The introduction of the pitch clock to Major League Baseball is a long overdue change necessary to entice younger viewers. We already know it won’t have a major impact, if any, on offensive output, but it will make games faster-paced and easier to watch. Or at least, that’s what we hoped it would do.
Friday marked the first day of MLB spring training games with two games on tap between the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals as well as the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. With these games comes MLB fans’ first introduction to the pitch clock.
Now, look. I like the idea of the pitch clock. There’s no denying the positive impact it will have. Holy smokes though, that is huge and right in our face! It draws so much attention away from the at-bat! It’s terrible!
I know this clock is new to MLB, but there’s a subtlety to implementing it and presenting that information to the fans. When NFL fans watch games, they are always aware of what the play clock is at. Even though the numbers aren’t shining yellow lights directly in our line of view, the small graphic with a countdown clock at the bottom of our screens is more than enough to make fans aware of the situation. In the NBA, the shot clock is always made apparent for fans watching from home, even without the clock plastered into the paint on both ends of the court. That news might be considered shocking to MLB considering how they’ve presented the pitch clock thus far in spring training, but it’s such an obvious change, I can’t understand how MLB didn’t figure it out before spring training games started.
Now, there are two counterarguments anyone could make. First, just because this is how it’s presented today, that doesn’t mean that’s where the clocks will be placed come Opening Day. I surely hope so, because I don’t know how I could get through a game with those bright ass numbers in my face. It feels like opening your phone at full brightness in the middle of the night. Maybe I’ve just become so used to broadcasts without the numbers there that my subconscious just hates their presence, but I doubt that’s the case. I can only hope they’ll put the clock somewhere else in all Major League ballparks prior to Opening Day on March 30.
Second argument: how are the pitchers supposed to see the clock and be aware of when they need to throw their next pitch if the numbers aren’t put right in front of them? It’s a reasonable concern, but I wouldn’t be too worried about it. In the video above, we see that the pitcher never fails to let off their pitch before the clock hits five seconds. That may not seem like a lot of time, but it is considering the full pitch clock is only 20 seconds. Considering the penalties for pitch clock violations are pretty severe, I doubt most pitchers would let the clock get very close to zeros at all. You can’t leave such decisions up to the umpire’s discretion.
Furthermore, just because the clock isn’t right in the pitcher’s nose doesn’t mean the pitcher won’t be able to see it. You’re telling me that if the clock was a few more feet to the left or on the other side of the plate, the pitcher would be lost? No. As long as they can see it easily and it’s not directly behind the on-deck hitter, the pitcher will be fine. As long as the placement of the clock is consistent from ballpark to ballpark, there shouldn’t be any issues.
Despite everything I’ve said, I do think fans are obligated to be aware of the pitch clock as they watch games, but that needs to be an additional graphic on the ticker at the bottom of the screen, not a giant set of numbers that take up 20 percent of the game we’re trying to watch. Put it right above the count in that graphic, and have it come up as soon as the clock hits 15 seconds. That’s an easy fix, that I’m sure the entire MLB fandom could get behind. The league has more than a month to make the change, so get it done.