Red Sox reliever Matt Strahm called out Rob Manfred for MLB’s new rules
A new year will once again bring new rules to Major League Baseball, and the changes are quite unwelcome to several players.
After MLB announced Friday that they’d implement a pitch timer, larger bases, and shift restrictions in 2023, Boston Red Sox reliever Matt Strahm was among the most vocal active players voicing their displeasure, not only with the changes but how and why they come about.
In a new episode of Audacy’s Bradfo Show, the passionate southpaw delved into his many issues with the new MLB rules. Anyone who’s seen him shut down an opposing lineup and walk off the field screaming won’t be surprised to read that his opinions on the new rules are quite fiery.
Strahm’s first reason for disfavor is that as someone who appreciates the languid pace of the game, he finds the pitch timer “unnecessary:”
"“I think [pitch timers] unnecessary. They talk about the 26 minutes it’s saved in minor league baseball games, but what they don’t talk about is how many pitchers in between every inning are waiting for the extra 35 seconds that Major League Baseball has put in between innings for ad purposes. They talk about all this wanting to speed the game up. The one beautiful thing about baseball, to me, is there’s never been a clock in the game.”"
He then revealed that players were not consulted on the rule changes, steamrolled by the people in charge, who do not actually have to play under the conditions they set forth. It wouldn’t be the first time MLB ignored the input of their own employees; far from it, in fact:
"“It’s frustrating ‘cause I would be willing to bet 75-80% of players were willing to talk pitch clock or have a pitch clock but the fact that they didn’t listen to any input from us players on how to perfect the pitch clock and they just kind of rolled with what they had down in Triple-A and said here it is, we’re going to go with it is kind of frustrating. But it’s been their track record to just do what they want and disregard the players’ inputs. So it’s not totally surprising but again it’s something that I don’t think was very – it wasn’t needed and it’s here and it is what it is.I think they did an absolutely poor job of talking to the players to discuss what is right and what is wrong and, in my opinion, they put the hitters behind the eight ball here with the one timeout per at-bat and it’s going to create a mess… But again, they want to dictate the rules. I’ll play by the rules but I’m going to dominate your rules.”"
The 30-year-old, who pitched for the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres before coming to Boston this year, also questioned whether MLB would actually enforce these new rules, specifically mentioning past precedent that would suggest laxity. He also hinted at ongoing cheating:
"“While the rules may be in place, it’s going to be up to the league to enforce them. This is a league that turned a blind eye to steroids for many years and may currently be doing the same on the other side of the ball.”"
Finally, in the same vein, Strahm called out the commissioner by name:
"“You talk about having the balls to enforce it. We still got pitchers cheating left and right in this league and Manfred doesn’t give a s–t to turn that rock over. It’s been proven with all the analytics and the data we have of what a spin rate of a fastball can humanly possibly be and it’s crazy that there are still people above that and they turn an eye to it.It’s his reputation on the line of how he wants to be remembered in the game and how he ran this game and so far, in my opinion, it hasn’t been going good and we’ll see how these rule changes affect it. I think it’s makeup over a black eye. It’s not changing anything. It’s still there but it is what it is.I don’t know what his motivation behind it is but from the outside looking in it does look money-driven. At the same time, you look at it as money-driven then why is baseball not more available to the world to spread it to make more money,” he said. “I really don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know why they’re so fixated on these games being under three-and-a-half hours or under three hours or whatever the hell they want it to be.They’ve done a very poor job at getting the clubhouse’s opinion or at least listening to it. They did send people around and it was very well voiced that … the rule down in Triple-A is not the rule that needs to be here in the big leagues,” he said. “The pitch clock, guys were open to it with some alterations, but they didn’t even take into account that. They just did what they wanted, kind of like they’ve been doing for the last eight to 10 years.It just seems real petty. I don’t know what they’re trying to do with this game,” he said. “This game has been around for hundreds of years and people have loved this game for so long and now to sit here and change it with all these little nitpicking things, it’s frustrating.My take from the whole thing is it’s a joke. From the way it’s going, they’re doing a pretty good job of killing the sport.”"
It’s quite bold of Strahm, but if the baseball world has learned anything this year, it’s that players will no longer be silenced by the league. Players spoke out throughout the 99-day lockout, and it proved advantageous in disproving MLB’s propaganda and ending the stand-off with a somewhat-improved Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Likewise, Strahm is far from the only person unhappy with the next slew of changes. NESN shared a comical video of Strahm’s teammate Rich Hill replacing bases. Sox legend Fred Lynn joked about the pitch timer on Friday, but he’s also given lengthy interviews on how banning the shift caters to hitters, rather than forcing them to adjust and improve.
Unfortunately, the changes are coming whether Strahm likes them or not. But clearly, a more welcome change would be for MLB to think of what their own players want out of the game they themselves play.