MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s hell-bent charge to turn every professional baseball game into a six-second Vine marches on as the league plans on having a 20-second pitch clock for upcoming spring training games this year, per an MLB press release. As if that weren’t annoying enough, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that there is a “real possibility” that this system gets added implemented into regular season games.
The 20-second clock would begin after each pitch of an at-bat—with the exception of the at-bat’s first pitch—when the pitcher is anywhere on the dirt with the ball, and the catcher is in the box. The pitcher has to begin his wind-up before the clock expires. The batter must be in the batter’s box and alert to pitches at the five-second mark.
The pitch clock has been touted for years as one of the major changes to baseball that will help combat the sport’s one and only problem: the games being too damn long. Up until this season, it had only been tested out in Double-A and Triple-A leagues where teams saw an initial dramatic drop in game length, only to see it slowly rise up over the last couple years.
Though not smart enough to realize that this is a dumb gimmick, the league at least had the brains to plan a slow roll out of this new policy:
1. In the first spring training games, the 20-second timer will operate without enforcement so as to make players and umpires familiar with the new system.
2. Early next week, umpires will issue reminders to pitchers and hitters who violate the rule, but no ball-strike penalties will be assessed. Between innings, umpires are expected to inform the club’s field staff (manager, pitching coach or hitting coach) of any violations.
3. Later in spring training, and depending on the status of the negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, umpires will be instructed to begin assessing ball-strike penalties for violations.
The ideal scenario for Manfred and people who think like him is that these games help smooth out enough of the edges so that this can be brought to the regular season. Once that happens, it’ll go the way of mound visit limits where complacency took over and people just eventually stopped complaining about it as it became a part of the game.
For that ideal scenario to work, however, the commissioner requires the MLBPA’s approval, but the union at large already rejected the idea last year so the two sides are still negotiating. In a perfect world, the commissioner would listen to the players that participate in the games that make the league money and try something else. But that’s not the world where we live. The current collective bargaining agreement allows for the league to unilaterally make on-filed changes to the game, so long as the union is given a one-year notice (MLB started this process in 2017). In other words, this is definitely happening sometime soon.
Always great to see a commissioner take a strong stance and further fracture labor relations for the sake of cutting less than 10 minutes from a game.