Yeah, the pitch clock is coming to Major League Baseball – either this season or next – and I now suspect that everyone in the game knows it.
At last check, we were talking about how successful the pitch clock was in the Low-A West experiment this year, and how Commissioner Rob Manfred was talking it up. Now, top executives from around the game were asked to weigh in by Baseball America, and across the board – 19 times out of 19 – the pitch clock received positive reviews. Heck, the way it reads, many of them brought up the clock unprompted. Read the piece if you want a temperature check on just how popular the idea is.
As an example, here’s Jed Hoyer’s comments, and his weren’t even really all that effusive compared to the others:
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer: “I know it’s gone really well in the Fall League. I was just down there in the Fall League and it seems like it’s going well. There’s adjustments that have to be made. I think particularly the man on second base, there are some sign-stealing type of issues that you have to get around, but certainly in theory I think we all want quicker games. I can’t imagine you find anyone that doesn’t. So if this is a means to that end, I think it’s great.”
I am hopeful that, if they hadn’t recognized it already, folks are on board with the idea that the pace of the modern game has become a serious obstacle to it remaining as entertaining as it can be. The game can, at times, drag on interminably without action, which means longer games than ever but more dead time than ever. It really rankled folks in the postseason, when games would routinely go five+ minutes between balls in play and last over four hours. Change is urgently needed, and everywhere that the pitch clock has been employed over the years, it has had success at cutting out dead time.
To that end, I suppose my headline isn’t precisely accurate. Everyone who has actually had experience with the pitch clock – from what I’ve read – has liked it, or at worst had no opinion either way. I’m pretty sure all hitters are fine with it, as are defenders. We know the Commissioner’s Office is all about it, and now we know executives all across the game are on board, too. The lone holdouts would be some veteran pitchers who have been in the big leagues so long that they never got to experience the pitch clock in the minors (and have also never been on a lengthy rehab assignment the last five years). That would be a small minority of all big leaguers at this point, and it’s gonna just have to be a “suck it up and deal with it” situation if the league and the rest of the players care about making a positive change for the long-term health of the sport. Within a couple months, no one will even talk about it anymore.
Baseball is famously the sport without a clock, and I think it’s important to keep reminding folks that a clock between pitches is not the same thing as a clock for the entire game. A baseball game does not end because time runs out. That is a cool and unique thing about baseball, and it doesn’t need to change. As long as you have outs left, you can always come back. But baseball doesn’t have to be four hours long, and a clock that keeps the game moving along can help that.