Baseball is our best game, with the richest history and the most intricate strategies. It is also often our slowest game -- a fusillade of second strike foul balls sure slows things down, as does endless calls for time from the batter's box, and so too those innumerable consultations between catcher and pitcher at the mound.
Ergo improving pace of play, as current MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wishes to do, makes sense. For better and worse, we now live in a frenetic society of people glued to their phones even when nothing at all is happening. The stately, steady, slow pace of baseball is not as attuned to our times. This means that Manfred has to be concerned about audience size. If passionate baseball fans are too purist, refusing to allow for any changes (or at the least fighting every proposed changed tooth and nail), we could end up just watching the games ourselves as the vast majority of people tune out. This is enough of a concern that, just today, many Times sports journalists offered their advice about how to improve pace of play.
And yet, and yet...I do not support the recent decision to no longer require four pitched balls for every intentional walk. Now the manager can simply signal for the intentional walk, and the hitter trots on down to first base. This does have the appeal of less strain on the pitcher's arm, which perhaps would mean fewer Tommy John surgeries down the line. But the trouble here is that there is always a possibility of a wild pitch in the intentional walk scenario, which would affect the state of play on the field. A flubbed intentional walk could be the occasion for high drama, which is why things should remain as they are now.
This leads to a general principle: MLB should improve pace of play by cutting back on activities that do not affect live action on the field. Limit the number of pitcher-catcher consultations. Only allow hitters to call time twice during an at-bat, not an infinite number of times. And so forth. I am certain that fans will quibble with these ideas, finding somewhere in history where the 10th pitcher-catcher consultation of an inning made a huge difference. OK. There are trade-offs in all decisions. I'll stand by these ideas, and anything else that trims at the arcana of baseball without affecting its live action in any appreciable way.