Baseball may not get credit for being the fastest to evolve among the big sports like football, basketball or ice hockey.
Yet, there have been plenty of changes over the decades. Maybe not to the liking of today's rapidly need-to-know-everything-as-soon-as-possible population, but changes nonetheless.
Which brings me to the Atlantic League and the new pace-of-game rules that are being discussed to speed up contests in an effort to get them to be completed in an average time of under three hours. There are some aspects of the rules I'm not in favor of, like the 90-second-between-innings rule, which might cut off a pitcher's eight warm-up tosses before a half-inning, which could lead to injury.
"We just decided after looking at it, it's a history problem. It's not only an Atlantic League problem," Atlantic League chairman Peter Kirk said last week. "How do we shorten the game? As much as we love baseball, the average fan is more attuned to a little less dead time and more action taking place."
Another worry I have with these rules will be those who are enforcing them. Joe Klein, the league executive director who is responsible for overseeing umpiring, said all but three umpires are gone from last year's staff. Turnover, he says, is unusually high from one season to the next.
Get an umpire who wants to put on a show and enforce every rule and you'll get a game that might last well over three hours thanks to the ensuing arguments from players and coaches that will delay the game.
Beer: In addition to pace-of-game rules, the league is also considering banning alcohol from the clubhouse.
While that sounds newsworthy, consider that more than half the teams in Major League Baseball already have that policy in place. Plus, I'm of the mindset that if professional players are being paid to do their job, then why shouldn't they conform to the rest of the working world?
I still have criticisms of the Atlantic League -- it could use an upgraded website, which Atlantic League CEO Frank Boulton said is coming soon, and could benefit from no longer keeping drug tests private.
For now, though, the league should at least get credit for trying to speed up games. Heck, the York Revolution Fan Fest exhibition between the Revs and a team of retired Atlantic League alumni on Saturday was completed in two hours and 35 minutes, and that game included promotions between innings, six pitching changes for each team and a combined 14 runs.
Why can't a regular season Atlantic League contest be held to the same standard?
Expansion: The league hasn't slowed in its quest to expand from eight to 12 teams (with the ultimate goal of one day having 16 teams).
Boulton said last week the league has granted conditional approval to the Loudon (Va.) Hounds and Virginia Beach. A timeline as to when to expect either team to become a reality is premature.
Kirk said the league is still looking into adding a second team in Texas to rival Sugar Land, the league's most recent expansion club. Kirk said he's also pursuing possible expansion to the Caribbean, although what he wants to do there is still being crafted.
"The kind of things that are possibilities are having a kind of feeder-league short-season," Kirk said. "You might have an off-season league that's a part of it. It might be in a division that's part of an unbalanced schedule and they take a trip to the states and come and play at Atlantic League ballparks."
Boulton is exploring the idea of creating some type of league that would have players younger than those typically found in the Atlantic League, which he says is more of a possibility since Major League Baseball cut its amateur draft from 50 rounds down to 40 rounds last year.
"What you're seeing more and more is that there are players who are first-team all-stars in their collegiate league that aren't getting drafted because they've cut back on the MLB draft," Boulton said.
"This is sort of a vehicle that might help accommodate that."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.