According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, this week, MLB senior vice president of baseball operations, Peter Woodfork, and MLB director of umpire development, Rich Rieker, began meeting with general managers from all 30 teams to explain the new pace of play rules that were rolled out last week. The MLBPA is responsible for meeting with player representatives and explaining the new rules to the players.
Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, had this to say after the meeting, “I thought they did a great job of presenting it. I thought it was a good meeting. I don’t think that there was anything I was alarmed by.”
According to Woodfork, and what is being reported by Stark, here are a few highlights of what is being explained/presented to the clubs:
- The timers in ballparks that are used to count down between-inning commercial breaks will also be used during pitching changes in the same way. When a reliever leaves the bullpen and reaches the field, the timer will be activated — starting at 2 minutes, 25 seconds on local TV games, 2:45 on national games. The reliever will have that amount of time to reach the mound and throw his warm-up pitches. As with between-inning breaks, relievers are supposed to throw their final warm-up pitch with 30 seconds left on the clock. That change wasn’t specified in last week’s news release announcing the new rules but was included in MLB’s written explanation of the changes to all 30 clubs.
- When players violate one of the new rules — by not being ready to pitch or hit when the clock counts down or when a hitter leaves the batter’s box between pitches — they are subject to fines up to $500 per violation. However, umpires are expected to be instructed not to go out of their way to indicate that a player has committed a violation. Instead, they would be told just to mark down the infraction on their card, much the way they would if there was an equipment violation.
- If a player is a habitual violator, particularly of the batter’s box rule, umpires are expected to have some leeway to handle those situations differently. But for the most part, league officials will speak to habitual violators afterward, off the field. In general, umpires are likely to be urged to avoid confrontations over violations of the pace-of-game rules.
- Managers are being told they can still wait for their video consultants to let them know whether to challenge a play and that they won’t necessarily be under any pressure to challenge plays more quickly.
- Although there won’t be a pitch clock in the major leagues this year, MLB will be supplying information to all clubs about how long each pitcher takes between pitches. MLB “has that information now,” Woodfork said, and the league will “try to have that information available [to clubs] when the games start.” Teams then, presumably, would pass that information along to pitchers, to give them a feel for whether a pitch clock would affect their routines if it is ever implemented in the future.
So, this leads one to ask, just how serious baseball is about speeding up the game? When the average players makes millions of dollars per year, what incentive does a $ 500 fine do to keep a batter in the box?
When MLB rolled out the replay system, there were a lot of skeptical fans, both regular every day fans, and those in the media, who had their doubts, but minus a few hiccups, it seems to be working. Hopefully that will be the case with the new pace of play rules. In my opinion, MLB has to have come up with some more stiffer penalties though, not just a $ 500 fee, or a conversation after the game. The rules need to be enforced so the game can move along at a faster pace. Hopefully their intentions are the same here; roll it out softly so the kinks can get worked out by mid-summer. Soon, we will all find out, as the results begin to pour in.