The MLB has had plenty of rule changes in the last few years. It started with the three-batter minimum for pitchers. Then it was the revamped playoff format, the extra innings ghost runner, and the universal DH. This season, they’ve added the pitch clock, banning the shift, and bigger bases. As we look into the future of MLB, there will be more and more changes made.

So, what additional rule changes does MLB need to make, and why? Here are three more rule alterations I believe MLB needs to make.


ABS Challenge System 

This is the most realistic rule change that I am suggesting, and it could be in MLB as soon as the 2024 season. MLB is currently trying out the ABS (Automatic Ball-Strike) system in Triple-A, testing two different ways of using it. On Tuesday-Thursday, the full ABS system is in place, with every pitch being called by the ABS system. On Friday-Sunday, the challenge system is in place, with the home plate umpire calling each pitch and the hitter, pitcher, and catcher all granted the right to challenge a pitch immediately after the call is made. The caveat to the system is that each team only gets three challenges per game, so you can’t challenge every borderline pitch. The version preferred by many is the challenge system, and that seems to be the much more likely version of using the ABS system in MLB.

The benefit to having the challenge system is it only takes 10-15 seconds from the time the challenge is made until the results of the challenge are determined. On television broadcasts, a graphic pops up on the screen once a challenge is made. The screen reveals the path of the pitch and shows if it does indeed cross the strike zone. It then will say something along the lines of “challenge successful” or “challenge failed.” In the stadium, it will pop up on the big screen for everyone at the game to see. It doesn’t delay the game, and it can be extremely important in reversing the bad calls made by some umpires, such as Laz Diaz and Angel Hernandez, when calling balls and strikes.

The challenge system is a happy medium between not using technology and using the full ABS system, which has been referred to as using “robot umps.” Think about a sport like tennis, that has implemented the hawk-eye system where a challenge can be made. The hawk-eye system has been received positively since its introduction in 2001, and is now used in three of the four Grand Slam events. The challenge system allows MLB to take advantage of the technology that is available, while at the same time not being reliant on it. It is the best of both worlds, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the challenge system is used in MLB games as soon as next season.


Expansion to 32 Teams

Expansion in the MLB is a topic that probably isn’t brought up enough, considering the amount of cities that are vying to bring a baseball team to their respective homes. Nashville, Orlando, Las Vegas, Montreal, Salt Lake City, Portland, Vancouver, Charlotte, and more have been viewed by fans and writers as cities that could host an MLB expansion team, with Nashville, Portland, Salt lake City, Orlando, and Las Vegas having projects underway to attract a MLB team via expansion or relocation. Plus, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that MLB would like to expand at some point. It now seems like it is not a question of if, but when there will be expansion in MLB. 

For this exercise, we will consider Las Vegas out of the running as they will most likely get the A’s due to relocation. Orlando only makes sense for relocation of the Rays, and a city like Charlotte has a gazillion minor league teams around already, so I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense, as it could take away from some minor league teams in the surrounding cities/states. Montreal or Vancouver would be interesting, but neither city is planning for a team. That leaves Nashville, Portland, and Salt Lake City. Nashville would most likely work, but the city already has a plan to build a brand new stadium for the Tennessee Titans, which may limit fund availability from the city, meaning the two expansion cities I would pick are Portland and Salt Lake City.

There should be more teams on the western side of the U.S., with five out of the eight most western teams currently residing in California. The A’s moving to Las Vegas reduces that to four out of eight, but why not add a couple teams to a region of the country where MLB representation is scant? Portland is about 180 miles away from Seattle. Salt Lake City is over 700 miles from the closest MLB team, and is still over 400 miles away from Las Vegas, where the A’s may reside by the time expansion happens. An expansion draft could also level the playing field a little bit in the league, and could potentially bring new fans to baseball in markets the MLB may not have as much influence within.

Divisional Realignment

In the AL, as of 5/23, eight of the ten non-AL Central teams either have a better or equal record as the AL Central-leading Twins. Should the MLB change the division format and go back to two divisions in each league, featuring only east and west divisions? With my proposed additions of Portland and Salt Lake City during expansion, the divisions across MLB could be as follows:

AL East

AL West

NL East

NL West

Baltimore Orioles Houston Astros Atlanta Braves Arizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red Sox Kansas City Royals Chicago Cubs Colorado Rockies
Cleveland Guardians Los Angeles Angels Cincinnati Reds Los Angeles Dodgers
Chicago White Sox Minnesota Twins Miami Marlins Milwaukee Brewers
Detroit Tigers Oakland Athletics New York Mets San Diego Padres
New York Yankees Seattle Mariners Pittsburgh Pirates San Francisco Giants
Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers Philadelphia Phillies St. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue Jays Salt Lake City Expansion Washington Nationals Portland Expansion

For the playoffs, switching to two divisions per league gives us two division winners getting byes to the division series and four wild card teams as the 3-6 seeds who would face off in the wild card series. The new playoff format, with two divisions instead of three, would work a lot better, in my opinion. It doesn’t feel right to force a division winner to play in the wild card round. A two-division system enables a guaranteed bye to the division series if you win your division, while also allowing the wild card series to take place between only wild card teams. With this format, the playoffs would look like this as-of 5/23:


Division Winners

  1. TBR (East)
  2. TEX (West)

Wild Cards

  1. BAL
  2. HOU (tied with NYY)
  3. NYY (tied with HOU)
  4. BOS 


Division Winners

  1. LAD (West)
  2. ATL (East)

Wild Cards

  1. ARI
  2. PIT (tied with MIL)
  3. MIL (tied with PIT)
  4. NYM

With this format, the NL has two teams from the East, West, and Central divisions. However, the AL has four teams from the current AL East, two from the current AL West, and none from the current AL Central. That’s due to the Twins having the AL’s 8th best record despite leading the AL Central. Maybe this wouldn’t work at all, but it would allow the MLB to add teams to the west divisions if they do look to expand to 32 teams. Adding teams in Portland and Salt Lake City, as suggested earlier, would add one team to each of the the AL West and NL West, giving each division eight teams.

It is an interesting decision that the MLB could make. Would all of this work? It’s similar to the old system MLB used, with two seven-team divisions in each league. However, no one would really know if this new format would work until it is put in place. But it would sure be interesting to see how it plays out.


Whether it’s the ABS system, expansion, or divisional realignment, the MLB could benefit from some changes, and these three changes could make Major League Baseball better, for now and for the future of our beloved sport. Change isn’t something that everyone wants, but with the changes that have been put in place recently, it has shown that change can be for the better and push the sport forward in ways it must be pushed for America’s pastime to once again become America’s most beloved sport.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *