Rob Manfred, the incoming commissioner, has some very unique challenges facing him. The most important one is the issue with baseball games taking too long. According to Baseball Prospectus, in 2014 the average MLB game took a little over three hours to play. That’s an average, meaning that some games took longer, and some games took less. For example, a Yankees vs Red Sox game took over 4 hours to play just 9 innings during the season.
“Why does it take so long to play nine innings?” You may be asking. The reasons are simple. Batters love to delay the game. They step out of the box after every pitch, they take their time walking to the plate, and adjust seemingly every piece of equipment before the next pitch is thrown. Pitchers love to delay the game too. They take a long time between pitches, they look in for extended periods of time to agree on sign, before stepping off the rubber just before pitching to try to throw a hitters concentration off. In addition, catchers frequently go out to the mound to talk to their pitchers.
The problem is not an easy one to fix, but it can be done. The Arizona Fall League, which is a place Major League Baseball tries new rules first, took steps forward this year. They adopting new rules designed to speed up the game, like instituting a 20 second pitch clock in between pitches, and requiring batters to always keep one foot inside the batters box, and limiting mound visits to 3 non pitching change visits per game. Those had to be divided up between coaches, catchers, and other fielders.
These rules, while a step in the right direction, are not going to fix the problem instantly. More has to be done at the Major League Level to speed up games. There are still some other rules I would like to see MLB put in place to further speed up games.
The first is to require pitchers to run in from the bullpen instead of casually walking in. Some other people suggest they should get a golf cart to drive pitchers in from the bullpen. That would be funny, but a little extreme. Another rule they should implement is one eliminate throwing the ball around the horn. For those of you who do not know, throwing the ball around the horn is when a defensive team throws the ball to each other after an out. It also takes a while to complete, especially if somebody misses a catch in it.
Another rule that should be implemented is one to minimize the length of signs that a catcher can give to the defense. Most of the signs are dummy signs anyways, designed to confuse the other team. Those also take a while for the catcher to give all of the signals to all of the fielders.
Replay is another problem that needs to be fixed. To get a play reviewed, a manager goes out to the umpire, and chats with him, further delaying the game, while a coach reviews the video to determine if it should be reviewed. If it is not reviewed, then you just wasted a minute or two on literally nothing. Also, a review shouldn’t take so long. If an umpire can’t overturn it in three or four views, then it should stand. No more looking at 10 angles to uphold a call.
Having been a center fielder, I can attest to the fact that a fielder does not like standing around while the pitcher and hitter do twenty things after each pitch. I once stood in the outfield for 39 minutes for one half inning! The pace of play is a serious problem for Major League Baseball, and Rob Manfred, the incoming commissioner, needs to make it a top priority.
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