Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have announced several rule changes for the upcoming 2017 MLB season. After an off-season of negotiations between the two parties, they seem to have settled on a few minor changes.

Intentional Walk Rule Change

The most discussed rule change is that intentional walks are no longer going to require four pitches; teams can simply signal for an Intentional Walk and the batter will be granted first base immediately. Youth league teams use this rule throughout the country, so fans don't seem to have too much anger toward the change.

One thing that will be missed, however, are plays like this one:

Admittedly plays like that are so few and far between that the rule change is not going to make any kind of real difference for Major League Baseball games. Getting the boring four-pitch intentional walk out of the game does rid the game of a very dull moment. Let's just be clear this is not going to "speed up the game" as some have suggested, as an intentional walk takes about 25 seconds and is a very rare play over the course of an MLB season.

Other MLB Rule Changes

Along with the intentional walk rule change, the MLB and the MLBPA agreed to the following:

  • Managers now have a 30-second time limit to challenge a call. This gives managers a specific amount of time, as the rules wording was vague last season.
  • If teams have exhausted their challenges, umpires will now review close plays beginning in the 8th inning, rather than the 7th inning. Think of this is as the final two minutes in a football game.
  • Replay reviews should take no longer than 2 minutes.
  • Markers on the field that could create a reference system for the fielder are prohibited.
  • Very minor changes to base coach positioning and balk enforcement.

At one point earlier this offseason, it appeared that Major League Baseball and the Players' Association would have trouble finding common ground on any of the proposed rule changes. Considering how minor most of these changes were, it's not surprising the two parties were capable of finding common ground. It bodes well for the future of the game.