As reported yesterday, MLB, the players' union, and the umpires' union have agreed on three rule changes to be implemented immediately, all with the express purpose of—and, I believe, a very good chance of—stopping baseball games from taking so damn long. It's official now, and we have the details.
"The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly," commissioner Rob Manfred said in remarks distributed by MLB this morning. An ad break in a local game is two minutes long. Going forward, there will be strict scheduling on pitchers warming up and batters getting ready to start the next half-inning, designed to put hitters in the batter's box just as the broadcast returns from commercials, and it will be enforced by visible timers:
Sounds great! Honestly. But how to implement MLB says that after a trial period in spring training and the first month of the season, players will be fined for not being ready in time. How big will those fines be? Will they be strictly and uniformly invoked? These are big questions that will only be answered in practice.
The other new rules involve forcing batters to keep one foot in the batter's box at all times, and a suite of minor modifications to manager's challenges instant replay. (Click the links to read the specifics.)
I am hopeful about these changes, but fearful that the enforcement will be lax or nonexistent—if most or all players ignore the rules, can everyone be punished? Should it be on umpires to police the clock, in addition to their other duties. Buster Olney believes that the only possible way to do this successfully will be to install a pitch clock. I think he's right, and I think it's coming within a few years.