We’ve heard plenty this off-season about how to speed up the game, to make it more attractive to the casual fan. My personal opinion is baseball was meant to be a slow game. Granted, television has had a direct effect on its pace, and a few players (Looking at you Garciaparra) have dragged it out. But this isn’t speed dating, it’s baseball.
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That being said, I like the changes being made, and think most fans can live with them.
You will see a “clock” added to the game, but it won’t be the pitch-clock that was gaining traction in the fall. Instead the league will implement a timer system for non-action. Locally televised games will have 2:, nationally televised will get 2:45. An MLB representative will operate the clock. These are the activities they will be monitoring.
Time Remaining: Activity
40 Seconds: PA announces batter and begins to play walk-up music
30 Seconds: Pitcher throws final warm-up pitch
25 Seconds: Batter’s walk-up music ends
20 Seconds-5 Seconds: Batter enters the batter’s box
20 Seconds-0 Seconds: Pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch
Pitchers will be allowed to throw as many warm-up pitches as they would like prior to the 30-second mark, but will “forfeit” any allowed pitches that they do not complete before the 30-second mark. Pitchers were allowed eight warm-up pitches prior.
Batters will be encouraged, but not forced to enter the batter’s box at the 20-second mark. This coincides with the time that broadcasters return on-air. Clearly many of these rules are geared around broadcasts, so it’s the best they can do for what they have.
The MLB will also enforce the batter’s box rule, requiring the player to keep a foot in the box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. The new rule at the Major League level mirrors 6.02(d), which was in place in Minor League Baseball in 2014. This started in little league years ago and is the simplest, yet most efficient way to speed the game up.
Rules will be enforced through a warning and fine system, with donations being made to the Major League Baseball Players Trust charitable foundation. No fines will be issued in Spring Training or April of this season to allow the players, as well as umpires and others to become acclimated with the new changes.
Players had voiced in favor of similar changes to speed up the game, in place of a pitch-clock. Most felt the breaks between innings is where most time could be made up. Commissioner Rob Manfred had this to say:
"“These changes represent a step forward in our efforts to streamline the pace of play. The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly. In addition, the batter’s box rule will help speed up a basic action of the game.”"
Instant replay will also see some changes this season:
- Managers may now invoke instant replay from the dugout and will no longer be required to approach the calling umpire to challenge a call. Managers may hold play from the top step of the dugout by signaling to players and the home plate umpire that he is considering a challenge. A decision can be communicated verbally or with a hand signal. To challenge an inning-ending call, managers will be required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field.
- A challenge can now be issued to verify if a runner properly touched the base on a tag-up play.
- A manager must use a challenge in order to review whether a play at home plate included a violation of the rule governing home plate collisions. However, in the event that a manager is out of challenges after the start of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may still choose to review whether there was a violation of the rule.
- During Postseason games, regular season tiebreaker games and the All-Star Game, managers will now have two challenges per game.
- A manager will retain his challenge after every call that is overturned. Last year, a manager retained his challenge only after the first overturned call.
I think overall, as a fan, these changes will be beneficial to the pace without sacrificing the purity of the game. The debate of pace has been hotly contested, and this appears to have found solid middle ground to start from. The instant replay system seemed to work well, minus its effect on the pace-of-the-game. Ironic. Add replay to baseball. Replay slows down game. Make rule changes.
Eh, who am I to judge. I’m just ready for some Cubs baseball, no matter how long the games take.