Because there are owners meetings this week at the same time as the GM meetings, I was hoping we’d get some state-of-baseball updates. And we have!
I just don’t know how you’re going to take them.
Per NBC: “MLB’s Chief Legal Officer, Dan Halem, told members of the press that the league would like to get a get a new pace-of-play agreement with MLBPA done that could include a pitch clock,” and if they can get that agreement in place by January, things like the pitch clock will kick in for the 2018 season.
Other pace-of-play changes could include reworking inning breaks (which currently last as long as they do to accommodate, among other things, commercial breaks) by including more split-screen advertising during games (like we saw during the World Series, and I’d argue was very effective).
As far as the pitch clock goes, it’s been in play at the minor league level for years now without issue, and MLB signaled earlier in the year that it was going to be coming whether the players wanted it or not. Thanks to a provision in the new CBA, for game changes like that, apparently the Commissioner’s Office can dictate changes unilaterally with one year’s notice. They’d prefer to get an agreement done with the players so that they can have input, but when a change like this is coming … it’s coming.
I know pitch clocks get some people rankled, but I’m very on board. For one thing, the longer they’re in place in the minor leagues, the greater percentage of MLB players have already had exposure to them. For another thing, 20 seconds is plenty of time for a pitcher to deliver the ball, especially when there’s already a rule on the books that he’s supposed to do it (with no runners on base) within 12 seconds. Time between pitches has been creeping up together with other slow-downs in the game, and a pitch clock could help not only reduce the overall game time, but also keep the spurts of action a little closer together.
There is another side of this coin, though, and that’s the batters who too often step out and readjust their gloves on every pitch, and take forever to get themselves set. With the pitch clock in place, though, the batter has even less of an opportunity to dictate the pace. The pitcher is going to have to keep himself moving steadily, and it’ll be up to the batter to be ready.
Pace-of-play initiatives are, at their core, about keeping up the action on the field so that more casual viewers of the sport (read: not folks like you and me) can enjoy more of it without feeling like they’re investing in a slog. And the counterbalance is to not change the game SO much that hardcore fans (read: folks like you and me) aren’t turned off.