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MLB’s new pace of play proposals won’t fix anything

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Rob Manfred’s newest ideas won’t do what he thinks they will.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Via Ken Rosenthal, here’s a complete summary of the pace-of-play proposals now on the table for 2018:

This all sounds needlessly complicated. With no disrespect intended toward lawyers, can you tell a lawyer is now Commissioner? Seems unlikely Bud Selig would have proposed anything so convolutedly complicated. (One more time that Rob Manfred makes me miss Bud Selig. Three years ago, when Manfred was named commissioner, I couldn’t have imagined saying that.)

The first proposal, on time of game, misses the point. As I have stated many times here, the length of the game isn’t the issue, it’s the pace. There are games that run 3:30 that have plenty of action, lots of run scoring, and don’t drag; it’s the three-hour, 2-1 games with tons of walks, mound conferences, etc. that seem to go on forever. Players aren’t going to suddenly respond to this by thinking, “Man, I’ve got to get back in the batter’s box to keep this game under 2:55,” because, well, players simply don’t think that way. If they had a clock asking them to do so, or to require pitchers to deliver pitches within a certain time frame, they’d do it, but on this vague threat? I can’t see any changes coming if this proposal is instituted as proposed.

Craig Calcaterra sums this up perfectly:

Game length, serious people who have talked about this issue have said, is not the issue. It’s pace of play. The dead time between pitches. Pitchers taking too long to deliver the next pitch, batters stepping out of the box unnecessarily and catchers making mound visit after mound visit. We want more action per minute of game time, not less game time for its own sake.

Limiting mound visits? I’m all for that. Players will say that they need to get signs straight and that’s the reason for all the extra mound visits (and let’s be honest, Willson Contreras is one of the biggest offenders here), but as players do with all rule changes, they’ll adjust. They’ll figure out ways of switching signs without the catcher having to trot out to the mound several times within a single at-bat. This could help shorten games and pick up the pace, perhaps the only one of these proposals that might actually succeed. There doesn’t seem to be a penalty mentioned for going over the mound visit limit, though.

It’s not the commercial time that’s making games longer, in case you’re going to make that argument. The length of time between innings hasn’t changed much since the 1960s; only the number of commercials crammed into the approximately two-plus minutes. (How many times have you seen a broadcast return to action having missed the first pitch?)

And then there’s this:

I mean... seriously? MLB thinks that a cart driving a pitcher to the mound is going to save enough time to matter? What are we talking here, 10 or 15 seconds per pitcher? This is the automatic intentional walk rule gone wild. It’s an idea that sounds wacky and won’t do what they think it will do.

I mean, sure, if teams want bullpen carts, by all means, go ahead and have bullpen carts, though I have no idea where they’d keep such a thing at Wrigley Field.

But doing this is not going to improve the pace of play.

Rob Manfred and his advisers haven’t asked me, nor will they, but if they did I think I’d tell them to rip up this proposal and start over. It doesn’t address the problem and adds needless complication.

Such is the way baseball’s being run in the year 2018. Sigh.