New rule changes for the 2007 season

In the first rule changes since 1996! Glory be!

There are large changes to scoring rules, including how plays are defined.

Ball doctoring:
- implemented a rule that a position player who scuffs or defaces a ball is ejected and receives an automatic 10-game suspension
- aaand, as the story puts it

The same Rule 3.02 now specifically prohibits placing “soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sandpaper, emery paper or other foreign substance” on the ball. The rule’s penalty phase dictates, “The umpire shall demand the ball and remove the offender from the game. In addition, the offender shall be suspended automatically for 10 games.”

This is particularly interesting. I see this as a reaction to the Kenny Rogers World Series incident, where Rogers appeared to have something on his hand during the first inning.

Moreover, though, I wonder if there’s a perception within baseball that there’s a lot more of this going on than we know out in the general public. Baseball hasn’t changed the rules that attempt to prevent ball doctoring in ages. Why now? While position players have traditionally been accomplices in scuffing or doctoring, was there some reason that the rules committee needed to make a change? Doctoring on the whole is way down from its heyday — there isn’t any pitcher operating today for whom an illegal pitch is a primary part of their arsenal.

There are some “pace” rules, which will almost certainly be ignored
- the totally unenforced “time to deliver a pitch” when no one’s on base is now only 12 seconds. Penalty is a called ball.
- batters are supposed to keep at least one foot in the box the whole at bat, with certain exceptions

Baseball’s tried this before, and it doesn’t work. Umpires don’t want to time the game with a stopwatch, and they don’t want to affect the game outcome over things like this. How many times did Steve Trachsel ever get a ball called for violating the 20-second rule?

What else…
- the suspension rules have changed to almost entirely eliminate ties
- on a dropped third strike, if the batter leaves the dirt area around home plate, they’re out – the catcher doesn’t have to chase them,
- players can’t run into the dugout to catch a foul
- the rules around suspended games changes, so there almost can’t be a tie anymore.

I’m disappointed by the changes. Baseball cracked the rules open to fix some things and didn’t change, for instance, the horrible rules around rainouts. That whole section’s going to ruin a post-season game or a pennant race eventually, and baseball’s ignoring it until they’re forced to confront the situation.

It’s weird that baseball announced this with a tiny story late on Friday, attempting to avoid the news cycle (this is why politicians release all their unflattering news on Fridays – by Monday it’s stale and the press doesn’t cover it). These are substantial changes, especially to the way things like sacrifice bunts are scored, and deserve notice and discussion.


#1 The Ancient Mariner on 02.17.07 at 3:57 pm

on a dropped third strike, if the batter leaves the dirt area around home plate, they’re out – the catcher doesn’t have to chase them

So, in other words, there’s no longer the opportunity to take first if the catcher drops strike three — you’re out regardless? Is that the deal here?

#2 DMZ on 02.17.07 at 8:13 pm

I should have been clearer – it doesn’t change a batter’s ability to run to first. It only declares them out if they leave towards the dugout, removing the need for the catcher to tag them out or throw to first.