2023 World Series.
There are now so many games in the postseason tournament that the Fall Classic will drag into November — when the World Baseball Classic should be played. Instead, the WBC will compete for players and dollars with spring training, when teams prefer to get ready for the season to come. They won’t get that chance next spring.
Too bad there aren’t more Matt Strahms out there. But precious few want to get on the game’s black list.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Memories & Dreams, among others. E.mail him at email@example.com.