A controversial experimental rule floated as part of Major League Baseball and the independent Atlantic League‘s partnership might not be implemented, as doubts are being raised about a proposal to extend the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate by 24 inches.
Prior to the 2019 season, MLB and the Atlantic League announced a three-year agreement that calls for the independent circuit to effectively serve as a testing ground for various rule and equipment changes being explored by MLB. When the partnership was first announced, one of the most controversial ideas was a proposal to lengthen the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate by two feet. Initially, that change was to go into effect in the second half of the 2019 Atlantic League season, but the two sides announced in April that its implementation would be delayed to the second half of the 2020 campaign.
Since then, however, doubts have surfaced about whether MLB will ever move forward with adopting the plan. Atlantic League president Rick White reportedly expressed some doubts this summer, and the proposal has drawn its share of concerns from front office executives, players, and coaches, including that its implementation would result in pitchers avoiding the Atlantic League all together and instead joining other circuits. More from LancasterOnline:
In a phone interview in June, however, Atlantic League President Rick White said Major League Baseball had decided to push the change back for consideration at the beginning of next season.
At the Atlantic League All-Star Game in July, White said there was doubt whether Major League Baseball would decide to adopt that change at all.
Players, coaches and executives alike, from within the Atlantic League and outside of it, had expressed concern over the proposed rule.
“I think you might have seen a lot of the older guys probably not pitch here,” Sugar Land Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia said then. “I think you’d probably see a lot of them go to the American Association or Mexico or wherever, just because they’ve been doing it that way.”
During its first season, the partnership has resulted in several ideas being tested in the Atlantic League, including a circuit-wide use of Trackman automated ball-strike technology in all games beginning in the second half. Other notable rules have been experimented with during either all or a portion of this season, including one that allows batters to “steal” first base on any pitch not caught in flight, a requirement that pitchers step off the rubber when attempting a pickoff, increased base sizes from 15 inches square to 18 inches square, a three-batter minimum for pitchers, and more.
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