Changes are coming to MLB to accelerate the pace of play, whether you, me, the players, and fans like it or not. But why just nip around the edges when MLB could do something to supercharge the game forever?
Wild ideas like the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Act are wild and crazy only until they happen, and then, over time, our culture moves on to the next wild and crazy idea like building a fence around Mexico. But when we are talking about MLB and significant changes to the game, controversy, and discussion linger for years (think the Designated Hitter), long after the change has been implemented.
New rules, whether they turn out to be a pitch clock, reduced mound visits, immediate calls for a review of plays by a manager instead of peeking to catch the attention of his “video man.” These changes, as well as others that will smash through the door once it’s opened, incrementally, will affect how the game is played and in all likelihood, we’ll see all games sneaking under the three-hour mark, creating a parallel with NFL Football. Which is the whole purpose of this thing, isn’t it Mr. Manfred?
So why not cut to the chase and target the real culprit of “no action” during a game. Target is the keyword there because if we remember, the American Revolution didn’t gain traction until the colonists in Boston decided to have a party one night dumping some British tea into the Boston Harbor. It was only then that Patrick Henry’s “Taxation without representation is tyranny” had any meaning and was brought to life as a genuine issue facing the colonists.
Similarly, the real culprit in the pace of play is not the time between pitches but the number of pitches thrown over the course of a game. When Clayton Kershaw receives the ball back from his catcher following a pitch, this becomes a moment of genuine tension between Kershaw and the hitter. The pause in the action gives Kershaw, his catcher, you and me, plus the announcers an opportunity to ask the most vital question of the moment – what pitch and where should it be located is the best one to throw in this situation?
That was the extreme, but even today we have some pitchers who would seemingly be challenged by a pitch clock. Look here (from FanGraphs) we have the biggest time wasters from 2017 – IF the pitch clock is the answer.
To reiterate though, they are not the culprit. What do you think would happen if we could reduce the number of pitches thrown in a game by forty percent and still maintain the integrity of the game? All right, we’re talking wild and crazy here at least to begin, but let’s welcome in Steve Phillips, former GM of the New York Mets and current host of Sirius XM’s MLB Radio’s morning show. Phillips has an idea I completely buy into, but it’s a revolutionary change in the game, so let’s see what you think.
Phillips, in a nutshell, wants to change the game, so it’s two strikes and yer out and three balls to draw a walk. He amplifies here in a story that appeared a year ago in the Washington Post:
And not only that but consider how many pitches a starter will save in one outing allowing him to pitch further into a game. Major league pitchers, by the time they reach this level, should be able to throw a strike before they reach for the toothpaste to brush their teeth. The trouble is, too many of them choose not to throw strikes, nibbling and nibbling until there are runners on first and third with no one out, courtesy of two walks and a feeble groundout.
The rule change will force pitchers to pitch and batters to hit, with not much in between. What’s up with a hitter, for instance, who casually takes the first pitch for a strike? Has he not been paying attention during the game the or while he’s in the on-deck circle as to the pitch that might be coming? Pinch-hitters aside, let this hitter (wasting time) take the first pitch (now) for strike two and see how he and his manager likes that.
I’m going to stop here because I’m sure you get the point I am driving at, even though there are a host of other considerations that need to be processed, not the least of which is, will a 1-1 count on all batters stepping up the plate have a noticeable impact on that all-important entity in baseball – records and who holds them.
A radical idea, yes. But so was the idea of overthrowing the most powerful force in the world at the time when the colonists said, “Hey you know what, we have our idea of what these colonies represent.”
What then, say you about this novel, though controversial idea?
If you’re looking for more reading on “pace of play”, I spelled it out in another way here”