One of the things Commissioner Rob Manfred has made a priority of, when considering MLB rule changes, is the pace of play. Several different things have been discussed regarding this, including pitch clocks, which were used for the first couple of weeks of spring training, then abandoned when MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed to not use them until at least 2022.
But after Manfred saw Saturday night’s Cubs/Rangers game, which lasted three hours and 47 minutes and featured 19 walks, 19 strikeouts and three home runs and hardly any baseballs in play, and their Sunday game where all those runs scored and there were nine more walks and four home runs and that made the game last three hours and 46 minutes, he said that was the last straw.
So MLB has announced this morning, effective immediately, that all games will be cut off at the three-hour mark, with whoever is leading at the time declared the winner. Here’s what will happen with games that are tied after three hours. Teams will have two options:
- Finish the game with a home run derby, similar to the NHL shootout. Each team will choose its top three players, and one of its own pitchers to throw, and each player will have one pitch to hit a home run. It will continue, as does the shootout, until one team has more home runs, or
- Teams can choose to continue playing, but must remove one fielder for each inning of play.
Manfred said, “We’re tired of these extra-long games and this will allow virtually all games to fit in a neat little time slot for TV. There should be more action, too, as players realize they’re getting close to the three-hour mark.”
Large clocks will be installed in all ballparks to count down three hours from the first pitch.
Cubs fans, be happy! Saturday night’s game hit the three-hour mark in the top of the seventh, and the Cubs were leading 6-3, so they would have won! And Sunday’s game was tied at that point, so we could have seen a Home Run Derby!
Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, who was in Arlington Sunday to help take down one of the “remaining games” numbers at Globe Life Park, scoffed at the new rule: “Why, I threw a 10-inning complete game on Opening Day 1971 in just one hour and 58 minutes! These whippersnappers don’t know what they’re missing!”
And if you think all this sounds very strange, pause for a moment and remember what today is.