UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student Ramble 4/24


No one represents how the game has changed over the past few years more than Giants closer Brian Wilson, photo courtesy of Al_HikesAZ on Flickr




The game of baseball we know today is not the same game our parents grew up with, nor the same as that of their parents. The rules in baseball have been changing and evolving for over a century.

In 1880, eight balls were required for a walk, instead of today’s four. Until 1893, one side of the bat could be flat, rather than entirely round as required now. At one point there were no high or low balls, and no in-field fly rule.  Batters were credited with a hit when a runner was hit by their ball, the pitcher stood 50 feet from the batter with no mound, pitchers had to hit (until the American League created the designated hitter rule in 1973), and in one year, 1887, walks counted as hits.

Recent times continue to see changes in the sport. In 1969, the pitcher’s mound was dropped five inches, the strike zone was narrowed to the area between the batter’s armpits and tops of his knees, and the save rule was officially added to baseball. A wild card seed was added to the playoff bracket in each league in 1995, and inter-league play was added in 1997. Beginning this year, the MLB added an additional wild card seed in each league, making a total of ten playoff seeds, with a new, one-game wild card round.

If this new rule had been in place last year, the Red Sox would have clinched the fifth seed in the American League, and the Braves would have clinched in the National League. Braves manager Freddie Gonzalez joked with ESPN, “I would have taken it last year,” and Red Sox fans would probably agree.

Controversy dogs the new playoff structure, as new rules always tend to anger conservative baseball fans like me, who like to preserve the format of baseball they grew up with. David Ortiz had something to say about the new rule. He exclaimed “One game? That’s kind of crazy. You know how many things we’ve got to move around and pack for one game?” The new first round of the playoffs is going to be a cutthroat, ‘winner-moves-on, loser-goes-home’ series that will have fans on the edge of their seats.

This new playoff seed adds excitement to baseball because it gives more teams a chance at getting into the playoffs. Now, even a third place team can make the playoffs, like the 2011 Red Sox. When more teams are in the playoff race, more fans are involved, more games matter, and baseball as a whole is much more exciting.  However, the additional one-game wild card round makes the uphill trek to the World Series even steeper for the wild card seeds who not only have the additional playoff round, but have to face the first playoff seed after that.

Although there is never total agreement on any new rule in any sport, the new wild card seed encourages higher hopes for more teams, and even more disappointment, which is what sports is all about: competition. Maybe even my roommate’s beloved New York Mets will make it this year…but probably not.