Mar 30, 2023 - Sports

Cubs, White Sox begin first season with new MLB rules

Photo of a statue outside a ballpark

The creepy Harry Carrey statue returns for another season. Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs and White Sox begin their 2023 seasons today, with the Sox in Houston to take on the Astros and the Cubs hosting the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.

Why it matters: Opening Day in Chicago is the closest thing to a sports holiday. It's not just the beginning of baseball, but it's a traditional sign that winter is almost over.

Driving the news: When Cubs fans flock to The Friendly Confines today, they may notice changes to the game and the surrounding area.

Game changers: MLB implemented four major rule changes this offseason in an effort to decrease the length of games and increase the action, Axios' Jeff Tracy and Kendall Baker write. Among them:

  • Pitch clock: There will be a 30-second timer between batters and 15 or 20 seconds between pitches depending on whether the bases are empty.
  • Shift restrictions: Defenses must have a minimum of four infielders within the boundaries of the infield, with at least two on either side of second base to increase the batting average on balls in play.
  • Limited pickoffs: Pitchers may only disengage from the rubber twice per at-bat with a man on. If they try a third time and the pickoff is unsuccessful, the runner advances a base.
  • Bigger bases: The 15-inch bases have been replaced with 18-inch bases, reducing the distance between first and second — and second and third — by 4.5 inches to promote more steals.

Between the lines: These changes could trim 20-30 minutes from the length of each game.

  • No word on whether that will be reflected in the ticket price.

Here's what else we're watching:

Big bets: This year, the betting industry is going big on baseball and Wrigley Field is no exception. The new DraftKings sportsbook is set to open this season, giving spectators the chance to bet on everything from wins and losses to balls and strikes.

High hopes: In late 2021, Wrigleyville also became the home of the closest weed dispensary near a major league stadium. So pay attention, most of the crowd will be high on edibles.

Circus vibes: It's not all about what's inside the park. Wrigleyville bars will open early to accommodate big crowds.

  • This includes Yak-Zies on Clark Street, which will be the site of the annual WXRT live broadcast. This year will be the first without Cubs super-fan Lin Brehmer, who died in January.

What's ahead: The White Sox home opener is next Wednesday.


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