Let's go

Let's go

Major League Baseball needs to speed things along or risk killing its fan appeal.

Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred said he's had all he can stand, he can't stand no more.

Contending that major league games have become so slow they endanger the popularity of the sport, Manfred recently told reporters that he'll implement new "pace of play" rules in 2018, with or without the permission of the players' union.

Baseball fans should stand up and applaud that declaration. It is, after all, not exactly interesting to watch one batter after another fiddle with his batter gloves between every pitch.

Then again, what Manfred promised is easier said that done because rules announced in the commissioner's office have been largely either ignored or ineffective on the baseball diamond.

Major League Baseball implemented rules changes back in 2015 that worked but only for a while.

Consider that 2017 games were longer than ever. The record shows games lasting 3 hours, 2 minutes in 2014, 2 hours, 56 minutes in 2015 (first year with new pace-of-play rules), 3 hours in 2016 and 3 hours and 6 minutes in 2017.

It's not just pitchers who pitch slowly, batters who lollygag at the plate and endless mound trips by catchers and managers that are the problem.

Commercial interruptions between innings also are longer, and it's hard to imagine team owners are interested in reducing their revenue opportunities during radio and television broadcasts. So, too, are the replays and endless deliberations over disputed calls.

But baseball has to do something about the pace of play. The game itself is slow, one "to be savored not gulped," as former White Sox owner Bill Veeck once said. But that hardly excuses long periods where nothing is happening.

Fans can accept a long game with plenty of action. It's the inaction that's a killer.

That's why it's important that Commissioner Manfred and his advisers go big with new rules. It's especially important they emphasize the change in the minor leagues, where players will get used to moving things along and not be so full of themselves that they'll resist change to the pace of play.

Among the changes under consideration are a 20-second pitch clock and a limit on mound visits.

Limiting mound visits should be easy. Just say no more, except under specific circumstances.

A pitch clock is a different thing. It doesn't seem to fit the style of the game, but it's time to change the culture.

If batters would simply get in the batter's box and stay there, as they are supposed to do, and pitchers would pitch when the batter is in the box, it would go a long way to ameliorating the problem.

Games played decades ago routinely finished in less than two hours. Times have changed, of course, but time is still of the essence in a game in which action comes in spurts and inaction has the potential to become an intolerable aggravation that takes the fun out of a great game.

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