Cubs’ Opening Day Makes History, Shows MLB’s New Rules


Fans and players stand for anthem at Wrigley on Opening Day.

Nick Palazzolo, Staff Reporter

Major League Baseball over the last decade has been failing to reach the younger audiences to help grow their sport. The chief complaint was that baseball games are too long. In 2022, the average time of an MLB game was 3 hours and 6 minutes. Many casual fans did not entertain watching MLB baseball games because they were time-consuming and lacked game action. So MLB took a gamble and made drastic rule changes.

On Sept.22, the League Office announced that MLB would implement three rule changes for the 2023 season: Pitch Clock, Defensive Shift Restriction, and bigger base sizes.

 I ventured to Wrigley Field with 36,054 of my closest friends for Opening Day to find what effects, if any, these changes would have. 

Pitch Clock 

Fans complained that an average baseball game was too long, sand MLB found a way to get rid of the “dead time” or “non-action” in the games. How? By implementing a pitch clock. Pitchers have 15 seconds to start to pitch the ball with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners on base. 

 If the pitcher fails to start the delivery before the pitch clock hits 0 seconds, the penalty is a ball added to the count for the batter. Pitchers also are only allowed two disengagements (stepping off the rubber or picking off to a base) per batter. The hitter meanwhile  must be in the batter’s box “ready” to hit with at least 8 seconds left on the clock or will be penalized with a strike added to the count. The batter also is only allowed one “timeout” per plate appearance. 


The game moves faster. The time of the game between the Brewers and Cubs on Opening Day was 2 hours and 21 minutes, down about 45 minutes from the previous year’s average. As a fan, with less “dead time,” you need to strategize the best time to use the restroom and grab a snack or a beverage. 

I went to the restroom in the middle of the 3rd inning and was gone for about five minutes, I missed the bottom of the inning because it moved so fast. Not only must players adapt to the new rules but so do fans. Never did I think I would have to strategize the best time to get another hot dog or beverage to avoid missing significant parts of the game. There was only one pitch violation in the game between Brewers and Cubs on Opening Day. Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman in the top half of the 3rd inning failed to deliver a pitch to Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich in the 20 seconds with a runner on second base. I thus witnessed the first pitch clock violation in MLB history.

Defensive Shift Restriction

With the use of modern technology, analytical data has becoming crucial to the modern game. Teams now have data on what every hitter does in every situation and in every possible scenario you can imagine. All that data gives the defense an advantage of where to strategically place defenders. MLB thus implemented restrictions to how extreme teams can go.  Teams are only allowed to have two infielders on each side of second base. Infielders also must have both feet on the infield dirt when the pitcher is on the pitching rubber.

A set of restrictions will return the game to a more traditional aesthetic by governing defensive shifts, with the goals of encouraging more balls in play, giving players more opportunities to showcase their athleticism,” MLB said in a press release. 


The baseball coach in me hates the shift restriction because I believe in using every possible advantage you can get your hands on. However, I love it from a fan’s perspective. With batting average on the decline over the last decade, the rationale behind this change is to create more offensive production, From my perch at Wrigley, it was more aesthetically pleasing to the baseball purist in me. The MLB game looks more like the game most players grew up playing at parks or in their backyards. 

Bigger Bases

MLB also put bigger bases on the field. A base went from a 15- inch square to an 18-inch square, or as many people put it, placing pizza boxes out there instead of bases. 


The bases look the same aesthetically, but the rationale is to promote more stolen bases and reduce the injury risk for players. For the  Brewers and Cubs on Opening Day, there were no stolen-base attempts. Over the first four days of games of the regular season, MLB teams have attempted 84 steals, up from 43 attempts in 2022, according to ESPN Stats and Info. 

“Bigger bases will reduce the distance between first and second and between second and third base by 4.5”, thereby encouraging offensive Clubs to attempt to steal bases more frequently and generally to be more aggressive on the basepaths,” MLB said.

The misconception that baseball consumers are getting less baseball is incorrect. The game is still 9 innings and still 54 total outs (27 per team). MLB is just eliminating the “dead time to make the time between actions quicker and the time to play nine innings shorter. These changes promote a faster pace of play and a healthy product for consumers. Nobody is “losing” baseball, MLB just eliminated unnecessary time. These changes are exactly what baseball needs and at exactly the time it needs them. Baseball has adapted. It’s now time for fans to give it a chance.