Baseball insiders agree: A pitch clock is coming.
Major League Baseball has not confirmed it, but beat writers widely expect that MLB will institute a 20-second pitch clock league-wide for the 2018 season. The clock would hurry pitchers and speed up the pace of games, which, critics say, are too long and limits baseball’s appeal in an era of infinite distractions and short attention spans.
This would follow a number of rule changes MLB made before the current season, including an instant signal for an intentional walk. The MLB Players Association had, in the past, indicated opposition to the pitch clock, but MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to unilaterally implement changes to the game with advance notice. At an August meeting, representatives from the players’ union and representatives from the commissioner’s office met to hash out the concept.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to make little changes that take dead time out of the game”
Commissioner Manfred addressed pace of play at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit last February. “The amount of time that a baseball game can take is something that we constantly have to pay attention to,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to make little changes that take dead time out of the game, maybe increase the amount of action in the game, so that our product stays as compelling as possible.”
Minor League Baseball has been a testing ground for the pitch clock since 2015, but big league pitchers are split on the concept. San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija doesn’t like the clock idea, and told the Associated Press, “The rhetoric needs to change from, ‘How do you speed the game up?’ to ‘Let’s just go back to enjoying the game for what it is.'” CC Sabathia, on the other hand, indicated support.
You can count Mariano Rivera, arguably the best closer ever, in the “against” column.
“I don’t want to be pushed because some clock is pushing me”
In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo Finance about business and retirement, Rivera answered a question about MLB’s efforts to speed up games. The question appeared to hit a nerve.
“I have a lot of thoughts on that, because I was one of the guys that, when I was pitching, they were fining me because I was too slow,” Rivera said. “I don’t want to be pushed because some clock is pushing me. Baseball is not about that. We have commercials, people that pay money, and we have to stop for them to run their stuff. And we are bringing the show. They don’t bring the show. We are bringing the show. So I don’t see why Rob Manfred wants to implement that.”
Rivera admitted that the game needs to move along, but suggested that hurrying pitchers could result in injury.
“I understand that you have to keep the pace of the game going, but at the same time, you have to watch how you do it, because if not, it can be a problem and people can get hurt because you’re pushing them,” he said. “I wouldn’t allow no clock to push me, especially when you’re pitching in a big game.”
That’s tough talk. But if MLB does add the clock next season, pitchers would have no real choice but to comply: If the clock expires before they pitch, a ball is called.