During the Arizona Fall League, Major League Baseball tested measures to help speed up the pace of the game, most notably a “pitch clock”. The goal is to reduce the 3:08 game time. The Chicago Cubs Jon Lester won’t be a rallying voice behind its implementation. Lester happens to believe the game is perfect as it is.
"“It’s baseball. It’s a beautiful sport,” Lester said. “There’s no time limit, no shot clock … there’s no nothing. … The fans know what they are getting into when they show up. So if it’s a three-hour game, it’s a three-hour game. If it’s a five-hour game, it’s a five-hour game. There’s nothing you can do to change that.” h/t Fred Mitchell, Chicago Tribune"
The efforts in the AFL did seem to have a noticeable effect on the pace. In 2013, the average AFL game time sat at 2:51; the first three test games averaged out 13 minutes less, with one being an 11-inning affair. So in an age of short attention spans, will 13 minutes less bring people to the game of baseball? Lester doesn’t think so.
"“Once you put a shot clock on a pitcher or the hitter or whatever … I feel like if you go from a three-hour game to a 2-hour, 50-minute game … is that really going to make a difference?” Lester said. “If you do that it takes the beauty out of the game.”"
In a piece by Cliff Corcoran, he points out an obvious flaw in the thought that the length of the game is driving people away from baseball. In 2013, the average NFL game lasted three hours and 12 minutes. An NCAA game was three hours and 20 minutes. Both longer than an MLB game, with less time that the ball is in play. Many baseball purists see the pace as simply part of the game. Is it worth changing it in an effort to bring a few outsiders in?
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Within the rules, there already exists one to help speed up the game. Rule 8:04 in the MLB rule book, which states: “When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”” This is a rarely if ever imposed rule.
If they want to speed up the game, they need to limit the amount of corporate involvement. Commercials, things of that nature. The game of baseball isn’t one for everybody. The cat and mouse of it won’t appeal to everyone. And that’s fine. Soccer doesn’t appeal to me, but they aren’t changing it for my liking. The game needs to remain as it is, as it always has.