Here’s Why MLB’s New Rules Are Making Baseball’s Announcers Better, Too

A time limit might benefit every part of the game

April 4, 2023 6:00 am
Chicago's Wrigley Field Granted National Historic Landmark Status
Wrigley Field before a game in 2020.
MLB Photos via Getty Images

The majority of ink spilled on the 2023 Major League Baseball season is about the pitch clock. It’s making the sport faster in a common-sense way. For the first time in the history of America’s Pastime, time actually matters. And based on the Opening Week series, it’s going really well and most every fan is, indeed, a fan. 

Three other rule changes may be just as important: new limits in terms of defensive shift, pickoff attempts and mound visits. These changes have also sped up the game — and they’re even more easily appreciated when listening to the Chicago TV announcing booths.

The Chicago Cubs TV booth is already much, much better than the 2022 version. After being let go mid-season as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, former Cubs catcher Joe Girardi joined Jon Sciambi and Jim Deshaies in the booth for two series during the second half of the 2022 season. Girardi is back for Opening Week, and his presence is welcome. With a faster-paced game and a three-person team, the Cubs TV announcers have good reason to explain how the game is different — and they do not have time to pontificate about unrelated topics. 

Racing legend Kyle Busch was a guest of the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day, promoting the upcoming Chicago Street Race. After a quick plug for the July 1 and 2 event between innings, Deshaies tied these upcoming NASCAR races to the drag racing he hears outside his downtown high rise. It was not entertaining. It’s a bad stereotype that encourages a bias against urban living. But thanks to the new rules, we didn’t have to listen to an even more extensive discussion re: the pros and cons of fast cars in the big city. An at-bat that would have been multiple minutes in previous seasons was over in under a minute. Girardi chimed in about how the defensive shift rule was going to alter the current at-bat. And it did! Similar to when Tony Romo predicts a play, it was a good reminder that past players have insight many announcers don’t. 

This wasn’t a one-game fluke. 

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In the top of the second inning of the Cubs-Brewers game on Saturday, the booth began to talk about Deshaies’s iPad falling out of the booth and into the crowd before the game. (It was a windy day.) The iPad was returned to the booth without a scratch. Before the guys could continue to express their amazement, Justin Steele struck out Rowdy Tellez (best name in baseball?). Any other season, we would have gotten at least another few minutes about the fallen iPad, miraculously unharmed.

Later in the game, Sciambi explained when the pitch clock starts and the thought process behind a team taking a mound visit in order to help a pitcher catch his breath. Girardi explained how he’d use the mound visit as both a former catcher and a former manager. More actual insight from an expert! Girardi won’t be in the booth for every Cubs series, but here’s hoping he’ll be utilized more in 2023.

The rule changes are also improving the White Sox booth. Already one of the best duos in announcing, the pairing of Jason Benetti (one of 10 finalists for the National Sports Media Association’s National Sportscaster of the Year Award in 2022) and Steve Stone is even better in 2023. During the Friday, March 31, Astros-White Sox game, Stone was able to also give some insight on mound visits. His 40 years of broadcast experience don’t keep him stuck in the past. Instead, he’s able to give the same type of insight as Girardi is giving on Cubs’ broadcasts, using an encyclopedic knowledge of the game and players to let the viewer know how defensive shifts are affecting this year’s game, and how last year’s stats may no longer be as valuable. When the inning ended in the midst of Stone’s explanation, I was left wanting to learn more when a commercial aired. When’s the last time that happened? Has that ever happened?

Thanks to these new rules, the game is shorter — announcers have less time to pontificate. Whether it’s a three- or two-person booth, home or away, Chicago baseball sounds better this season. Let’s hope either club can be as good as their announcing team. 

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