Twins Daily Roundtable: Baseball in 2028
Image courtesy of Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY SportsSeth Stohs
I have no idea, but it needs to. When diehards like myself have a hard time getting through nine innings anymore, something might be wrong.
So many pitching changes. Shifting not only on every batter, but dependent on count. So many swings and misses. I know it is no longer cool to say it, but I miss the old game. The crisp pitching, batters not being so passive. There's a reason I tweet "Have I mentioned how much I love watching Eddie Rosario play baseball?
That said, I don't think they can or should eliminate shifts. I definitely don't think Jim Kaat's seven-inning game idea is a good idea. Analytics and over-thinking everything are now part of the game and that isn't going away. So I think we're just going to have to grin and bear it.
Strikeout. Walks. Home Runs. More bullpen usage. It's all here to stay, and there are some that like that, and it can be fun at times... But it will be hard to grow this game in the States with this pace of play situation as it is and getting worse.
My hope is that this great game will continue to evolve, as it has for 140-150 years to make itself better. No one wants to get rid of tradition, but something needs to happen.
In terms of the on-field product, a lot of what may happen will depend upon what happens to the actual baseball itself, in my opinion.
If MLB tries to "deaden" the ball, teams will start to value hitters who put the ball in play more often. Otherwise, things will keep escalating in the direction they're going and soon defense will become a relative afterthought due to the lack of balls put in play.
The MLB's current labor agreement with the umpires ends after next season. I think we'll see some of the framework for an automated strike zone in their next agreement. While "robo umps" would be a welcome sight, they'd also tie into the devaluation of defense. Catcher framing goes extinct if that ever happens.
What else? Expansion, probably. Universal DH, probably. Players continue to fight pace of play changes, resulting in games becoming even longer.
The 2028 NL Manager of the Year award goes to a 23-year-old rookie skipper who is a recent computer science grad from MIT. Bartolo Colon leads the league in innings that season.
The year is 2028…
Separated by two votes in the final tally, Royce Lewis narrowly takes home the American League MVP Award after beating out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Mike Trout could have won his record setting eighth MVP but he finished a distant third. The Twins have been in three straight ALCS but the 2028 season saw the club finally break-through and win the club’s fourth AL Pennant. The World Series came back to Minnesota.
While this utopian idea of the year 2028 sounds great to Twins fans, things need to change with the game. Here are some of the things I foresee happening over the next decade.
- 20 second pitch clock
- Universal designated hitter
- Relievers must face multiple batters
- Shifts will continued to be allowed
- Replay will be quicker and used more frequently
I'll let the others dwell on MLB, though I do believe we will have 32 teams and a 154 game schedule. But since the question just said "baseball," I'm going to mention the changes I see coming for minor league ball.
The current agreement between MLB and MiLB expires in 2020 and therefore no affiliation agreements have been extended beyond that year. I believe there will be some significant changes, most notably a reduction in the number of affiliations, perhaps even elimination of 1-2 entire classes of minor league ball.
Baseball currently has 3 levels of short-season ball, though few teams field teams at all 3 levels. Add 4 full-season levels and that makes 7 minor league levels in the US (plus those in Latin America). I'll predict that one level of short-season will be eliminated and it's POSSIBLE that there will no longer be two levels of Class A ball.
MLB was threatening minor league teams with contraction to get them to shore up Congressional support during the debate over minor league pay. But now that they won that battle, there's no reason to think MLB wouldn't contract anyway. Bottom line is that I believe there will be fewer minor league teams and that means roster spots for fewer minor league players.
I suspect that means a worldwide draft and/or fewer rounds in the US draft.
Given the consistent cries for the pace of play to be addressed, baseball is going to need to change one way or another. I don’t believe the issues are dire, but Rob Manfred seems set on changing the game. I do believe we’ll see electronic strike zones sooner rather than later, and that’s a good thing.
Specialization has become a large portion of the game and I don’t foresee that going away. I’m not sure what other on-field changes are in store, but a decade from now it will be fun to see Mike Trout having overtaken the last few of Babe Ruth’s numbers.
What will happen and what I’d like to see happen are probably two different things.
On the latter side, I think there needs to be a shift in the type of game they try to promote, with the recent All-Star Game being a great example of the problem I see. A new record was set for both the number of home runs (10), and strikeouts (25) by both teams (as would have the 23 K’s in nine-innings). We’re seeing a historically low amount of balls-in-play as home runs and strikeouts have been on the rise. To keep future fans into the game, this trend needs to go in the other direction in my opinion. Nobody likes seeing as much “nothing” happening in a game as there is now. Dingers are sweet, but also alter the pacing of a game negatively.
As for the former, I think the juiced ball will get fixed. I also think rules relating to shifting are going to be implemented. I do love the strategy of it on defense, while also thinking hitters should just take the damn base when it’s given to them. But for the prior reasons mentioned above, this just isn’t the game promoted or taught anymore. While this won't increase balls-in-play, it would allow more action to occur during a game instead of groundouts into the outfield.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Second Half Star
Sell, Sell, Sell?
Fixing the Offense
Romero’s Rotation Spot