I’ve gone on record multiple times as being in favor of a pitch clock added to major league baseball games to help pick up the pace of play. While baseball isn’t a timed game like football, basketball, hockey and soccer, it’s had a rule on the books for decades requiring a pitch to be thrown within a specified length of time. The clock is supposed to be a mechanism to enforce that rule.
Some of you don’t like that. Even Jon Lester spoke out against it:
“Baseball is baseball. You’re not gonna speed it up, you’re not gonna change it.”
Now, Major League Baseball has made a wide-ranging proposal on various rule changes that would eliminate the pitch clock until 2022. Here are the main parts of that proposal, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
The most controversial aspect is the three-batter-minimum rule for pitchers. The desire to increase the pace and speed of games could be aided by the rule, which aims to end the carousel of relief pitchers that has become so commonplace late in games. Under the proposal, the league would have the right to implement the rule -- which has a caveat for injured pitchers -- in 2020.
That year, rosters also would be expanded by one to 26 players, with a maximum of 13 pitchers, according to sources. While the league’s proposal includes a mandated 28-man roster with a 14-pitcher cap in September, the union has chafed at limiting roster sizes when teams currently can use as many as 40 players in the season’s final month.
MLB took the union’s suggestion of a single trade deadline before the All-Star break and countered by keeping the current July 31 deadline in place but eliminating trades in August for players who clear waivers, sources said. The league did, in the proposal, agree to abide by the union’s suggestion for reduced mound visits -- from six to five in 2019 and five to four in 2020.
I’m on board with these proposals. The three-batter-minimum rule would help speed up games by eliminating the parades of relievers that often happen in the late innings of close games. It would require managers and front offices to develop pitching staffs that would be more versatile and able to handle batters from both sides of the plate. The roster rule noted above would, by capping the number of pitchers on a roster, add at least one position player to each roster, again, helping to increase a manager’s versatility with his bench.
Other proposals include limiting the use of position players as pitchers, shortening inning breaks to 1:55 in both locally-televised (currently 2:05) and nationally-televised (currently 2:25) games, moving the injured list (and time in the minors after being optioned) back to 15 days and “a joint study” of the strike zone and mound height and distance.
In conjunction with that last point, MLB announced a partnership with the independent Atlantic League to test out more interesting ideas such as a mound distance longer than 60 feet, six inches, and — ready for this? — an automated strike zone.
Now, that would make it very interesting to check out an Atlantic League game this summer.
Lastly, remember that MLB retains the right to institute a pitch clock unilaterally if the league and the MLBPA can’t come to an agreement on the proposals mentioned here. Given what Rob Manfred said at his Cactus League media day news conference, I have no doubt that MLB will do exactly that if players and management can’t come to an agreement by Opening Day.