By Tyler Handlan
PEORIA — San Diego Padres slugger Wil Myers was smiling and outgoing when he addressed the media on his first day of spring training Thursday.
His attitude became even more chipper when he was asked about Major League Baseball’s proposal to raise the bottom of the strike zone.
“I don’t know too much about it. I just saw that it was going to be raised above the knees,” Myers said. “I mean, anything to help the hitters out, I’m all for.”
Myers definitely likes the idea that he may see more pitches go in his favor for the upcoming season, but he knows Padres pitchers might not like the proposed change.
“Sucks for them,” Myers said. “I mean, I don’t know. It’s going to help the hitters out.”
Myers had a breakout season in 2016, setting career highs in homers (28) and RBI (94). He also stole a career-high 28 bases. On Thursday, Myers let it be known that his goal for this season is 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
Only four players have produced a 40-40 season, none more than once: Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano.
While Padres fans can monitor if Myers gets on a 40-40 pace, the powers that be in baseball will be concerned about pace of play.
With baseball hearing negative outside noise about the average length of games, and for the sake of baseball’s viewership, there is a push for more balls in play, more action. Thus the proposal to raise the bottom of the strike zone and eliminate low strikes that are more difficult to hit for most batters.
“Pace of play is an issue that we need to be focused on,” commissioner Rob Manfred said to United Press International. “The ‘we’ is players, owners, umpires — everyone who is invested in this game. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet that is going to come one year to be the solution to pace of play. It’s going to be an ongoing effort to make sure our game moves along in a way that is most attractive to our fans.”
Last season, the average regular nine-inning game lasted three hours.
Major League Baseball wants to raise the bottom part of the strike zone about two inches, which would make the lower limit of the strike zone the top of the knees instead of the “hollow beneath the kneecap,” as defined by the current rules.
If the players union goes along with the change, it could take effect for this year’s regular season.