Major League Baseball has announced several rules changes for the 2015 season, all of which have been designed to speed up pace of the game. Apparently the younger generation is tuning out because they can no longer allocate a four-hour window of their lives to a baseball game any more.
While the moves are not the sweeping changes that the league had hoped to institute, particularly the usage of a pitch clock, the new rules actually look somewhat encouraging for those looking for a faster game.
Per the MLB announcement, the changes are as follows:
– All batters must keep at least one foot in the batters box at any given time.
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– A new time clock for non-baseball actions is in place:
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 can throw as many warm-up pitches as possible prior to the 30-second mark between innings. After that point, an unused warm-ups are forfeited.
– The batter must be in the box and the pitcher must begin his wind-up to the plate prior to 5 seconds remaining on the clock.
These changes will certainly have some bearing on the time of game, but to what degree, no one is really certain just yet. Players inevitably find a way to make themselves comfortable in the batter’s box, whether it means calling incessant time-outs or swinging that one foot out of the box (see Derek Jeter).
The real loss here is that the system is only punishable via fines and penalties, but not through in-game actions. They missed the boat by not allowing penalties like lost balls or strikes or other similar actions. Sure, it would totally remake the game and create controversy in its own right, but fines for delaying the game aren’t likely to be enough of a deterrent to stop the behavior either.
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Major League Baseball is also making changes to the instant replay system, also with the design on improving time of game.
– Managers can now initiate a replay challenge from the top step of the dug-out as opposed to walking out to the field and then awaiting a signal from their bench coach about whether or not they wish to challenge a call. The only exception being an inning-ending play, which will require the manager to step onto the field immediately to initiate the challenge.
– Managers may now challenge whether a player left a base early or properly touched on a tag-up play.
– Managers will now have unlimited challenges if they win their initiated challenges.
– Home plate plays, where the blocking rule is in question, are now a manager’s challenge unless said manager is out of challenges after the seventh inning. In that case, the Crew Chief can opt to initiate an umpire’s challenge of the play.
It is hard to see the benefit of these changes in terms of time of play. Sure, John Gibbons is robbed of his slow, meandering walk to the umpire and also his conversations about what they shot on the golf course. Instead, he and DeMarlo Hale will have to huddle up in the dugout and determine if a call is worth challenging.
However, the fact that managers can not challenge additional calls throughout the game, as long as they do not lose the challenge, doesn’t do much for me and certainly doesn’t help speed the game up any. If anything, it’ll create additional conversations from the top of the dugout stairs.
So is this really progress?