Editorial | Slow-pitch baseball

Editorial | Slow-pitch baseball

With the baseball season getting closer, the game's overseers are promoting action and trying to limit inaction.

Major League Baseball has a problem that its top officials recognize and that its players and managers do not.

The average game lasts too long — last year, more than three hours each time — and the inactivity is putting fans and potential fans off.

Much of that ill-spent time involves players just standing around — hitters incessantly fiddling with their batting gloves, players holding conferences on the pitching mound, and pitchers dithering between pitches and hitters.

For the sake of the future of the game, things have to move along.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and representatives of the players' union took a few small steps in the right direction recently when they announced a series of rules changes designed to break up the monotony.

Unfortunately, it was clear from the statement of players' union chief Tony Clark that the new rules came only because baseball's commissioner has unilateral authority to put new rules in place. Because of that reality, the union fought a rear-guard action to prevent too much change.

As a result of their agreement, baseball is limiting mound visits, not including for pitching changes, to six per game. That means catchers can't stroll out to the mound to talk to the pitch as often as they please and that infielders' mound visits count as official visits.

Baseball also is limiting between-inning breaks to two minutes and five seconds for regular-season televised games.

Once the clock strikes two minutes five seconds, the hitter must be in the batter's box and the pitcher ready to throw.

What's not in the new rules is glaring. There is no clock that limits time between pitches, and no announced emphasis on speeding up instant-replay reviews.

The biggest problem, however, is the gap between players and the league on the importance of speeding up the game. MLB is concerned about maintaining the public's long-term interest in the game while players and managers are concerned about winning the game they're playing each individual day.

That's why union chief Clark said his members are "concerned about rules changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself."

It's hard to imagine, however, how limiting batters' time to fiddle with their gloves between pitches will alter "the fabric of the game."

The real problem is that managers and players have enjoyed unlimited freedom to act — or not act — on the field as they please. That's why games that used to end in two hours now take three.

Players don't want to change, and, so far at least, umpires have been reluctant to enforce rules changes, including one that requires batters to remain in the batter's box between pitches.

These kinds of rules changes are welcome, but they amount to an experiment. There's no guarantee they'll get the job done. That will require the players' enthusiastic cooperation.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion

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Mr Dreamy wrote on February 22, 2018 at 8:02 am

This is just wrong headed. Baseball is unique. It is the only major sport (read, where you can buy tickets and watch) that does not involve a clock. It is a day in the park, watching men play a game. It is entertainment. 

If you are so impatient that you think cutting down on mound visits will improve the game, then why not make it 3 innings? Two strikes and you’re out. Foul balls are automatic outs. Nonsense.

If you don’t like watching a full baseball game, don’t. But leave our day in the sun alone to those of us that enjoy baseball more than the need to get back to Facebook or Twitter.