MLB rules need to be improved

By Frank Gogola

Major League Baseball, a league known to be notoriously slow in embracing change, should look to college softball for rule changes that could better the game.

Two MLB rules that have always stumped me as to why they can’t be changed are the American League’s designated hitter vs. the National League’s pitcher batting rule and the rule preventing players from re-entering a game after they are taken out.

The baseball season is only three days old, but I can already faintly hear the debates raging over whether the AL and its designated hitter or the NL and its pitcher batting is better for baseball.

The designated hitter vs. pitcher batting situation is an ongoing debate that I think could be resolved by not eliminating either. MLB should consider the softball format that essentially calls for a designated hitter, a pitcher batting and a designated fielder.

Softball head coach Christina Sutcliffe said her problem with this change is baseball teams can use five or six pitchers in an inning, which almost never happens in softball. And if the pitcher’s batting spot comes up in the next half inning and that relief pitcher is an awful batter, it’s almost certainly an out unless a pinch hitter is used, which means the pitcher can’t re-take the mound.

“It could work in baseball,” Sutcliffe said. “But I don’t think it should [be implemented] because of that factor.”

A second rule that MLB should consider would not only help solve the pitcher-being-pulled-because-he-can’t-hit scenario but also seems like common sense to me is allowing players to re-enter a game.

In MLB, once a player leaves the game he is considered ineligible for the remainder of the contest. MLB is the only one of the four major professional sports in the United States — MLB, National Basketball Association, National Football League and National Hockey League — to not allow players to re-enter a game if they are substituted out once.

“Yeah, I don’t get that rule,” Sutcliffe said. “I honestly don’t know why baseball doesn’t allow [re-entry].”

In softball, a starting player can exit the game and is allowed to re-enter the game once. A bench player can enter the game at any point but isn’t allowed to re-enter if he is substituted out.

MLB doesn’t have to follow the softball version of this rule down to the letter, but it should consider allowing the re-entry of players. Every sport and every team has its athletes who are specialists in one area or who are much better on one side of the ball than the other; forcing them to sit out the remainder of a game if they are utilized in one instance for what they do best just doesn’t make any sense.