Theo Epstein has held many titles over the years and he looks to add one more: in-studio analyst.
The former World Series-winning (Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs) executive will serve as a guest in-studio analyst with MLB Network on “MLB Tonight,” in a new special: “What’s New in 2023,” which will focus on the new rules being implemented in the upcoming season.
Epstein, who now works as a consultant with Major League Baseball, has said before these new regulations will make the game of baseball more exciting.
Epstein will highlight the newly featured pitch timer, defensive shift restrictions and bigger bases. All of which is a part of the transitioning sport.
“Credit to the commissioner, the owners, the players who all got involved, worked on these new rules, tested them out over 8,000 minor-league games, threw out the ones that didn’t work, improve the ones that did work, and now we’re excited to have these new rules that’ll make the game better for the fans,” Epstein said in a preview of the special obtained by Awful Announcing. “The game is about the players, and the rules will put the players in the center of the action, and it’s for the fans, and we think it’ll be an overall better product for the fans to enjoy.”
The rules in question will have the pitchers under a timer. Those on the mound will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base.
The @MLBNetwork crew on the pitch timer regulations and how the rule has been implemented: pic.twitter.com/jlHBsHCCvw
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 21, 2022
This particular rule appeared to be seamless in the minors which meant major-league players were exposed to the shortened time and most said they got used to it as time went on.
So far, veteran hitter Matt Carpenter said while at the beginning, he wasn’t a fan of the pitch clock, especially from a guy who’s known for taking his time in the box. Later on, he embraced it during his time playing in Triple-A last season.
“Initially, I hated [the pitch timer],” Carpenter told MLB.com, “I grew into liking it a lot — to the point where I would fully endorse it in the Major League game … The big selling point is that the pace of the game is way better. It just is.”
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said he could use the shorter time limit as an advantage, in addition to the PitchCom system that was approved heading into the 2022 season.
With this, the league hopes to create more momentum as the game proceeds and a possibility of shaving up to 25 minutes off the game.
“It reminds us of the game we all grew up loving,” Epstein said.
For the shift, the moment a pitch is thrown, all infielders (four of them) will be required to be positioned on the infield dirt or infield grass should a stadium require it. Additionally, two infielders must be on either side of the base.
This hopes to create more base hits for hitters while those who are defensive nerds (me) can hope for more web-gem plays out in the field.
“Fans grew up knowing what a hit looks like off that bat and that changed suddenly over the last decade so to bring that back I think will restore a little bit of a comfort zone for a lot of our fans,” Epstein said.
Minnesota Twins outfielder Joey Gallo will be very happy about the new shift rules, but that means we no longer get to witness this:
The @astros shift on Joey Gallo is ridiculous pic.twitter.com/XaPe8TTlVs
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) May 12, 2018
The bigger bases being implemented (increased from 15 inches to 18 inches) are in order to reduce injury while simultaneously increasing stolen base attempts. Hence, fans are more entertained.
MLB and MLBPA have agreed to make the bases bigger in 2023. Heres what that looks like.
It was tested in the minors. pic.twitter.com/OBgS8s4Fku
— ????? ?????? (@VinnyScoops) March 7, 2022
Epstein reiterates how much the league has the fans’ interests in mind when it comes to these new changes. It’s all about the progression of the sport while staying true to what fans were introduced to when they first discovered the game of baseball.
The segment will air on MLB Network on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 pm ET with appearances from Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, 14-year veteran Rajai Davis and three-time All-Star Sean Casey.