February 20, 2018


The Commissioner wants the game to speed up. He is foaming at the mouth to do something to get players to move the game along. The driving force behind this "speed up play" is not to make the game better or more enjoyable, but to appease advertisers and to try to get attention-deficit kids to watch games.

Both reasons are not good enough to change the fundamental concepts of the game.

The Sun-Times quotes Cubs pitcher Jon Lester among the high-profile players who don’t like baseball’s latest efforts to speed up the pace of play. “It’s a terrible idea,”  he said. “It’s all terrible.”

On Monday, MLB announced rules and policy changes that include speeding up pitching changes and, most conspicuously, limiting mound visits without a pitching change to six per nine innings. That includes visits from teammates on the field, including the catcher.

There is no penalty at this point for a seventh visit; the umpire is simply charged with disallowing it.

“I get the mound-visit thing,” said Lester,  “But also, what people [who] aren’t in the game don’t understand is there’s so much technology now, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know the signs before you even get there.
“Now we’ve got Apple watches. Now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel [trying to steal signs]. There’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or ‘How you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take that away, it takes away from the beauty of the baseball game.”

Baseball is a game played at its own pace. There is no shot clock or timer. Games can last two hours to two days (with rain delays). 

Baseball officials have been kicking around ideas of a pitch clock to make pitchers throw quicker. Pitchers say if they are not ready to throw (with a proper grip and sign) then it become dangerous. Officials even thought about limiting the number of pitching substitutions per game, but that creates a roster nightmare and could induce injuries and longer games if a manager cannot pull an ineffective pitcher.  Some teams are thinking about bringing back golf carts to shuttle relievers from the bullpen. But will that really speed up play?  Others indicated that stop the practice of the reliever or any pitcher getting 8 warm up pitches at the start of their inning. But again, warm up tosses are important for the pitcher's health.

Besides, there have been plenty of pitchers like Mark Buerhle who could command a game, pitch quickly, and finish under three hours.  A pitcher and catcher pregame strategy session on how to pitch the game is a fundamental key for efficient game play.

Probably the biggest time waster in the game is not discussed very much: it is the batters constantly adjusting their armor, gloves and caps between every pitch. If you want to speed up play, once a batter gets into the batter's box for the first pitch, there would be no time out (unless there is a physical reason such as dirt or bug in a batter's eye.)  If a batter steps out of the box, the pitcher can throw a pitch for a strike. Stop the batter from taking time after every pitch would speed up the game, somewhat. At best, 20 minutes?

Replay decisions are only supposed to last 5 minutes, but sometimes take 15. 

The advertising time between innings will not change, and that is something that can be controlled easier than player conduct on the field. Teams want advertisers to fill time slots. Teams also want long enough breaks between innings so fans can feel they can go to concession stands.

MLB is wrong to try to pin their perceived problems on slow pitching. The game was not made to be a robotic video game. The ebb and flow of the game makes each contest unique.

Besides, with the push for sports gambling in professional sports, MLB may follow the NBA blueprint to allow their spectators to "bet" on each play. In order for that to occur, there needs to be some time between the last pitch and the next one in order to place bets. 

As some veterans have said in the past, if there is an issue on field of play, let the players resolve it among themselves.