There was bound to be an adjustment period as MLB entered the pitch clock era, and my question is, did basketball handle the implementation of the shot clock as poorly as this? Manny Machado was the first player to earn a strike via clock violation in spring training, and he became the first player to get ejected over arguing a clock violation Tuesday after home plate umpire Ron Kulpa rang him up for not being in the box on time.
The strikeout was the final out of the bottom of the first in San Diego and ended not only the frame but also Machado’s afternoon.
The reaction over this and really any violation thus far is one of my favorite parts of this new baseball season. The initial backlash is, “Imagine if this ended a playoff game?” Well, sir, imagine if Bob Cousy got thrown out of a game after screaming at a ref because he was adjusting his sneakers while the shot clock ran out. According to the stories, NBA players were so nervous about the clock that they rushed to get up shots. Baseball isn’t in a hurry to do anything.
The only thing funnier than Machado’s disbelief is the fact that cameramen and announcers aren’t conditioned to the clock yet either. The broadcast is lingering on the guy in the batter’s box while the analyst prattles on about breaking balls, and the play-by-play guy’s interruption is the only indication we get that Manny got called out.
I know Machado tried to call time, but look at what he’s doing when that happens. He had just finished knocking the dirt off his shoes and had moved on to adjusting his gloves. This is the equivalent of Michael Scott at the foul line. What on god’s Earth are you doing?
My guy, it’s the first fucking inning on a bluebird day. It’s not muddy and your uniform is pristine, so just stand in the box and try to hit the next pitch.
Arguing is as much a part of baseball as the seventh-inning stretch
This was the inevitable outcome of the pitch clock. Baseball players, managers, umpires, and fans love to argue. The strike zone is debated passive-aggressively by batters, catchers, and pitchers all game until someone snaps, then the ump acts like someone just broke the good china, and we’re off.
In regards to the pitch clock, it’s a brand new section of the rule book to scream about. Who can call time? Who does it fast enough? When does the pitch clock start? Which way does the K face if you’re called out on a clock violation? Most all of these questions have answers, but that won’t stop hitters and pitchers from exploring the minutiae of the full rule.
Baseball players and clubs are notorious for testing the limits of what they can get away with, and everyone is learning where the lines are in real time. I don’t know how far the limits can be stretched though. A clock isn’t subjective like a reach-in foul, and the umpires aren’t going to relent the way NBA refs do. If anything, further empowering MLB umps is going to lead to an even larger sense of entitlement. Did Napoleon not teach us what happens when you give a person with short man’s syndrome an iota of power? We hate when officials make the game about them, but at the same time, we love pointing out that they’re doing it even more.
Fans clamoring for robot umps better be careful what they wish for because the rigidity of a computer program is going to stamp out a lot of arguments. As much as we wish for a world free of controversial calls and shoddy strike zones, the outrage from perceived incompetence fuels a lot of the discourse around the game. And if we can’t get mad about me-first umps, balls, and strike clock violations, what are we going to talk about? The game? You may say you want that, but the page views beg differently.