Sportspeak: The end of some baseball rules and the Big 12 too

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
Sportspeak: Mark Schnabel

First, baseball.

Professional baseball underwent quite a few changes in the last year — rule changes, changes in the minor-league system.

The MLB wants to reverse two of the recent rule changes — seven-inning games for doubleheaders and putting runners at second base to start extra innings.

The first rule had limited impact. While it has been done at the minor-league and college level for decades, true doubleheaders are rare in the Major Leagues.

Doubleheaders are almost only played after a previous rain out and usually with an early afternoon game and a regularly-scheduled night game with the stadium cleared between games. Owners want that extra revenue.

There was a time when “Let’s play two” was a rallying cry, and fans got two games for one ticket, those days are over.

Seven-inning doubleheaders are good for pitching staffs. If the pitching for both sides is good, a seven-inning game can get done in 90 minutes.

The extra-inning rule was a reaction to COVID-19 restricted seasons. Let’s see if we can get these games over as quickly as possible.

The rule was a long mainstay in fast-pitch softball, but there’s a big difference between softball players and Major League Baseball players — softball players have the ability to bunt. MLB players, not so much.

That reduced the effectiveness for the rule.

With most COVID restrictions lifted, there’s no reason to hurry up an extra-inning game (a team approaching a travel day may have a flight to catch, but otherwise no reason to rush things).

But the facts of the last rule change brings up a proposed rule change — banning the defensive shift.

In recent years, it’s been more common for a defense facing a deficient hitter to move an infielder to one-side of the field or the other.

If a right hander can’t hit well, you move the second baseman to the shortstop side and move the shortstop even further to the left. If a lefty can’t hit well, you move the shortstop to the right of second base.

There are those who want to ban this.

Folks, you don’t need to ban this. If a hitter doesn’t know how to pull the ball to the opposite field, he gets what he deserves.

The best way to beat the shift — (excuse me for shouting) LEARN TO BUNT!

You pull your second baseman or shortstop, watch me put the ball where they ain’t.

No need to change rules and problem solved.

While I understand what MLB did to the minors — it was all about money and control. They cut about 60 players per organization, each player making about $200 to $500 a week so they can offer more to their top-level and mid-level MLB players. They also save by having two to three fewer minor-league managers and coaches per organization, each making $50,000 or less a year so more money can go to top-level and mid-level MLB players.

But did they have to get rid of the league names?

We don’t have the International League (founded in 1884), we have the Triple-A East. We don’t have the Pacific Coast League (founded in 1903). We have the Triple-A West.

The Texas League (founded in 1888), of which the Wichita Wind Surge would have played, became the Double-A Central.

Yes, MLB has complete control, but couldn’t you keep the names?

While I had more to say about baseball, more pressing things came up — like the possible break-up of the Big 12.

Every few years or so, rumors fly that Texas is going to bolt from the Big 12.

This time, it might be a little more than rumor and it might be a little more serious. According to one report, as soon as Monday.

First, Oklahoma may go with them. Second, Texas may actually be willing to shut down the Longhorn Network, which has kept the school tied to the Big 12.

Whether this would end the Big 12, who knows? Probably. At least as a Power 5 conference.

What’s left may be scrambling for new homes, or will have to work with a Big 12 that will look more like a Mountain West or American Athletic Conference – they will have some decent teams, but they won't be at the grown-up table when the big decisions are made.

Even Kansas is in trouble over this. Yes, we all know how good KU basketball is, but KU’s only saving grace is being in the Kansas City metro market. Football rules the roost in college sports today and KU football has been in disarray for several decades.

K-State has been decent in football, but in such a small market with NIL money flying so fast and furious, the Cats may not be able to keep up. Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor are in the same boat.

Market size matters in this New World Order.

TCU’s in the DFW Metromess, so they have a shot at staying in the big time. Texas Tech is in the middle of nowhere, but would look attractive to a Pac 12 that will also try and stay relevant, but still has the SoCal and Bay Area markets to help rebuild it.

West Virginia would probably try for the ACC or SEC. The Big 10 has rebuffed them in the past for academic reasons.

There may be some ways for the Big 12 to stay alive — Cincinnati, Memphis, Brigham Young, Southern Methodist, Boise State and Houston would all be good candidates to try and keep the ship from sinking. Some of those schools could keep West Virginia in.

Texas was the reason Texas A&M left the Big 12. A&M may not let Texas bully them again and try to jump to the Pac 12 or somewhere else.

Some other schools that may aspire to Power 5 status that would view a new Big 12 favorably include Wyoming, Colorado State, New Mexico and New Mexico State.

Mark Schnabel is the Kansan sports editor and can be reached at mschnabel@thekansan.com