MLB may finally have a popular rule change with a new pitch clock| MLB

mLB’s hottest new star talks about spring training. No, this is not a big name perspective. In fact, it is not a human being at all, but rather a device for measuring time. Yes, all the hype is about baseball incorporating the on-field clock into its daily routine as those behind the scenes try to bring the game to life as it tries to keep pace with the modern world.

Over the years, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has tweaked the rules to shorten the length of games – presumably to attract younger fans – without alienating traditionalists from its core audience, a feat akin to a hippo trying to walk a tightrope. The most notable “innovation” prior to this off-season was the introduction of an extra baserunner in extra-inning games to avoid prolonged stalemates. Most fans aren’t thrilled with the idea – but these actually working games like it, so it’ll stay here for the foreseeable future.

The simplest way to speed up games would be to limit the length of ad breaks. But that will never happen, except for a dramatic shift in the entire economy of the sport. The next best strategy would be to reduce the amount of time players on the field do things that aren’t really a baseball game.

This brings us back to the pitch clock. What is this? Well, it is what it says it is. Pitchers now have 15 seconds to pitch when bases are empty and 20 seconds to pitch when runners are in place. If they don’t, they are summoned to the ball. Meanwhile, batters must be facing the pitcher before the eighth second or they will be marked with an automatic strike. Also, the rules state that there should be no more than 30 seconds between batters.

This is something completely new for pitchers and batters, and – for now at least – it seems that batters have a little more trouble adjusting. In fact, on the first day of spring practice, a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves ended in a full-base hit, which under the old rules would have been a fight. Instead of getting a winning run, Braves hitter Cal Conley was called to strike three after not being timed, resulting in a draw (spring practice games have no extra innings because literally no one cares about scores).

Bottom of the ninth. Tie game. Bases loaded. Full count. The dream scenario. And … Cal Conley didn't get set in the batter's box with 8 seconds left on the pitch clock.

Umpire calls an automatic strike. At-bat over. Inning over. This is the new reality.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 25, 2023


Down nine. Draw game. Bases loaded. Full number. Dream scenario. And… Cal Conley missed the batter’s box with 8 seconds left on the field clock.

The referee calls an automatic shot. End of fight. End of round. This is the new reality.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 25, 2023

It wasn’t the most satisfying way to end the game, but everyone is still learning new rules at this time of year. The story of this spring training is how teams will adapt to three major changes: the field clock, the new defensive shift laws, and slightly larger bases. All of this is being implemented now with the hope that players, coaches and officials will be comfortable with the new normal when the season starts on March 30.

Now this space is not willing to give Manfred the benefit of the doubt when it comes to randomly reviewing the rules of the game. For someone who’s supposed to be a game manager, he comes across as a man who doesn’t appreciate baseball beyond its ability to generate huge amounts of money for himself and the owners he works for. This writer would like nothing more than to write a rhyme about how the new rule changes violate the sanctity of the sport by introducing a ticking clock into what should be a timeless pastoral pastime.

(Deep sigh.)

Here’s the problem: Manfred may be right! The field clock can make watching the game more enjoyable because it forces the pitchers and batsmen to get to the point quicker, in the same way my hardworking editor will remove unnecessary words from this copy before you read it. At least in the beginning, the pace of the game increased and the games became shorter. Chicago Cubs blogger Al Yellon analyzed some numbers a few days ago and found that the average length of the Cubs’ spring training has been reduced by about 30 minutes compared to the previous five seasons – and the results were similar across the league.

That one spring training data point doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see shorter games once the regular season kicks off – although the pitch clock cuts play time for an entire season in the lower leagues. The real test will come when the overheads become significant and the winnings really matter. Referee summons don’t really count now.

Make no mistake, the implementation will be a mess when they do. After all, rules are only as good as those who enforce them, and officials are only human (some are more human than others). Without a doubt, the game clock will affect the results of games, and we will debate whether it helped or hurt baseball. Another fun fact: if games are 30 minutes shorter, that means 30 minutes less in which fans can buy the beer, snacks and memorabilia that teams earn millions of dollars each year. It also means fewer commercial breaks for TV channels that pay to broadcast the matches.

What matters is whether the field clock makes the sport more fun (and the revitalized World Baseball Classic can help with that, too). If he succeeds on that front, MLB will make the right move for once. If it ends up being a complete mess, the league can easily move out of it. So far, it seems like an experiment worth doing.

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