MLB

MLB roundtable: Is it time for MLB to eliminate the dropped-third-strike rule?

The 2021 MLB regular season is now six weeks old and I think we’ve all settled into the daily grind that is marathon regular season baseball. The 60-game sprint was fun in its own way last year given the circumstances. Give me the full 162-game experience every day of the week though.

Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB scribes will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed the top 1-2 rotation punches in baseball. This week we’re going to debate the rule that prevented John Means from throwing a perfect game.

Should MLB eliminate the dropped-third-strike rule?

Katherine Acquavella: It’s certainly one of Major League Baseball’s stranger rules, but no, I don’t think the league should eliminate the dropped-third-strike rule. At this point, it’s ingrained into most baseball fans’ subconscious that the rule’s existence is never questioned during routine games. Until, that is, last week’s dropped third strike that ultimately kept John Means from achieving a perfect game, which would have been just the 24th in MLB history. It has to be agonizing knowing that a strikeout is what ruined the perfect game, but that is precisely what makes perfect games in baseball so special. To put it in layman’s terms, the pitcher has to execute perfect pitching and the catcher has to execute perfect catching. I’m fine with the rule continuing to stick around. Also, when you consider that the league experimented with a similar (although far more bizarre) iteration of this rule at the Atlantic League, it doesn’t exactly seem like they’re heading anywhere near toward an elimination anyways. 

R.J. Anderson: Nah. The rule has been around forever, and I would liken its quirkiness to the infield fly rule. Besides, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with requiring a clean defensive play to complete the transaction, nor do I have an issue with a perfect game being derailed by … well, imperfection. If John Means had lost his perfecto because his second baseman booted a grounder, we wouldn’t be asking if we should change the error rules, right?

Matt Snyder: When I was coaching Little League, I never thought it was a necessary rule. In fact, I thought it was unreasonable for much of the time given the ages and skill sets involved. I never even blinked about it when I was coaching a travel team of teens. It felt like we needed to make those plays. This is Major League Baseball. It’s reasonable to conclude that an out needs to be cleanly nestled into a glove. There are exceptions, of course, but I don’t see why we need another one here. Every single time a runner reaches due to this rule, it’s the fault of the pitcher, the catcher or both. Therefore, leave it alone. 

Dayn Perry: I don’t see any reason to eliminate it. These are major leaguers, and cleanly receiving a third strike or smothering it and making a throw to first isn’t too burdensome. I also like it as a rules oddity that occasionally introduces some chaos into the game. As for the John Means no-hitter, well, the bar should indeed be ridiculously high for something called a “perfect game.” That’s certainly not reason enough to do away with the dropped-third-strike rule. 

Mike Axisa: Nope. Catching the ball is not too much to ask. And what’s even the upside of eliminating the rule? More strikeouts (because pitchers will be more comfortable bouncing breaking balls) and less action on the bases? Baseball already has a problem with too many strikeouts and too little action, so I’m not sure what problem we’re solving. The infield fly rule is necessary to protect baserunners against force outs in an impossible situation and I don’t see it as comparable to the dropped third strike rule. Eliminate this rule and baseball gets a little more boring.



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