No two baseball games are the same. There is an old adage that you’ll see something new every time you go see the ballpark For me, at this spring training game, it was easy to determine what it would be… the new rules.
I’ve pored over the new rules that MLB introduced for the 2023 season, watched a number of games on TV, and read numerous articles and tweet threads on how these ‘threats to baseball’ may impact the game.
I have opinions on all of the rules but was ready to be open-minded when watching a game in the flesh. All I can say is sometimes, most of them don’t even make a difference to a game.
I saw a fringe/minor-league player-filled endeavour between the Guardians and the Angels, which, if I’m perfectly honest, was dull. An early solo shot from Hunter Renfroe outdid his lookalike Mike Trout (whose deep fly was caught in right) and this was probably the only relevant talking point.
But the game will go down in my memory as the day I saw a Cabbage hit a triple.
Trey Cabbage may now be my favourite minor-league player name.
I was expecting pickoffs, stolen bases, players violating the pitch clock, balks and whatever other manner of strategies and madness the new rules have supposedly added to the game. I got virtually none of them.
No stolen base attempts, no pickoffs, no balks and just two pitch clock violations. The violations were from late relievers who were in the minors with the pitch clock last year, so it’s almost inexcusable from them.
I got none of the bizarre stuff, but I did get to see a quick game of baseball. The nearly 4,000 in attendance (which was higher than one of the major league games I saw in Oakland Coliseum last May) saw a game last just two hours and 12 minutes.
It did feel like the game was constantly moving, which was good. There was no hitter adjusting and readjusting every strap on his gloves and elbow guard between each pitch; there was no pitcher taking 40 seconds to shake off the catcher multiple times. On their own, these things haven’t bothered me before, but their impact across an entire game had always felt grating.
In this format, a 1-2-3 inning can be over in a flash, and that’s not a bad thing. It might just take some time to get used to. There was only one mid-inning pitching change which probably helped with the timing as well.
The baseball wasn’t enticing, but the Tempe Diablo Stadium, the spring training home of the Angels, is beautiful. The backdrop of the hill outcrop behind left field is stunning and only slightly impacted by the fact that looking out to right field shows you the busy traffic on the I-10.
Sitting in the 20-degree sun with a pint while watching even a dull game of baseball is always enjoyable. And not just because you are miles away from all your troubles.
The crack of the bat and the sound of the catcher’s glove just calm me in a way not many other things can.
That’s just what baseball can do.
Russell Eassom is on a spring training and World Baseball Classic tour for Bat Flips & Nerds. Make sure you follow him on Twitter @REassom