Stealing first? Atlantic League introduces four new rules as part of MLB agreement one day after debuting robot umps

In case you missed the news over the winter, Major League Baseball now has a partnership with the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Part of the three-year agreement permits MLB to use the ALPB to experiment with new rules and standards. For instance, earlier this week, the ALPB hosted its All-Star Game, during which technology made its debut to dictate balls and strikes.

On Thursday, the ALPB announced four new rules.

Needless to say, your mileage may vary. It's clear, however, that MLB wants to find ways to introduce exciting, speed-based elements back into the game at a time when power trumps all -- hence the rule about stealing first base, and the other about requiring pitches to step off the rubber before attempting a pickoff.

Think about it this way. Were those rules introduced into MLB play -- and there's no reason to believe they will be, at least anytime soon -- they would alter the value of a burner like Billy Hamilton, who has negative offensive value under the traditional rules. Were he able to reach base by … well, stealing first, he could boost his on-base percentage closer to tolerable levels. The pickoff rule would then empower him to become an even bigger nuisance on the basepaths.

As for the other rules -- it's unclear how check swings are going to become more batter-friendly, given the system is supposed to be binary in nature. The foul bunt rule, meanwhile, would seem to be a way of encouraging scoring by permitting pitchers (or other weak hitters) another opportunity to advance a runner rather than submitting to what's often an automatic out.

On the whole, the rules aren't inherently good or bad (though they are different). What stinks is how the ALPB players have these hoisted upon them midseason. Many populating the ALPB are trying to rejoin the ranks of MLB. Asking them to -- quite literally -- play by different rules wouldn't seem helpful or particularly sympathetic to their efforts.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories